Security fears keep Nigeria president from home state vote

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President Goodluck Johnathan

President Goodluck Johnathan

Security fears kept Nigeria’s president from attending his party’s gubernatorial primary on Saturday in his home state that has been tainted by an escalating row over the incumbent governor’s exclusion from running.

Security was unusually tight for a local vote in the oil-producing state of Bayelsa, where political violence involving armed gangs has in the past had an impact on energy infrastructure in a key region for Africa’s largest crude oil export business.

Goodluck Jonathan was expected to be back in his home region as the special guest but the heightened security risks kept him hundreds of miles north in the capital Abuja, his office said.

Helicopters swooped overhead and hundreds of armed soldiers guarded the streets of the state capital Yenagoa as delegates voted overwhelmingly for Henry Dickson as the PDP candidate in the Bayelsa governorship election in February next year.

Dickson won 365 of 384 votes cast.

He is a member of the national assembly and will now be favorite to become the next governor of Bayelsa, something most Nigerians would not have believed a week ago.

The PDP on November 13 listed sitting governor Timipre Sylva as one of four people who failed to get through a screening process to stand in Saturday’s vote, the first time an incumbent PDP governor has been excluded from running for re-election in the party’s primary.

Sylva and his supporters cried foul and won a court injunction last week delaying the vote until the PDP explained to the high court in Abuja why the sitting governor had been disqualified, but the party went ahead anyway.

Two candidates walked out of the primary saying the vote was not valid because of the court injunction and the absence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). INEC said it did not attend because of the court order.

Western diplomats and PDP sources said Sylva had made enemies at the very top of the party. Jonathan and Sylva are from the same area but the president has not spoken about his exclusion.

State governors are among the most powerful politicians in Nigeria, wielding influence over national policy and in some cases controlling budgets larger than small African nations.

 

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