Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has no preferred candidate from the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) to succeed him, his spokesman has said on the eve of the party’s primaries to pick a flag bearer for next year’s elections.
Buhari, who is constitutionally barred from contesting, will step down in 2023 after eight years in office, leading to intense speculation on whom he will back as his preferred successor.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Bola Tinubu, a powerful former Lagos state governor, are seen as frontrunners to represent the APC during the presidential vote next February. The party is holding its primaries this week.
But the president’s spokesman Garba Shehu said Buhari told APC governors from northern Nigeria during a meeting on Monday that he has “no preferred candidate” and has “anointed no one”.
The governors separately told reporters that they were pushing for a presidential candidate from the mostly Christian south to succeed Buhari, a Muslim from northern Nigeria.
That would be in keeping with an unwritten agreement where power alternates between the largely Muslim north and mostly Christian south.
But the main opposition party chose former vice president and veteran politician Atiku Abubakar, a northern Muslim, as its presidential candidate last week. That would mean another northerner in office if he were to win the presidency.
That has led some APC politicians to push for a ruling party candidate from the north, which had more registered voters during the last election in 2019, according to the electoral agency.