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Nigeria opposition picks pastor as VP candidate

17 December 2014, 20:33

Abuja - Nigeria's opposition party on Wednesday chose Yemi Osibajo, a Christian pastor and ex-Lagos state justice commissioner, as its vice presidential nominee for February 14 polls, in a move to reach across religious lines in this deeply divided country.

Former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari last week secured the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential nomination to challenge incumbent Goodluck Jonathan.

Analysts said Buhari, a devout Muslim, needed to nominate a Christian to appeal to voters in the south of the religiously divided country, where faith and tribe play an outsized role in politics.

"I accept the nomination gladly and happily," Osibajo, 55, told journalists at APC headquarters in Abuja.

Also read: Oil prices slash Nigeria 2015 GDP growth

"I'm honoured to work with General Buhari who everyone knows, even his detractors know, that he's an upright honest man who is fiercely committed to good governance," he added.

Osibajo was seen as a surprise choice by some, as Buhari could have selected a politician with a much higher public profile, including a sitting state governor.

Governor of the oil rich Rivers State Rotimi Amaechi, a bitter Jonathan rival, had been widely mentioned and could have boosted opposition support in the president's home region, the crude producing Niger Delta.

But Buhari reportedly let APC co-founder Bola Tinubu, the immensely rich and influential ex-governor of Lagos state, make the final choice.

Osibajo served as justice commissioner under Tinubu and the two are seen as close allies.

Buhari praised Osibajo as "an excellent professional, a man of faith, a devoted family man and a role model."

Faith may prove to be the key factor behind the selection. Buhari has been subject to unproven allegations, some spread by the ruling party, that he is a Muslim extremist.

Osibajo is a pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, which has one of the largest and most powerful networks of Evangelicals across Nigeria.

Nigeria is split between a mainly Muslim north and mostly Christian south and religion has featured prominently in most of the country's elections.

Jonathan overcame fierce calls from within the PDP to stand aside in favour of a northern Muslim, honouring an unwritten party rule that calls for rotational power between regions.



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