UPDATE 1-Jonathan ally resigns as Nigerian ruling party chairman

Thu Jan 16, 2014 9:34am EST

ABUJA Jan 16 (Reuters) - A close ally of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, Bamanga Tukur, has resigned as chairman of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), Jonathan told a party committee on Thursday.

Jonathan is facing a crisis within his party centred around his assumed intention to run for another term in the 2015 election. Five governors and several lawmakers have defected to the opposition.

The removal of Tukur, seen by many as a divisive figure, was one of the demands of Jonathan's opponents inside the PDP. His resignation could help ease opposition to Jonathan - especially if he can pick a replacement who is loyal to him and at the same time acceptable across the party.

Jonathan said the replacement chairman would come from the northeast region, as Tukur does, and would be announced on Monday.

"We have some internal problems that have been agitating the mind of the people ... For us to make sure that we rest these issues, the party chairman agreed to step aside," Jonathan said in his speech.

"Members of this party are still faithful to the party. Of course we have few defections, which to me is normal," he said. "I don't think it's something we should worry ourselves (about) too much."