Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said it was too early to declare whether or not he will contest an election due by next April.
He said an announcement now would be a distraction and could hinder government efforts to improve power, security and governance in Africa’s most populous nation.
A presidential bid by Jonathan in 2011 could be controversial because he is from the Christian south, and an unwritten agreement in the ruling party dictates the president serving the next term should be from the Muslim north.
“I will not be in a position to tell Nigerians presently whether I will run or whether I will not run because we have a political environment that gets too heated up when people are preparing for elections,” Jonathan said in an interview broadcast by the Nigerian Television Authority.
Jonathan, previously the vice-president, took over the presidency after the death of his predecessor, Umaru Yar’Adua, a northern Muslim serving the first of what would have been expected to be two terms.
Unwritten PDP agreement
The president declined to comment on whether the agreement within the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) should be dropped, allowing him to run.
Some northerners have said they would support him, but his candidacy could risk splitting the PDP, which has won every election since the end of military rule just over a decade ago.
Residents in the Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta fear unrest if Jonathan, the first politician from their region to hold the country’s highest office, is prevented from seeking re-election.
Jonathan said candidates for next year’s election should delay their announcements until the election timetable was finalised:
“If you are interested, declare it very close to the primaries so it doesn’t unnecessarily overheat the system.”
The schedule for the 2011 polls is expected to be announced soon after a new chief election officer is installed.
Jonathan has nominated Attahiru Jega, the vice chancellor of Bayero University in the northern city of Kano, to head the electoral commission. He still needs confirmation from parliament.