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Nigeria's ruling party prepares for a stiff race at its nominating convention

Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan is in a tight race for the ruling People's Democratic Party presidential nomination because of the party's desire to give both the northern and southern regions a turn in office.

By Alex ThurstonGuest blogger / December 31, 2010

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan addresses the executive members of the ruling People's Democratic Party at the national executive meeting in the capital Abuja on Dec. 14.

Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

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Nigeria’s ruling People’s Democratic Party will hold its presidential nominating convention on Jan. 13. The contest pits incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan against former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. It will represent a test for the principle of “zoning,” which recommends that the party alternate Southerners and Northerners for its presidential nominees every eight years. Some PDP members, such as the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF), interpret this principle to mean that since President Umaru Yar’Adua, a Northerner, died part-way through his first term, the party should nominate a Northern candidate for the current election. Abubakar is the consensus candidate of the NPLF. The advantages of incumbency might favor Jonathan for the nomination, but a recent poll gives hope to Abubakar, and other observers say a Jonathan victory might split the PDP.

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First, the poll:

The survey stated that six of every 10 automatic delegates to the presidential nomination convention of PDP said the principle of zoning would determine the way they vote in selecting the party’s candidate.

In their own interpretation, the researchers said a vote in this direction was almost certainly going to hurt the President Goodluck Jonathan’s bid for the PDP ticket.

The poll is the second in two weeks. The first one, which also favoured the former Vice President to pick the PDP ticket, was marred in controversy.

The new survey was conducted by a group of Social Science Scholars coordinated by Dr. Mohammed Nu’uman Habib, former Head, Department of Sociology, Bayero University (BUK), Kano.

[...]

As many as 57 per cent of the delegates said they are undecided on who they would be voting for in the presidential primaries if the contest is between incumbent President Jonathan, and his main challenger, Atiku Abubakar.

[...]

The polls carried out over a three-day period (December 19-21) showed the delegates rating incumbency factor as being of “little importance”, with 46.77 per cent saying it is of no significance to their voting intentions. Twenty-five per cent or a quarter of respondents think incumbency is an important factor.

[...]

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