Nigeria Ruling Party Rebels Join Opposition Against Jonathan

Seven Nigerian state governors elected as members of the ruling People’s Democratic Party joined the All Progressives Congress today, boosting its election prospects, a spokesman for the opposition party said.

“The leadership of the New PDP have agreed to merge with the APC,” said Lai Mohammed, spokesman for the APC, in a telephone interview in the capital, Abuja.

The governors, who quit President Goodluck Jonathan’s PDP earlier this year to form a splinter faction, are joining an alliance built through the merger of four of Nigeria’s biggest opposition parties. With the defection, the PDP is left in control of 16 of the country’s 36 states while the APC has 17 states.

PDP spokesman Olisa Metuh declined to comment on the move.

The defection gives the opposition its strongest chance yet of beating the party that has held power since Africa’s biggest oil producer ended military rule in 1999. Jonathan, 56, has not said whether he plans to stand in general elections scheduled for 2015.

“This will likely weaken Jonathan in the lead-up to 2015 as there was some expectation that they would be able to patch over their differences,” Thomas Hansen, senior Africa analyst at Control Risks in London, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Jonathan took over the presidency of Africa’s most populous nation in 2010 when his predecessor, Umaru Yar’Adua, died in office. He won an election in 2011, promising to improve Nigeria’s boost electricity supply and reform the oil and gas industry, the mainstay of the country’s economy.

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