Nigeria's ruling party has won every presidential vote since the country returned to civilian rule in 1999 [AFP]
Nigeria's ruling Peoples Democratic Party has nominated incumbent Goodluck Jonathan as its presidential candidate after fending off a primary challenge in the country's mainly Muslim north.
Jonathan's nomination on Friday allows him to stand in the April presidential elections, which are viewed as one of the most important in the history of Africa's most populous country.
The primary win for Jonathan means he has upended an arrangement within the PDP that rotates candidates between the north and south every two terms.
The incumbent had been expected to win the party primary, despite the challenge from Atiku Abubakar, a former vice-president who had the backing of a group of elite politicians from northern Nigeria.
In the end, Jonathan won handily with 2,736 votes compared to Abubakar's 805. A spokesman for Abubakar, however, alleged rigging and intimidation.
The PDP has won every presidential vote since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999.
Since Nigeria's independence from Britain in 1960, the country's history has been dominated by military leaders hailing mainly from the country's Muslim north until democracy took hold in 1999.
All of the country's oil wealth flows from the south, but the north remains a potent force in the country's military and other power structures.
As is the case with the the campaign of Abubakar, Jonathan remains light on policy and relies heavily on personality.
Jonathan, a Christian from the nation's oil-rich southern delta, came into the presidency after the death of elected leader Umaru Yar'Adua, a northern Muslim, in May.
Abubakar, a former customs officer who created an oil and gas empire, faulted Jonathan for being a candidate weak on experience who rose to power on "all accidental positions".
"He has not prepared himself to govern. He found himself accidentally as a president, and power being what it is, insists on continuing to govern," Abubakar said on Wednesday.
Jonathan first became governor of Bayelsa state only after the impeachment of the elected leader, then rose to the vice-presidency after being picked by Olusegun Obasanjo, the outgoing president.
Abubakar has also criticised Jonathan for not stopping the religious violence that killed hundreds in the north over the last year and the recent bombings targeting Abuja, the capital.
He blamed the violence on weakness Jonathan's weaknesses and the nation's endemic poverty.
World Bank statistics suggest most Nigerians live on less than $2 a day.