Nigeria's Acting President Goodluck Jonathan said on Tuesday it was premature to talk of him making a bid for the presidency in polls due by early next year and called for unity in the ruling party.
"(Jonathan) decried a situation where some persons were already positioning for the 2011 elections even when an electoral timetable is yet to be released," his spokesman Ima Niboro said in a statement.
"He warned that he would not tolerate a situation where his name is dragged into these premature permutations with a deliberate intent to heat up the polity," the statement said.
Jonathan made the comments before chairing a PDP meeting for the first time since taking over as the country's acting president in February.
A group of 19 senior PDP members suspended for launching a rebellion against party chairman Vincent Ogbulafor had sought a court order to stop the meeting, which was due to approve the rules for the primaries.
A court in the capital Abuja overturned the injunction on Tuesday but ruled that the suspended members, who had argued that their interests would not be represented, should not be discussed at the meeting.
Hundreds of protesters from rival groups rallied at the PDP's headquarters in Abuja before the meeting.
Around 200 protesters, some carrying signs saying "No to Corrupt Politicians" and "Let Us Reform Now," demanded Ogbulafor's resignation after fraud charges were brought against him on Monday.
A similar-sized counter rally was also held in support of Ogbulafor, whom a court charged alongside four others with conspiring to siphon off $1.5 million in public funds while he was a government minister in 2001.
President Umaru Yar'Adua, who returned from a Saudi hospital in February, remains too sick to rule and is therefore not likely to try to seek a second term in office.
Ogbulafor said last month the party nominee should be from Yar'Adua's Muslim north, abiding by the terms of an unwritten agreement in the party that power rotates between north and the mostly Christian south every two terms.
ReutersLast Mod: 27 Nisan 2010, 20:56