UPDATE 1-Nigerian opposition party candidate Abubakar chooses running mate -spokesman

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By Alexis Akwagyiram

LAGOS, Oct 12 (Reuters) – The main opposition challenger to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in next year’s elections has selected a former governor from the southeast of the country to be his running mate, the candidate’s spokesman said on Friday.

Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president who will stand as the candidate for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 2019 vote, chose Peter Obi, formerly governor of the southeastern state of Anambra.

The choice points to a bid to generate support in the southeast, where Buhari has polled badly in past elections and cracked down on secessionists by deploying troops on the streets. Geographical affiliations are crucial in a nation of 190 million people from 250 ethnic groups.

“Former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi is the vice presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party,” Abubakar’s spokesman said in text message.

Obi had a background in business prior to entering politics. Abubakar has long enjoyed support from Nigeria’s business elite and as vice president from 1999-2007 implemented a liberalisation programme in areas such as the telecoms sector.

Buhari’s handling of one of Africa’s biggest economies since taking office in 2015 has already become a campaign issue. The country emerged in 2017 from its first recession in 25 years but economic growth remains sluggish and inflation is above the central bank’s single-digit target. (Editing by Toby Chopra)