Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday was dealt a blow to his re-election campaign after a high-ranking member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party abruptly resigned in dramatic fashion. Olusegun Obasanjo, the country’s former president and now former chairman of the PDP board of trustees, tore up his party membership card in public, renouncing his allegiance to any single political faction.
According to BBC News, Obasanjo was reacting to rumors that he was going to be kicked out of the PDP. "I will only be a Nigerian, I'm ready to work with anybody regardless of political affiliation," Obasanjo said. “Why would some people say they want to send me away? They don't need to bother themselves; here's your membership card -- take it," he added.
In response, the PDP issued a statement saying it was “saddened” by Obasanjo’s departure from the party and calling it an “unfortunate decision.” PDP spokesman Olisa Metuh went on to question the motivation behind such an unexpected demonstration of defiance. “It is our considered opinion that no matter the provocation, a statesmanly disposition from a person of Chief Obasanjo’s status could have encouraged our citizens and help in stabilizing system,” Metuh said.
The Nigerian elections, previously scheduled for Feb. 14, have been pushed back to March 28 after the military recommended the postponements because of security concerns over Boko Haram's ability to disrupt the political contests. Obasanjo had previously been very vocal in his opposition of Jonathan’s political stances, including Jonathan's response to Boko Haram’s presence in Nigeria and his reported corruption as it related to the country’s oil, according to Reuters. The election's delay can also be attributed to concerns over voting fraud, and Nigeria has taken steps to properly distribute voter identification cards in an attempt to prevent non-citizens from participating in the closely-fought election.
Obasanjo’s departure from the PDP came shortly after Jonathan’s primary political rival, Muhammadu Buhari, who is also running for president, denounced Boko Haram while speaking in front of thousands of supporters in Borno state, which is largely being controlled by the militant insurgents. Boko Haram on Monday night was reportedly pushed out of Borno state by Nigerian forces, but the insurgency group countered soon afterward by taking the northeast town of Askira Uba by burning homes and public buildings, according to Agence France-Presse.