Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) -- Nigeria's ruling party on Friday declared incumbent Goodluck Jonathan its presidential candidate in the April elections after he won a primary vote in Africa' most populous nation.
The president got 77.7% of the vote in the People's Democratic Party primary, election officials said.
He beat rival Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president supported by a group of influential northern leaders.
Jonathan is from the Niger Delta in the Christian-dominated south while Abubakar is from the majority Muslim north.
The incumbent's candidacy sparked a controversy because an unofficial zoning agreement in the ruling party aims to rotate power between the north and the south every two terms.
Jonathan, then the vice president, inherited the presidency when President Umaru Yar'Adua, a northerner, died during his first term last year. Some in the ruling party have said a northerner should have replaced Yar'Adua to honor the zoning agreement.
Nigeria has been rocked by violence in recent years, which the government has blamed on Islamist extremists.
Christmas Eve attacks in the volatile northern city of Jos killed at least 31 people.
Earlier this week, an attack on a Christian village in central Nigeria left 13 people dead, an official said.
The village was attacked at midnight by unknown assailants.
Militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta have also been a focal point in recent years. The most prominent rebel group in the area, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, and other militants say they're fighting for a fairer distribution of the region's oil wealth.
CNN's Christian Purefoy contributed to this report.