Abuja (AFP) – Nigeria's ruling party, weakened by mass defections and riven by months of in-fighting, was dealt a fresh blow on Sunday, when one of its most senior figures said he had joined the main opposition.
Atiku Abubakar, the country's vice-president under Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999 to 2007, said he was leaving the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The move, announced on Twitter, Facebook, email and his personal website, heaps further pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan after the defection of dozens of state governors and lawmakers.
Eleven senators from the upper chamber of parliament also announced last week that they were switching sides. Confirmation of their switch is expected in the coming days.
Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and biggest oil producer, goes to the polls to choose a new president and parliament on February 14, 2015.
But the crisis in the PDP has prompted talk that it could lose power for the first time since the country returned to civilian rule in 1999.
Abubakar, 67, said he was making the switch because he had concluded the PDP "cannot be redeemed", as it had reneged on promises to improve governance and tackle corruption.
"We need leadership focused on our people, on creating jobs (and) providing security. That's why I am joining the APC," he said.
In his statement, he said divisions along religious, ethnic and regional lines had increased "for political gains" and the ruling party had abandoned ordinary Nigerians.
The APC in contrast was "a party of change committed to the improvement of the lives of our people and to the continued existence and development of Nigeria", he added.
"My resignation letter as a member of the PDP will be delivered to the party tomorrow (Monday)."
Abubakar, from the northeastern state of Adamawa, tried unsuccessfully to get the PDP ticket for the 2011 presidential elections but Jonathan was nominated.
Jonathan, who stepped up from vice-president when former head of state Umaru Yar'Adua fell ill and later died in 2010, has yet to declare whether he will run for a second term.
But there are wide expectations that he wants another four years in charge.
That has angered many PDP members, particularly those in Nigeria's Muslim majority north, who maintain that the nomination should go to a candidate from their region.
Jonathan is from the Christian majority south.