Nigeria's president announces second-term bid

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Ola Awoniyi
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Abuja (AFP) - Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday declared his bid for re-election, vowing to finally defeat Boko Haram whose rise in strength during his first term has threatened the country's sovereignty.

The 56-year-old made the announcement to tens of thousands of supporters in the red, white and green of his ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), at a carefully orchestrated ceremony including patriotic music, dancing, prayers and speeches.

Africa's most populous nation goes to the polls to elect a new president on February 14, with Jonathan effectively given a free run at a second term after the PDP endorsed him as its only candidate.

Jonathan, in his trademark black fedora hat and with a PDP scarf draped around his neck, called for four more years to build on his first term in office.

"It is now time to look to the future. With your tremendous support, we have collectively done so much in the last three and half years but to take our country to the next level, there is still more to be done," he said.

- Terror will be defeated -

He added: "I, Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, have accepted to re-present myself, on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, for re-election."

The party festival in Abuja, dubbed "the mother of all rallies" by his supporters, came just a day after nearly 50 schoolchildren were killed in a suspected Boko Haram suicide bomb attack.

Violence linked to the five-year Islamist insurgency -- and Jonathan's inability to stop it -- has been a feature of his presidency and a key point of criticism for his opponents.

On his watch, Boko Haram violence and the military's response to it has killed more than 10,000 people and left hundreds of thousands more homeless while the Islamists now reportedly control more than two dozen northeast towns.

Most significantly, Jonathan has come under fire for his lacklustre response to the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in mid-April, which provoked global outrage.

More than six months on, 219 are still being held, despite recent government claims of a ceasefire deal and peace talks with the militants that would lead to the girls' release.

Jonathan said Monday's attack had "cast a dark cloud on our nation but we will surely win the war against terror".

"A number of young men and women have been kidnapped by these criminal elements, including our daughters from Chibok. We will free our daughters and defeat terrorism," he further said.

- Expected announcement -

Jonathan's critics have condemned his record on tackling endemic corruption poor governance and accountability, as well his administration's investment in badly needed infrastructure, particularly roads and electricity.

Despite seeing Nigeria become Africa's leading economy earlier this year, the country still rates poorly on social development indicators such as access to education and health, while unemployment is rampant.

Dwindling oil revenue has also been pinpointed as an area for concern, particularly with falling prices worldwide and Nigeria overwhelmingly dependent on income from the sector to shore up its economy.

Jonathan has been head of state after stepping up from vice-president in 2010 after president Umaru Yar'Adua fell ill and later died, going on to secure a popular mandate in 2011.

He has long been expected to seek re-election but speculation that he would run again saw a number of powerful governors defect to the main opposition.

Rebel governors and lawmakers -- most of them from the Muslim-majority north -- were unhappy at Jonathan, a southern Christian, defying an unwritten rule to "rotate" the presidency between the two regions.

The bolstered opposition ranks raised hopes it could mount a serious challenge to the PDP, which has never been out of power since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999.

But most commentators expect Jonathan to secure a second term, given the power of incumbency, its greater funding and better organisation.