By Felix Onuah
ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigerian vice president Yemi Osinbajo will seek the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) ticket to run for president next February, he said on Twitter on Monday, as he bids to succeed his boss Muhammadu Buhari in Africa’s top oil producer.
Political parties in Nigeria should pick presidential candidates by June 3. Official campaigning will begin in September, according to the country’s electoral commission.
With Buhari set to step down after serving two four-year terms, the Feb. 23, 2023 ballot is expected to be a hotly contested affair.
“I am today, with utmost humility formally declaring my intention to run for the office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the platform of APC,” Osinbajo said, ending months of speculation.
Supporters tout Osinbajo as a safe pair of hands who would provide stability and pursue a more liberal economic policy, including easing of forex rules. He has previously criticised the central bank for maintaining foreign currency controls.
But he may find it difficult to distance himself from the policies of his boss Buhari, who critics accuse of racking up huge national debts and failing to end an Islamist insurgency in the northeast and kidnappings for ransom by armed gangs in the northwest.
A deputy to Buhari since 2015, Osinbajo, a 61-year-old law professor and southern Christian pastor, has to fend off a challenge from Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a southern Muslim and wealthy power broker and former governor of Lagos state, the commercial engine of Africa’s biggest economy.
Osinbajo served as Lagos justice commissioner and attorney general under Tinubu from 1999 to 2007.
Osinbajo also lacks a political base of his own and would need to build a strong coalition of supporters with deep pockets to take on the political machinery of Tinubu, who helped campaign and deliver victory to Buhari during elections in 2015 and 2019.
Buhari has not said whether he will support either Osinbajo or Tinubu.
(Reporting by Felix Onuah, Editing by MacDonald Dzirutwe and Toby Chopra)