Leaders and delegates from the All Progressives Congress (APC) gather to elect a new chairman and other officers in the last stages before the party’s presidential primary later this year.
Before Saturday’s conference, Buhari, a former army commander who is stepping down after two terms, spent weeks meeting with the party’s state governors and senior members to try to achieve a leadership agreement.
“Ensure that we go into this election unified so that we can win this election,” Abdullahi Sule, a state governor and senior APC member, told local Channels TV.
The APC, which was formed in 2013 through a coalition of multiple parties, defeated the long-ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015, despite the PDP’s own internal divisions at the time.
Buhari, who came to power on a promise to bring security and fight corruption, leaves office praising the country’s infrastructure and transportation achievements.
However, terrorists continue to terrorize Nigeria’s northeast, while criminal groups responsible for a slew of bombings and mass kidnappings have wreaked havoc in the northwest.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and top petroleum producer, is recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, but recent gasoline and electricity shortages have highlighted the country’s cost-of-living problems.
Analysts believe that how the APC handles unity at its convention will decide if it faces further fractures and high-profile defections before the primaries and 2023.
“The convention’s outcome will either make or break the party.” Dr. Dapo Thomas, a political science instructor at Lagos University, said, “We are aware of the bickerings, intrigues, and horse tradings going on among the various groupings.”
“If the party can pull off a successful and rancor-free convention, it will be in a strong position for the battle ahead.”
The presidency of Nigeria is expected to rotate between a candidate from the predominantly Muslim north and a candidate from the predominantly Christian south, according to an unwritten agreement among elites.
The agreement aims to maintain balance in a country with over 250 ethnic groups and a history of intercommunal strife.
Many southern elites want the presidency to return to a candidate from their region after two terms with Buhari, a Muslim from the north.
Former Lagos State governor and APC strongman Bola Tinubu, as well as opposition PDP stalwart and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, have already declared their intentions to run for president.