|Jonathan, who was the vice president, became president after the death of Umaru Yar’Adua [EPA]|
Nigeria will hold its presidential election in January, despite concerns that it does not give the nation enough time to hold a credible election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said on Tuesday that the election will be held on January 22.
Goodluck Jonathan, the president, has not yet said whether or not he will run for re-election, but the ruling party will now be under pressure to decide on its candidate, with polling day just four months away.
Ibrahim Babangida, a former military ruler, and Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president, have said they will run.
Under a new electoral act signed into law last month, political parties have 60 days before polling day to submit their list of candidates, meaning the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) will have to conclude the primaries by late November.
An election bid by Jonathan, who is from the southern Niger Delta, could prove divisive due to an agreement in the PDP that power rotates between the Muslim north and Christian south every two terms, meaning the next president should be a northerner.
The PDP has said Jonathan has the right to run, because he was previously vice president on a joint ticket with Umaru Yar’Adua, the president from the north who died mid-way through his first term earlier this year.
However, the party also said that it would uphold the principle of “zoning” and that other candidates were free to contest at its primaries.
Oil-rich Nigeria, with a population of 150 million people, is Africa’s most populous nation. Since the country embraced democracy in 1999, its elections have been marred by vote-rigging and violence.
The accelerated timetable leaves INEC little time to forge ahead with a badly needed overhaul of the electoral register, a reform seen as vital if the country is to avoid a repeat of its last chaotic polls three and half years ago.
Nigerian lawmakers last month approved a planned bond issue to fund a $585 million budget for the electoral commission to overhaul voter lists and buy additional ballot boxes ahead of the polls.