Nigeria's ruling party has postponed its primary race for the 2023 election, with Vice-President Yemi Osinbanjo among those seeking the ticket
HARARE - Nigeria's ruling party on Saturday postponed for a week a primary vote to choose its candidate to replace President Muhammadu Buhari at next year's presidential election.
Buhari's All Progressives Congress party (APC) and the main opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) were both scheduled this weekend to select their candidates to govern Africa's most populous country.
A day before its primaries were due to start, the APC announced in a statement that it had pushed its party primary back a week to June 6 through June 8.
The APC said the decision followed a ruling by electoral authorities to extend the deadline for the submission of candidates' names.
The APC gave no further details, but the ruling party has been caught in fierce wrangling over who should run, with former Lagos governor Bola Tinubu and current vice president Yemi Osinbajo among the possibles.
Atiku Abubakar, longtime hopeful, is one of those running for the PDP opposition ticket for the presidency
Buhari has not endorsed any candidate to succeed him and some analysts expect him to attempt to find a consensus nominee to keep the APC's factions together ahead of the February 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections.
An alliance of smaller parties drawn together for Buhari's 2015 election win, the APC has often struggled to contain internal divisions.
"It clearly means the APC is going the consensus route, which requires more backroom dealing than the usual primaries," SBM Intelligence analyst Tunde Ajileye said of the ruling party delay.
"It also means the consensus candidate is one that many are not accepting easily."
- Opposition gathers -
In Abuja's national arena, decked out in the opposition party's red, white and green colours, PDP party leaders and delegates gathered for their primary vote on Saturday with the event likely to continue into early Sunday.
Among the top opposition candidates for the presidency are long-time challenger Atiku Abubakar, former senate president Bukola Saraki and Aminu Tambuwal, the Sokoto State governor who enjoys strong support in mostly Muslim northern Nigeria.
Another hopeful is Rivers State Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, the only main opposition candidate from the south of the country.
Most APC top candidates are also from the south of Nigeria.
Under an informal agreement among the political elite, Nigeria's presidency is usually alternatively "zoned" between candidates from the north and the south.
After eight years under northerner Buhari, most agree the presidency should now go to a candidate from the south.
Rotating power at the national government level has been seen as a balancing force in a country almost equally divided between the mostly Christian south and predominantly Muslim north.
Since its return to civilian rule from a military dictatorship in 1999, Nigeria has held six national elections, which were often marred by fraud, technical difficulties, violence and legal challenges.
In 2019, when Buhari was re-elected, the Independent National Electoral Commission was criticised for delaying the initial vote by a week. Abubakar, who lost to Buhari, challenged the results in court.
Buhari, 79, leaves after two terms in office, with Nigeria still struggling to end a more than decade-long jihadist conflict in its northeast and a wave of violent banditry in its northwest.
Africa's largest economy is also still recovering from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and fallout from the Ukraine war that has pushed up fuel and food prices across the continent.
By Patrick Markey