West and North Africa
Rebel Governors Leave Nigerian Ruling Party
ABUJA — Rebel governors who defected from Nigeria's ruling party merged their splinter group with the main opposition party, eroding the power base President Goodluck Jonathan would need for re-election.
Governors are among the most powerful figures in Africa's largest oil-exporting country – some control budgets bigger than those of many African states – and their influence carries a great deal of weight in selecting presidential candidates.
Seven governors from Jonathan's party have defected, the most explicit internal threat to his assumed plan to run in elections in early 2015. However, some were due to leave office or represented states that Jonathan was unlikely to win, leading analysts to question how much effect they could have.
The seven governors and ex-presidential hopeful Atiku Abubakar formed the splinter group opposed to Jonathan in August. All were present for the meeting where the decision was made to merge with the opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), said Lai Mohammed, a spokesman for the APC.
But a spokesman for one of the seven, Governor Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, said that “he remains a member” of the People's Democratic Party, Jonathan's party, so at least one governor in the splinter group did not back the move. Official sources close to another governor said the agreement was not yet a done deal, so another may also remain.
“After exhaustive deliberations, the two parties agreed to merge in order to rescue our fledgling democracy and the nation,” said a joint statement, read out by Kawu Baraje, chairman of the splinter group, who is not himself a governor.
'Outside there is nothing'
“The Presidency does not feel threatened, the PDP does not feel threatened,” Amed Gulak, special advisor to Jonathan on political affairs, told journalists at the state house. “Outside there is nothing. The PDP is the only party,” he said, adding the governors still had a chance to be welcomed back.