Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oil-rich Nigerian states back Jonathan 2011 bid

LAGOS — Governors of Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta have pledged their backing for President Goodluck Jonathan if he decides to run in next year's presidential election, officials said Tuesday.

The governors of the Delta's five states -- all from the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) -- took the decision at a meeting in the southern oil city of Port Harcourt on Monday.

"President Jonathan should openly declare his intention to contest in 2011 because we will fully support his ambition," the governors of Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Cross River and Rivers states said in a communique.

Jonathan is a Christian from Bayelsa state, and took over the religiously and ethnically divided country following the death of his predecessor Umaru Yar'Adua, a northern Muslim, in May.

Jonathan is widely expected to run, but has yet to officially declare his candidacy, debate over which has split the PDP

The party, in power since 1999, has traditionally alternated its backing between candidates from the north and south as a way of smoothing over ethnic, religious and social divides in Africa's most populous nation.

Some politicians insist that the party should back another northern candidate since Yar'Adua did not finish out his term.

The five Delta governors also backed the president's plans for electoral reform ahead of the 2011 polls.

Nigeria has a long history of electoral fraud, and disputes over the last elections, in April 2007, are still pending in the courts. The election was judged deeply flawed by local and international observers.

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