Political parties have until October 7, 2018 to hold their primaries and select candidates for the February 16, 2019 vote.
The race to choose Nigeria's next Head of State is already on after the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC over the weekend confirmed that political parties were now free to select their candidates for the February 16, 2019 presidential election. The BBC cited INEC officials as saying that parties had until October 7, 2018 to hold primaries and present their candidates for the forthcoming poll.
The announcement comes at a time the All Progressives' Congress, APC party of President Muhammadu Buhari is grappling with a wave of mass defections by senior politicians. So far, only President Buhari has declared his intention to stand for the APC (for a second term) next year.
Meanwhile, a dozen aspirants from the main opposition People's Democratic Party, PDP, have expressed their intention to challenge Buhari in next February's poll. They include recent APC defectors like Senate President Bukola Saraki, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and a former Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso. Another potential challenger to Buhari is the current Governor of the north-eastern state of Gombe, Ibrahim Dankwambo.
Other PDP presidential contenders include Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, former Governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau; former Governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Markafi; former Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and former Minister of Special Duties, Tanimu Turaki. As the PDP holds its presidential primaries next month, a party source also confirmed that efforts were underway to persuade some of the aspirants to step down.
"While we are happy that our rebranded party has become very attractive to many presidential hopefuls because of the failure of the ruling All Progressives' Congress Muhammadu Buhari administration in the past three years, it is also a source of concern to us. As at today, all our presidential aspirants are eminently qualified to occupy the position.
But there is need to ensure that their aspirations don't create post-primary conflict that might weaken our capacity to collectively go into the election and defeat President Buhari roundly," a member of the PDP Board of Trustees told Thisday newspaper. Meanwhile, Independent National Electoral Commission has registered 91 political parties for next year's general elections.