Nigeria

Nigeria: Opposition party picks former military ruler as candidate

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ABIDJAN, 8 January (IRIN) - Nigeria's main opposition All Nigeria People's Party on Wednesday declared a former military ruler, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, its presidential candidate for coming elections after his rivals withdrew from the contest in protest.
Five presidential aspirants, all from the mainly Christian southern Nigeria, withdrew from the race just before ballots were cast after midnight, accusing the ANPP leadership of manipulating the process to ensure the emergence of Buhari.

Buhari is a Muslim from the north, the stronghold of the party where it won nine state governorships in 1999 elections that ended a decade and half of military rule.

The party's electoral officer and governor of Kwara State, Mohammed Lawal, said Buhari scored 4,328 delegate votes. More than 6,000 delegates were expected to cast their votes but the rest abstained after the candidates they supported withdrew from the race.

Chuba Okadigbo, a former senate president impeached in 2000 over corruption charges, was chosen as his running mate in 19 April polls for which incumbent President Olusegun Obasanjo has already been nominated by the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP). Okadigbo, who was until two months ago in the PDP, is a Chrisitian from southeastern Nigeria.

"The PDP government has failed, it has failed its supporters, it has failed Nigerians, it has failed the international community," Buhari said in his acceptance speech, urging voters to reject Obasanjo.

Buhari, who drew widespread media criticisms for speaking two years ago in favour of strict Islamic law introduced by states in the overwhelmingly Muslim states of the north, used the opportunity to reassure non-Muslims.

"If given the mandate I will serve faithfully and without discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, tribe or any other primordial consideration," he added.

Buhari in December 1983 came to power as military ruler after he toppled the elected governemnt of Shehu Shagari. He was in turn overthrown 20 months later by General Ibrahim Babangida to continue what was to become 15 years of army rule that ended with the election of Obasanjo in 1999.

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