By Felix Onuah
ABUJA (Reuters) – The national executive committee of Nigeria’s ruling party has passed a vote of confidence in its leaders including President Muhammadu Buhari, it said on Wednesday.
The committee, whose decisions determine the direction of the president’s All Progressives Congress (APC) party, held a one-day meeting which concluded late on Tuesday.
In an emailed statement it said the body had approved a one-year extension for party executives, including Buhari.
“By this decision, all affected officers will continue in acting capacity for another period of 12 months after the expiration of their current term,” it said in the statement.
Nigeria’s parties must select their candidates for the 2019 presidential election between Aug. 18 and Oct. 7 this year. Presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place on Feb. 16, 2019.
Two senior party sources told Reuters on Wednesday that the national executive committee had endorsed Buhari to seek a second term in next year’s election. Buhari, 75, has not said whether he intends to seek re-election.
“The party made it clear that this endorsement is not an automatic ticket for the president,” one of the sources said, adding that the party would still conduct a presidential primary to be fair to other potential candidates.
The national executive committee is made up of party grandees, including many state governors who have already publicly stated their support for any bid by Buhari to seek re-election.
But a presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, said the election had not been discussed.
“A vote of confidence was passed on the president and the national chairman. Nothing about the presidential election was discussed,” said Adesina.
Buhari won power in May 2015 but spent five months on medical leave in Britain last year for an unspecified ailment, raising questions over whether he was well enough to stand again.
Adebayo Shittu, Nigeria’s minister of communications who played a prominent role in Buhari’s 2015 campaign, said in January he would chair a group to support the re-election of Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Campaigning for the re-election of a president in Nigeria has often started with such support groups before the incumbent declares his intention to run again.
(Additional reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)