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Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Obasanjo to run again
President Olusegun Obasanjo
Obasanjo thinks Nigeria's crown fits him well
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is to run for a second term in office in next year's elections.

Things are getting better... There is much less despair in the air.

Olusegun Obasanjo
The 65-year-old leader ended weeks of speculation by saying he had made the decision to stand after "lengthy consultation with family, friends, critics and allies."

Mr Obasanjo came to power in 1999, in elections that put an end to 15 years of military rule.

He at first won support for his tough stand against corruption, but more recently his government has been criticised for its human rights record, and for its handling of the economy.

But as he launched his campaign at a rally in the capital, Abuja, Mr Obasanjo said his critics were wrong.

Dark days

He said the nation was "in despair" when he took over.

Announcing his intention to run again, he said: "things are getting better". There are more cars on the roads, more aircraft in the skies, the country's ports are busier, there are more jobs and "living conditions continue to improve."

Queue at a polling station in 1999
Nigerians queued to vote in the last election

Mr Obasanjo said he would once again seek the nomination of the People's Democratic Party.

The BBC's Dan Isaacs in Lagos says that despite the perceived failing of the government to improve living standards or tackle violence, few in Nigeria would welcome a return to the dark days of military rule.

If the elections due next year pass off peacefully, Mr Obasanjo will be the first civilian leader of Nigeria to conduct a successful vote since independence in the 1960s.

Our correspondent says that ironically, military governments in Nigeria have proved better at organising elections than civilians.

The last attempt almost two decades ago was deeply flawed and swiftly followed by a military coup.

Mr Obasanjo had a previous stint as military ruler in the 1970s.

Power base

Although a Christian southerner, he has had significant support amongst northern Muslims, an achievement which won him the presidency three years ago.

A victim of Nigeria's sectarian violence
Up to 10,000 people have died in Nigerian clashes
This time, our correspondent says a strong northern opponent might be able to undermine that power base.

In the past two years, the adoption of Sharia law by most northern states has led to violent clashes between Christians and Muslims.

Meanwhile another former Nigerian military ruler has announced that he plans to seek the backing of a political party.

Muhammadu Buhari has said that he intends to register with the opposition All People's Party - a step towards standing in next year's presidential election.

The BBC's Dan Isaacs
reports from President Obasanjo's campaign rally
See also:

06 Apr 02 | Africa
Nigeria elections go ahead in May
06 Feb 02 | Africa
Profile: Olusegun Obasanjo
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