Nigeria’s Senate has thrown out a move to allow President Olusegun Obasanjo to seek a third term in office next year – an issue which has divided the country.
Under current Nigerian law, President Obasanjo is due to stand down in May 2007 at the end of his two terms in office. There has been a heated national debate about the constitutional amendment that would have allowed him to stand again (he has never actually declared an intention to do so). Some feared that allowing a President to remain in office might permit a President to stay in office too long.
Nothing is as simple as it seems in Nigeria, however. Many of the political figures who helped put Mr Obasanjo in office have felt that he has not rewarded them as extravagantly as they had hoped. So the decision not to allow President Obasanjo a third term – particularly the opposition of the Senate – may not reflect a mature decision to ensure democratic renewal so much as a protest against the relatively clean Obasanjo government.
Given the tensions between the Muslim north and the Christian south of Nigeria, there may be a period of instability as different groups battle it out for the succession.