HIGHLIGHTS-Nigeria candidate’s fears, hopes for 2011 election

LONDON, Dec 1 (BestGrowthStock) – Former Nigerian Vice President
Atiku Abubakar has emerged as the main challenger to President
Goodluck Jonathan in the race to be the next president of
Africa’s most populous nation and top oil exporter.

Abubakar will stand against Jonathan in the ruling People’s
Democratic Party (PDP) primaries, which must be concluded by
Jan. 15. The presidential election is scheduled for April 9 and
whoever is the PDP candidate is expected to win.

The following are excerpts from a Reuters interview with
Abubakar in London on Wednesday.

For the main story, please click on [ID:nLDE6B01NP]

CREDIBILITY OF ELECTIONS

Abubakar said he hoped the 2011 election would be more
credible than the 2007 poll, which was marred by vote-rigging,
thanks to a new leadership at the Independent National Electoral
Commission (INEC), although he did voice some concerns.

“We have a more credible leadership, but my worry is that
the leadership has not been given time to restructure INEC …
It’s just like bringing a clean person to sit over a rotten
structure, that is my worry,” he said.

“My feeling is that it will be better than before, somehow.
There is a change of attitude from the political leadership,
which is committed to a more credible democratic process … and
the electorate is becoming more enlightened.”

PDP PRIMARIES

In the run-up to the 2007 election, Abubakar was pushed out
of the PDP by then President Olusegun Obasanjo after the pair
fell out. Abubakar ran on an opposition party ticket and lost.

Asked what he would do this time if he lost the PDP
primaries to Jonathan, he ruled out running for the opposition.

“I would not consider that. That (a possible Jonathan
victory) would be the decision of the party,” he said.

Support from PDP state governors, powerful figures who can
often command big blocks of voters, is seen as essential for
winning the party ticket.

Asked how many governors were supporting him and how many
were behind Jonathan, Abubakar declined to give a figure because
he said some of them were still wavering.

ONE TERM ONLY

Under an unwritten agreement within the PDP, the presidency
is supposed to rotate regularly from the predominantly Muslim
north to the mainly Christian south.

Obasanjo, a southerner, had two terms in office but his
successor, northerner Umaru Yar’Adua, died before completing his
first four-year term. Abubakar, also a northerner, pledged that
if elected, he would remain in office for only one term to
complete the eight years that northerners had expected.

“That is the agreement and that is what the north is
committed to,” he said.

Some Nigerians may be sceptical about such promises after
Obasanjo tried to have the constitution rewritten so he could
run for a third term, but Abubakar said he was different.

“I am not Obasanjo. That was one of the major disagreements
between Obasanjo and myself, not keeping to constitutional
provisions and also breaking agreements.”

HIS QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE JOB

Abubakar was a customs official until 1989, when he went
into business. He has a wide range of interests from oil
services to insurance and has a large personal fortune.

He went into politics in the 1990s and was one of the
founders of the PDP, which emerged as the main political force
in Nigeria in the 1999 transition from military to civilian
rule.

“My entry into politics was heralded by the struggle against
military government in Nigeria. Since we fought for the
restoration of democracy, I have accumulated a lot of political
experience and I have also accumulated a lot of leadership
qualities and vision for the country.

“I think I have been so well prepared for this job, and I
want it.”

— For a Reuters Insider television interview with Abubakar,
please go to http://link.reuters.com/pef97q

— For a factbox on Abubakar, please click on
[ID:nLDE6AL1X4]
(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon)

HIGHLIGHTS-Nigeria candidate’s fears, hopes for 2011 election