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 Monday, 6 January, 2003, 11:10 GMT
Nigerian party backs Obasanjo
Ballot boxes are numbered for the vote
More than 3,000 delegates voted in the secret ballot
Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo has won the overwhelming support of his party as he seeks re-election.

The ruling People's Democratic Party voted overnight to select him as its candidate for the presidential election in April.

PDP RESULT
Olusegun Obasanjo - 2,642 votes
Alex Ekwueme - 661 votes
Abubakar Rimi - 159 votes
Barnabas Gemade - 17 votes
President Obasanjo received 2,642 votes, a clear majority over his nearest challenger, former vice president Alex Ekwueme, who won 611 votes.

Mr Ekwueme denounced the selection process as a "charade" but did not say what action he would take, if any.

Some delegates said the election rules had been designed to favour the 65-year-old former general, who is seeking a second and final term under the constitution.

The resounding victory puts President Obasanjo in a strong position to secure a second term in office, although there is widespread dissatisfaction at high levels of corruption, violence and poverty.

The BBC's correspondent in Lagos says there are still likely to be many obstacles on Mr Obasanjo's route to re-election and his triumph is by no means assured.

After the result was announced, President Obasanjo thanked his opponents and promised to bring the party together to contest the upcoming presidential and legislative elections.

"This is a victory for democracy, the form of government to which we all aspire and for which many Nigerians have paid in tears, sweat and blood," he said.

Poll

More than 3,000 delegates attended the convention, which began amid tight security on Friday in the capital, Abuja.

Obasanjo: Biography
Olusegun Obasanjo
1937: Born in south-west; a Christian and a Yoruba
1976-79: Military ruler
1995-98: Jailed by military regime
1999: Elected president

April's presidential poll will be the first time in almost 20 years that elections have been held by a civilian government.

According to the BBC's Sola Odunfa in Lagos, Mr Obasanjo - a Christian from the south-west - has alienated much of the support in the largely Muslim north that helped him to victory four years ago, and Muslim power brokers have made it very clear that they are now looking to alternative candidates.

The PDP vote had been expected to be a close contest, but reports suggest a private meeting held on Saturday led the PDP's state governors to throw their support behind Mr Obasanjo.

Mr Obasanjo's election victory in 1999 sealed the end of the most recent period of military rule in Nigeria.

His challenge now will be to win the support of voters from the country's Muslim north, where many see him as a southern Christian president who has failed to meet their aspirations.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Dan Isaacs
"It seems that he has won over the power brokers in the north"
  Venacious Ikem, People's Democratic Party
"Many communities have felt disaffected by some of his programs"

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