Nigeria info minister quits

2010-12-16 07:39

Abuja - Nigerian Information Minister Dora Akunyili quit the cabinet and the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) on Wednesday to run as an opposition candidate for the Senate in nationwide elections next April.

Akunyili said she planned to compete for a seat in the upper house of parliament on the platform of the opposition All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) party, which controls her southeastern home state of Anambra.

"I am resigning the cabinet with effect from tomorrow," Akunyili told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Abuja.

"I have decided to join (Anambra state governor) Peter Obi, who is doing a great job in continuing to build Anambra state, as an APGA senator. I intend to pick up the nomination form today," she said.

It is not unusual for Nigerian politicians to switch parties to further their election chances, and Akunyili's defection is unlikely to do much direct damage to the PDP.

But her action does reflect a growing sense that the ruling party, which has dominated Nigerian politics for more than a decade, is starting to lose some of its grip.

Two state governors from the PDP have been removed from office by legal challenges in the past few months, meaning opposition parties now control a large swathe of Nigeria's southwest around the commercial capital Lagos.

Policy of rotation and zoning

The PDP candidate has won every presidential election in Africa's most populous nation since the end of military rule just over a decade ago, but disagreement over who should run on its ticket in 2011 risks splitting the party.

Former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida last week threatened to quit the PDP if President Goodluck Jonathan emerges as its nominee.

Jonathan's bid is controversial because he is a southerner who inherited office this year when late President Umaru Yar'Adua, a northerner, died part way through his first term.

The PDP constitution refers to a "policy of rotation and zoning" which has in practice meant that the presidency has switched between the mostly Muslim north and largely Christian south every two terms.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a northerner, is running against Jonathan for the PDP nomination.