Wednesday, May 17, 2006

ANALYSIS-Wounded Nigerian leader Obasanjo will fight back

By Tom Ashby

LAGOS, May 17 (Reuters) - Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has been wounded by the collapse of a campaign to extend his tenure, but analysts say it is too early to write him out of the script in next year's elections.
Nigerians have been kept on tenterhooks for over a year as an officially backed lobby to give Obasanjo a third term in 2007 elections gained strength despite massive opposition.
The former military ruler has never publicly said he wanted a third term, but National Assembly sources say he has expressed support for changing the constitution in private meetings and analysts say his use of the security services to gag opponents spoke louder than words.
The campaign came to an abrupt halt on Tuesday, when the Senate threw out the amendment bill at the second reading.
"With soldiers, if you beat them on one front, they open another front," said columnist Pini Jason of Vanguard newspaper.
"He will go against the opposition and throw all manner of mud against those he holds responsible for the collapse of the third term."
His first targets could be two men who have already laid claim to succeed him, namely Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who accused his boss of trying to subvert the constitution against the popular will, and former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida, who has also spoken against a third term for Obasanjo.

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