(Bloomberg) -- Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari declined to name his preferred successor on the eve of a convention to select the ruling party’s candidate for next year’s election, opening up a 23-person race for pole position.
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“There shall be no imposition of any candidate” on the All Progressives Congress, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement emailed on Monday evening. There is no clear frontrunner among the candidates cleared to contest the primaries which start Tuesday, and the endorsement of the outgoing head of state would have moved the person into the lead.
More than 2,300 party delegates are due to meet in the capital, Abuja, to choose from a field that includes Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Lagos state Governor Bola Tinubu, former Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi, Ekiti state Governor Kayode Fayemi and Senate President Ahmad Lawan. The system gives considerable influence to the state governors and party chiefs that exercise power in the regions from where the delegates are drawn.
“Allow the delegates to decide,” Shehu said amid growing expectation that Buhari would eventually declare his support for a particular candidate. Southern politicians such as Osinbajo and Fayemi received a boost on Monday when most of the APC’s northern governors said they want the next president to come from the south of Nigeria.
The party is debating whether to maintain an unofficial convention of rotating the presidency between the largely Muslim north and predominantly Christian south. The clarification by Buhari, who’s from northern Nigeria, came hours after local media reported that APC Chairman Abdullahi Adamu had told a top party committee he had consulted with the president and decided Lawan, also from the north, should be the “consensus” candidate.
Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president who won a primary held by the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party late last month, will face candidates from the APC and 16 smaller parties.
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