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Nigeria president wins primary vote

President Goodluck Jonathan, who took on his nation's top job only after the death of the country's elected leader, has won the endorsement of oil-rich Nigeria's ruling party.

The victory makes him the overwhelming favourite to win April's presidential election.

Mr Jonathan cast himself as the leader able to change a nation both blessed by natural resources but cursed by years of military dictatorships. However, the regional and religious tensions that flared up during the primary persist across a country troubled by violence and extremism more than 40 years after the end of its civil war.

As the candidate of the People's Democratic Party, Mr Jonathan can expect the party to use its political connections, money and muscle to propel him to victory in Nigeria's unruly and corrupt electoral system. Since the handover in 1999 from military rule to a civilian government, politics in Africa's most populous nation have been dominated by the party.

"We have a chance to transform ourselves to be a great nation in the years ahead," Mr Jonathan told delegates gathered for the convention in Nigeria's capital, Abuja. He offered a promise that won a cheer from the crowd: "Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and (vice president) Nnmadi Sambo will never, never, never let you down."

The president, dressed in the traditional black caftan and bowler hat of his Niger Delta home, focused on issues his young administration hopes to improve over the next four years. Top among them is a plan to privatise the nation's decrepit state-run power company. As of now, only those who can afford private generators have reliable electricity.

His main challenger, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, hammered the president in a speech over rising debit and growing insecurity in a country divided between a predominantly Christian south and a Muslim north.

Meanwhile, Nigeria's former anti-corruption czar will be the presidential candidate of the oil-rich nation's strongest opposition party in April elections.

Two other Action Congress of Nigeria candidates withdrew from a primary contest held Friday in Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos. That left Nuhu Ribadu, the former head of the country's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, as the sole candidate standing.

The Action Congress of Nigeria, while strong in the country's south-west, does not have the money or political muscle of the ruling People's Democratic Party. That party has held Nigeria's presidency since the country became a democracy in 1999.

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