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Nigerian Senate Blocks Obasanjo from Running for Third Term

BY Admin  May 16, 2006 at 3:06 PM EST

Nigerian President Olegsun Obasanjo

Senators who opposed the amendment greeted the vote with shouts and hugs, Reuters reported.

The bill, proposed in January by a Senate subcommittee, has divided the oil-rich country along political and cultural lines.

The president’s supporters claim removing Obasanjo would end a bevy of economic and political reforms he championed since coming into office in 1999.

But opponents of the measure argue changing the constitution now, after only seven years of a still fragile change-over from military to civilian rule, could destabilize the country. They also say the country’s leadership should rotate among various ethnic groups.

Elections next year would mark the first time in Nigeria’s volatile political history a civilian president has passed power to another civilian president.

“The Senate has said clearly and eloquently that we will discontinue further processes on this amendment bill,” Senate President Ken Nnamani said after a vote to determine whether the bill deserved a second reading, Reuters reported.

Though Obasanjo has never publicly stated he intends to run for re-election in 2007, his supporters, including those who back longer terms for governors, have launched a massive campaign to push the amendment forward, and in some cases have been accused of trying to bribe senators to support the bill. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is investigating the claims, the BBC reported.

Although debate over the amendment continues in Nigeria’s House of Representatives, it would need a two-thirds majority in both houses to be reintroduced, an unlikely possibility, according to senators.

“The bill is dead. It cannot be brought again until the lifespan of this Senate terminates,” Sen. Abu Ibrahim, who heads the opposition All Nigeria People’s Party in Katsina state, said, according to Reuters. “That is victory for democracy.”

Obasanjo, who once served as a military ruler in Nigeria, came to power in 1999 following three decades of dictatorship in the country. So far, he has failed to name a successor and has broken with his Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a presidential hopeful who opposed the constitutional change.