APC party's new presidential candidate Bola Tinubu shakes hands with Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari during the party's convention in Abuja, Nigeria June 7, 2022. Nigeria's Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

Nigeria’s ruling party on Wednesday picked former Lagos State governor Bola Tinubu as its candidate to run for president in elections scheduled for February 2023.

President Muhammadu Buhari will step down next year after leading Africa’s most populous country and top oil exporter for the maximum eight years allowed by the constitution.

Unlike many outgoing African heads of state, Buhari had not named a successor, leaving the field wide open.

Tinubu, 70, defeated 13 other candidates in the All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries. He won 1,271 APC delegates’ votes, compared with 316 for his nearest rival, another ex-governor. Buhari’s deputy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, came a surprisingly weak third with just 235 votes.

In his acceptance speech, Tinubu said if elected he would focus on reducing insecurity, a major concern in Nigeria. Other priorities would include boosting local industry and building a large port in the southeastern city of Calabar, he said.

Tinubu, 70, defeated 13 other candidates in the All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries. He won 1,271 APC delegates’ votes, compared with 316 for his nearest rival, another ex-governor. Buhari’s deputy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, came a surprisingly weak third with just 235 votes.

In his acceptance speech, Tinubu said if elected he would focus on reducing insecurity, a major concern in Nigeria. Other priorities would include boosting local industry and building a large port in the southeastern city of Calabar, he said.

The ruling party candidate would usually be considered the favourite in Nigeria. However, in 2015, Buhari was the opposition candidate when he won an election widely considered among the cleanest the country had seen.

Tinubu’s main opponent will be the People’s Democratic Party candidate Atiku Abubakar, who was vice president from 1999 to 2007 under former President Olusegun Obasanjo.