Nigeria’s ruling party battles disunity over 2023 election candidate

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Lagos, Jun 6 (UrduPoint/Pakistan Point News – Jun 7, 2022): Nigeria’s ruling APC party launched primaries on Monday to choose a candidate for the 2023 elections as President Muhammadu Buhari strives to overcome divisions in the party ranks.

All delegates from the Progressive Congress party gathered in Abuja a day after gunmen killed at least 21 people in an attack on a church in the south west, a bloody reminder that security is a major election issue .

With no clear favourite, divisions in the APC have deepened, especially after the opposition People’s Democratic Party picked veteran Atiku Abubakar as a challenger for next year’s poll.

Among the runners are former Lagos Governor and APC strongman Bola Tinubu, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi and Buhari loyalist Senate Speaker Ahmad Lawan.

Buhari, who is stepping down after his constitutionally permitted two terms, gave no public support to a favored candidate to rule Africa’s most populous country.

But he urged local party governors and party leaders to support a strong candidate and “recognize the importance of party stability and unity”.

The vote is scheduled for Tuesday, but party intrigue over the nominee had already begun.

Buhari met a powerful group of northern state governors on Monday for consultations ahead of the primary vote, where they insisted the APC candidate should be from the south, according to a presidential statement.

“Let the delegates decide. The party must participate, no one will appoint anyone,” Buhari said in a statement.

Part of the APC debate centers on so-called “zoning” – an unofficial agreement among political elites that Nigeria’s presidency should rotate between southern and northern candidates.

The deal is meant to act as a form of power-sharing balance in a country almost evenly divided between the predominantly Christian south and the predominantly Muslim north.

After Buhari’s Muslim north, most observers expected the presidency to go to a candidate from the south.

But the PDP has chosen Abubakar, a wealthy northern Muslim, former vice president and political stalwart who will make his sixth bid to win the top political post.

The opposition’s choice to ignore “zoning” has sparked speculation about how the APC candidate will appeal to the north, where voter numbers and turnout are traditionally higher.

The APC itself is an alliance of small parties that came together to secure Buhari’s victory in 2015 and has often fought internal disputes.

“They need the strong hand of an incumbent president,” said Chidi Odinkalu, a Nigerian analyst and senior lecturer at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy.

“APC doesn’t have… the internal governance mechanisms to deal with the physics that you let loose when all of these forces come together.”

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