Nigeria VP says Obasanjo should resign over 3rd term
06 Apr 2006 20:15:37 GMT
By Estelle Shirbon
ABUJA, April 6 (Reuters) - Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar said on Thursday President Olusegun Obasanjo should resign for seeking a third term in office as the men's rivalry ahead of elections next year erupted into the open.
Abubakar has been Obasanjo's deputy at the helm of Africa's most populous nation since 1999 and wants to succeed his boss in 2007, setting him on a collision course with powerful Obasanjo allies who are campaigning for the president to stay on.
The statement from Abubakar's office followed an earlier call by an Obasanjo spokesman for the vice president to resign after he gave a speech against the idea of a third term to a meeting of opposition leaders.
"The call for resignation should be directed at the president ... for pursuing an agenda that is subversive of the constitution, and the will of the majority of Nigerians," said the statement signed by Abubakar's spokesman.
"For the avoidance of doubt, the vice president believes tenure elongation is morally wrong and a breach of the constitution, which he took the oath to defend," it said.
Abubakar gave his speech to five state governors, more than 100 lawmakers and several opposition leaders at an overnight meeting at the house of one of the governors after police stopped the group gathering at a hotel.
"It is bad enough that the meeting yesterday was violently disrupted by security agents which, again, is against the tenets of democracy as they are known the world over," said the statement.
Obasanjo is nearing the end of his second term and the constitution prevents him from seeking a third. But a campaign is underway to amend the charter to make a third term possible.
Obasanjo has not said publicly whether he wants to stand again but he has done nothing to stop efforts to amend the constitution.
The third term idea infuriates many who back their own candidates for the presidency in 2007.
In particular, many in the Muslim-dominated north feel the top job should go to one of them after eight years of Obasanjo, a Christian from the southwest. The vice president is one of several prominent would-be candidates from the north.
Tensions over the issue were one of the drivers of a spate of religious and ethnic violence that killed at least 150 people in February, and of a series of attacks against the oil industry that have cut output by a quarter.
Opposition politicians have been teargassed, labelled a threat to national security, investigated for corruption and charged with belonging to an unlawful society.
Abubakar told participants at the meeting they could stop the third term plan from coming to a vote in parliament because the Obasanjo camp would not risk a humiliating defeat.
Participants included prominent figures from both the ruling and opposition parties, signalling that the third term issue was uniting many of Nigeria's usually fractious discontents. (Additional reporting by Felix Onuah)