ABUJA — Nigerian ex-military ruler Ibrahim Babangida will run for president in upcoming elections, nearly two decades after he controversially overturned a ballot viewed as fair, a statement said Monday.
"Given my wealth of experience and decades of leadership study, plus the urgent need to confront the challenges of our national lives, I believe the time is ripe for me to serve our people as a civilian president," he said in the statement.
Babangida becomes the second Muslim from the country's north to seek the ruling party's nomination for the election, which could occur as early as January, though a date has not yet been set.
The ruling People's Democratic Party is expected to hold a primary ahead of the elections.
It has been divided over whether to abandon incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the oil-rich Niger Delta in the south, in favour of a northerner.
Babangida is a controversial figure who was Nigeria's military ruler from 1985-1993 after leading a coup.
He overturned the results of the 1993 presidential vote, which was widely viewed as fair, and eventually handed over power to an interim government.
"The annulment of the June 12 election is one of the ugly spots one has to live with," he said in his statement, referring to the 1993 vote.
"I know that a day will come when Nigerians will forgive our regime because we are a godly nation that embraces the culture of forgiveness."
He has faced questions over other issues, as well, including how a 12-billion-dollar windfall from oil sales during the Gulf War was spent.
The killing of a top editor by letter bomb in 1986 also drew suspicions over whether he was targeted because of his critical stance toward the government.
Babangida addressed both issues in his statement, denying allegations linked to the oil money as well as any involvement in the editor's death.
"For the umpteenth time, I wish to state that I did not murder Dele Giwa," he said of the editor. "In addition, no agent or agency of government was found guilty of this heinous act by the law courts."
Nigerian ex-vice president Atiku Abubakar, also a Muslim northerner, announced Sunday he will seek the ruling party's nomination for president as well.
Jonathan, who took over after the death of president Umaru Yar'Adua in May, is expected to run, but has not announced his candidacy.
The dispute over whether he should represent the PDP is rooted in an unwritten agreement that the ruling party rotate its candidates for president between the north and south every two terms.
The policy serves as a way of smoothing over religious, ethnic and social divisions in Africa's most populous nation, which is also one of the world's largest oil producers.
Since Yar'Adua did not finish out his first term, some argue a candidate from the north should represent the party, which has been in power since 1999.
Last week, the PDP's leadership said Jonathan had the right to run in the elections, but stopped short of giving him an outright endorsement.
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