The All Progressives Congress (APC) will pick its presidential candidate for the 2015 general election in November 2014 at a special convention.
Senator Chris Ngige made the announcement on Friday night at the mini convention of the party in Abuja where former Edo governor John Odigie Oyegun (pictured) was ratified as its national chairman following a successful horse-trading between northern governors and Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The governors’ choice, Chief Timi Sylva, will now be given the position of secretary to the Board of Trustees (BoT) as compensation after he was persuaded to step down for Oyegun.
APC, the biggest opposition party in Nigeria, is expected to give the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) its toughest test yet since 1999.
No specific date has been fixed for the presidential convention, but an APC official told TheCable that “it will be close to the time PDP holds its own”.
President Goodluck Jonathan is most likely to fly the PDP flag given the absence of a strong rival after the defection of many of the party’s governors to the APC.
“If Jonathan decides to run and then picks the ticket of the PDP, there will be fall-outs in his party. APC will try to benefit from this. We will pick the date of our convention by closely watching events in the PDP,” the official said.
In the guidelines issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), all parties must hold conventions to pick their presidential candidates by December 11, 2014.
December 18 is the final day for the submission of the names of candidates.
The APC presidential ticket is expected to be contested by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, but younger candidates such as Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Mallam Nuhu Ribadu are also in strong contention.
Speaker of the house of representatives, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who is currently in the PDP, was once highly favoured but there are yet no strong indications that he will defect to the opposition party.
Meanwhile, contrary to pre-convention sentiments, Alhaji Kashim Imam from Borno State was eventually persuaded not to contest for the position of the national secretary.
Mai Mala Buni from Yobe State replaced Tijjani Tumsah, who was the interim secretary.
Atiku announced midway into voting that the north-east elders had asked Imam to step down for Buni.
The major factor that undid Imam’s bid was believed to be his closeness to Tinubu who had already succeeded in having his nominee as national chairman, thereby making it politically complex for have two of Tinubu’s allies occupying the two most senior positions in the national executive committee of the party.
Although Imam was also backed by the governor of his state, Borno, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, and a member of the BoT, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, his candidature still did not sail through.
Other elected officials are: Segun Oni (deputy national chairman, south); Lawal Shuaibu (deputy national chairman, north); and Lai Mohammed (national publicity secretary).