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Infighting Rocks Ruling Party in Nigeria’s Oil-Rich States

FILE - Men ride past motorcycles in front of a Peoples Democratic Party office at the Osun state governorship election in Osogbo, southwest Nigeria, Aug. 9, 2014.

Nigeria’s ruling party has long enjoyed strong support from states in the country’s oil-producing south. But disputes among ruling party members may hurt its chances in next month’s elections.

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party is a force to be reckoned with in the Niger Delta region. President Goodluck Jonathan won more than 90 percent of the vote in the 2011 presidential election in states like Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom.

But in some states in the Niger River Delta, aspiring politicians say they feel the Peoples Democratic Party has shortchanged them. In Delta State, candidates who were upset that they were passed over for the PDP nomination have joined opposition parties.

The defections could undermine PDP chances next month in one of its main strongholds. The party is already facing a strong challenge from a recently founded opposition coalition, the All Progressives Congress. Its candidate, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, is expected to pose a stiff challenge to Jonathan in next month’s polls.

Assistant editor Oyede Onoriede of the Isoko Sun newspaper in Delta State says the PDP could face an insurrection from aggrieved political aspirants.

“Yes, they will work behind the scene for the other party. They may even show loyalty to PDP so that the party will not sanction them. But at the back, they will try to frustrate those candidates. That is what I envisage. But in the front, they will show they are loyal to the party,” stated Onoriede.

A PDP local organizer in Delta State, Henry Ophori, says the party has set up a reconciliation committee to mend fences between the party and its disgruntled former members.

“Those peoples that have left or maybe some are still trying to leave, I tell you before the election time, thank God we have enough months ... to election. The reconciliatory committee will reach out to all of them, and I know, and I know they will all come back to the party, because they are all stakeholders, they have labored for the party, they cannot dump the party at this 11th hour,” said Ophori.

Nigerians vote for president on February 14. The Peoples Democratic Party has won every presidential election in Nigeria since 1999.

Hilary Uguru in Warri contributed to this report.