Acting Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan did not rule out contesting elections due next year, but said in an interview aired yesterday that he wanted at least three months to see how reforms enacted so far take hold.
Jonathan, who took the reins of Africa’s most populous nation two months ago to fill the vacuum left by ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua, said it was too early to discuss his own election plans.
“For now, I don’t want to think about it,” Jonathan told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“There are options for me if I want to contest elections. I recontest as a vice president, or anybody. I can contest as a president because the laws allow me. But that is not my own priority now.
“My priority now is to see how within this little period left, what impact can we show?” he said. “If you come back to me in the next three months, I will answer your question straight. I will not hesitate.”
Jonathan was speaking during a US visit to take part in a Washington nuclear security summit, his first official trip overseas since becoming Nigeria’s interim leader.
Since taking office, Jonathan has made overhauling the oil producing nation’s electoral system a top priority to avoid a repeat of a flawed 2007 poll that brought Yar’Adua to power.
Reform legislation is now before parliament, but time is running out for changes to be implemented before elections, which are due by April 2011.
Former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida on Tuesday became the first major politician to announce a run for president next year, campaigning for a smaller federal government.
Jonathan has quickly asserted his authority in the OPEC-member nation by installing a new cabinet and replacing some of Yar’Adua’s key allies.
In a speech in Washington, he said he would continue to get tough on corruption, including the notorious “419” Internet scams he said were tarnishing Nigeria’s image.
“A businessman doesn’t really know who to talk to,” Jonathan said, although he added that the victims in these scams were often largely to blame themselves.
“Sometimes people are very greedy, and it is very easy to dupe a greedy person,” he said.
Jonathan He said he had not seen or spoken to Yar’Adua since the latter returned home from hospital in Saudi Arabia two months ago. The president has not made a public appearance since receiving treatment for a heart ailment last November.
Yar’Adua’s inner circle, led by his wife, Turai, has allowed select groups of guests to meet the ill leader.
But Jonathan and the heads of parliament have yet to have their own meeting with the president, reviving concerns of a possible power struggle.
“I have not seen him. The Senate president has not seen him,” Jonathan said, adding that this was adding to anxieties over Nigeria’s future.
“Obviously, it does, but we cannot influence his family’s thinking,” he said.
Pic: Nigeria’s Acting President- Jonathan Goodluck