Wed, 06 Jul 2022

by Olatunji Saliu

ABUJA, May 27 (Xinhua) -- The stage is set for Nigeria's two main political parties to hold their primary elections from which presidential candidates are expected to emerge this weekend ahead of next year's general polls in the most populous African country.

The political contests could, however, be described as the "battle of the titans" featuring heavyweight politicians from both parties gunning for the seat of President Muhammadu Buhari who is expected to leave office in May 2023.

Abuja, the Nigerian capital, has become a mecca of sort as the venue of the delegates' elections of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the country's main political group. The PDP will hold its delegates' congress on Saturday, followed immediately by that of the APC on Sunday.

Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is one of the biggest contenders in the forthcoming APC delegates' congress, seeking to win his party's ticket for the February 2023 presidential election.

Osinbajo, a professor of law, said on April 11 while declaring his aspiration to run for president that he is aiming to ride on the opportunity of serving the country for seven years as vice president.

"We have, together, worked through some of the most difficult times in the history of our nation, but we have remained focused on securing the country, providing infrastructure, and growing our economy," he said, explaining that his aspiration to run for president was also borne out of the need to complete the work he started with Buhari in 2015, which included "radically transforming the security and intelligence architecture, completing the reform of the justice system, focusing on adequate remuneration and welfare of judicial personnel, among others."

This contest, which, local political analysts said could have ordinarily been a "walkover" for Osinbajo, however, controversially pitches him against the national leader of the APC Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is also hell-bent on getting the party's ticket.

Tinubu, one of Nigeria's master political strategists known to have played a significant role in President Buhari's election in 2015 and 2019, as well as winning local elections for his party across the country, has vowed not to back down his aspiration until he wins the party's ticket for the election.

Banking on his deep political experience, the one-time senator and former governor of Lagos, Nigeria's economic hub, has also vowed to turn around the economic fortunes of the country, and solve its lingering security challenges if given the opportunity to win the presidential election next year.

Former Nigerian leader Goodluck Jonathan, an old member of the PDP who was defeated by Buhari in 2015, allegedly joined the APC and is very likely to contest for the governing party's ticket on Sunday, according to local media reports on Friday.

"Jonathan has finally been given the waiver by the leadership of the APC to contest for the presidential ticket on Sunday," local daily The Punch reported, citing a source close to the former president.

Jonathan, who was on Friday cleared by a Nigerian court to contest the 2023 presidential election, had earlier denied having an interest in the elections when a supporters' group bought him the expression of interest and nomination forms of the APC earlier this month. His joining the race would definitely be one of the biggest surprises of the current power game.

Ahmed Lawan, the current president of the Nigerian Senate, a latecomer to the presidential race, is also expected to pull a surprise in the APC delegates' congress this Sunday. Local analysts say the top legislator is a candidate to watch out for as the political intrigues rocking the governing party play out.

From the PDP, a veteran politician and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar is one of the big wigs aiming to represent the crisis-ridden party.

Atiku says his aim is to revive the economy, invest heavily in education, and troubleshoot the security crises of the West African nation, among others.

At least nine serving governors, five from the ruling APC and four others from PDP, who have also shown interest in becoming president, will know their fate this weekend, at the congresses. Also eyeing the presidential tickets are former ministers, who recently resigned their appointments following Buhari's order to quit, and several top players across industries.

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