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Home arrow Africa arrow Nigerian ruling party picks new "consensus" boss
Nigerian ruling party picks new "consensus" boss PDF Print E-mail
Written by Camillus Eboh, Reuters   
Mar 08, 2008 at 04:18 PM

ABUJA, March 8 (Reuters) - Nigeria's ruling party picked a new chairman without holding an election on Saturday after state governors backed a "consensus" candidate seen capable of uniting rival factions.

Vincent Ogbulafor, a former People's Democratic Party (PDP) general secretary who was ousted in a 2002 corruption scandal that swept away the party hierarchy, emerged as the new chairman after all other candidates for the post withdrew.

The PDP has dominated Nigerian politics since 1999, when Africa's most populous nation and top oil producer returned to civilian rule after three decades of almost continuous army dictatorship.

The PDP's democratic credentials were tarnished by the April 2007 presidential, gubernatorial and legislative elections, which it won by a landslide but which were deemed "not credible" by European observers who reported rampant vote-rigging by the ruling party.

The big question in the run-up to Saturday's PDP convention was whether former President Olusegun Obasanjo would impose his allies as party leaders as he had done in the past, or whether a new leadership would emerge capable of challenging Obasanjo's grip on the party.

Obasanjo is chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, and although he has other channels of influence over his hand-picked successor, President Umaru Yar'Adua, it would be seen as a personal setback for Obasanjo if he were to lose power within the party.

Early indications were that the outcome of the party convention, held at the Eagle Square parade ground in the capital Abuja under a sweltering sun, was neither a triumph nor a disaster for him.

Nigerian newspapers had predicted Ogbulafor would be chosen after powerful state governors from the PDP said on Friday they were backing him because he was a "neutral" candidate capable of uniting the Obasanjo and anti-Obasanjo factions of the party.

 

BACK-ROOM DEALS

Yar'Adua, who was plucked from obscurity by Obasanjo to become the PDP's presidential candidate in 2007, has adopted a hands-off approach to party politics.

In the run-up to Saturday's convention, he said he did not have a preference for any candidate and there should be a free and fair leadership election.

Obasanjo had been backing Sam Egwu, a former state governor, while his staunchest critics had been supporting former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim. Ogbulafor, who was a minister under Obasanjo between 1999 and 2001, was seen as a compromise.

The PDP's internal democracy has been criticised by party members as well as opponents because of a series of back-room deals over the years that have seen successive party leaders emerge through "consensus", which critics say really means imposition.

"They hide under the umbrella of consensus but consensus is a fraud. There should be an election because a better candidate will emerge through a free and fair vote," senior party member and former Senate President Ken Nnamani told Reuters earlier in the week.

Obasanjo stamped his authority on the PDP during his two terms as president from 1999 to 2007 and the outgoing party leaders are all his loyalists.

After failing in 2006 to change the constitution so that he could seek a third term in office, Obasanjo appointed himself chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees just before stepping down as president in May 2007. (Writing by Estelle Shirbon, editing by Mary Gabriel) (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: http://africa.reuters.com/)


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