Goodluck Jonathan vs. Muhammadu Buhari: Nigeria's main political parties pick candidates for February 2015 presidential elections

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan waves to supporters during his declaration to seek a second term in the February 2015 presidential election, in Abuja November 11, 2014.

In a no-contest vote at a meeting in the capital, Abuja, early on Thursday, Nigeria‘s President Goodluck Jonathan was endorsed unopposed as the presidential candidate for the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the upcoming February 2015 elections.

Close to 3,000 delegates for the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) gathered in the capital Abuja to celebrate with dance and song. The vote was only a formality since the party’s board had already approved the president as sole candidate.

“I stand before you to accept your nomination as the candidate of our great party. I am greatly honored…I will not fail the party. I will not fail our nation,” Goodluck Jonathan told the crowd.

Former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari will face Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria’s presidential election next year. Nigeria’s main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) primary chose Buhari as its presidential candidate for next year’s election.

Buhari, who seized power from civilian president Shehu Shagari in 1983 and was himself ousted in a military coup in 1985, is widely seen as a better bet to tackle the five-year insurgency Nigeria faces primarily in its north east region.

In his acceptance speech Thursday, the 71-year-old Buhari criticized the government for failing to locate and rescue the 219 schoolgirls held hostage by Boko Haram since mid-April.

“I stand before you today to ask that you join me in a common cause,” he told delegates.

“I will resolve to make things better for Nigeria,” he said, calling for unity in the religiously divided nation, which is split between a Muslim-majority north and mostly Christian south.

Jonathan and his ruling People’s Democratic Party’s perceived inability — some say unwillingness — to tackle insecurity has been a key plank of the APC campaign.

Buhari gained a reputation while in power for having no truck with corruption and some see a return to his methods — although criticized at the time by human rights groups — as long overdue.

Before Wednesday’s all-night vote in Lagos, the man famous for his “War Against Indiscipline” put integrity at the heart of his campaign as he promised not to rule Nigeria but to govern democratically.

“I am not a rich person,” Buhari told a cheering crowd.

“I can’t give you a pocketful of dollars or naira to purchase your support. Even if I could, I would not do so. The fate of this nation is not up for sale.

“What I will give you, and this nation is all of my strength, commitment, sweat, and toil in the service of the people. What I can give you is my all.”

Buhari won the presidential primary with 3,430 votes. A total of 6,008 votes were cast out of 7,214 registered delegates. There were 16 invalid votes.

The February 14, 2015 presidential vote is expected to be the opposition alliance’s best chance of seizing power since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999.

Last time round in 2011, Jonathan secured nearly 22.5 million votes or nearly 59 percent of the ballots cast.

Buhari, who also lost the 2003 and 2007 elections, scored 12.2 million votes in the last polls but could benefit from the APC’s better funding and organization next year. The upcoming presidential race is expected to be the closest fought since the end of military rule in 1999.

The likely contest between an opposition candidate from the largely Muslim north and an incumbent from the mostly Christian south sets up a regional and sectarian divide that could be a flashpoint for trouble.

Jonathan’s bid for a second elected term has upset northern elites, who argue he broke an unwritten deal that power rotate between north and south every two terms. He ran in 2011, after replacing northerner Umaru Yar’Adua, who died in office in 2009.

Northern anger has also been fueled by growing perceptions of a shift in power toward the more prosperous south.

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