Ahead of tomorrow’s presidential election, political analysts and development experts have predicted how the four frontline candidates will share 87.2 million votes.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) registered 93,469,008 persons for the election. But, yesterday, the electoral body said a total of 87,209,007 Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) were collected by eligible registrants for the elections.
The experts, however, said even though it is not clear who will emerge president at the end of tomorrow’s poll, each of the four frontline candidates represents an identity that will influence the outcome of the election.
Daily Trust reports that this is Nigeria’s seventh electoral cycle since 1999.
Of the 18 presidential candidates, the pendulum, according to the experts, is swinging towards; Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and Sen. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
A panel of experts, who converged at the Media Trust Group headquarters in Abuja, argued that even though identity politics will play a role in determining Nigeria’s next president, the influence of money, institutions and information cannot be overruled.
“In the last three elections cycle, the role of money has grown considerably in influencing the polls,” said Prof Jibrin Ibrahim, a development and political analyst, who explained that President Muhammadu Buhari’s cash crunch policy will no doubt affect the polls.
“We now understand what Buhari meant by his insistence that he will leave a legacy of free and fair elections. So, he is not going to allow money to circulate,” Prof. Ibrahim said, adding that even though Tinubu has the edge due to the number of governors backing him, the new monetary policy will no doubt weaken his hands.
Idayat Hassan, a political analyst and the Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), said that the role of institutions, information and identity are major factors in the upcoming election.
She said beyond the role of the election management body, the role of security agencies and that of the Central Bank of Nigeria as well as the judiciary will contribute to the outcome of the election.
“Security will also play a very important role. Most of the places are highly insecure. Southern Nigeria is much more impacted by insecurity, not just the South East,” she said.
How winner will emerge
To emerge as president, one of the four candidates must receive a plurality of the votes cast and at least 25 per cent of votes from 24 of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
Therefore, in Nigeria’s 24 years since the return to democracy, one winner has always emerged with a wide margin of at least 2.5 million popular votes.
However, panelists at the Media Trust discussion said the dynamism of the 2023 election makes it difficult to predict who will emerge victorious.
“We agree that all our permutations from 1999 to 2019 are no longer looking useful for this particular election, as even the 14 states that have historically been the PDP strongholds are presently in contention,” said Idayat Hassan of the CDD.
“Things keep evolving, they are changing every day,” she said.
But as to who will be the first to cross the threshold and the regions to aid him, Hassan explained that in the North East, which is Atiku Abubakar’s turf, the ability of the PDP presidential candidate to own all the states in the region is in contention as Borno and Yobe states may pose a challenge.
However, she said even if the 23 APC governors engage in anti-party activities, they will most likely deliver 25 per cent of their states to Tinubu. “And that will be the same in all the G-5 states, which include Rivers, Abia, Enugu, Oyo and Benue states.”
She said while Benue may go to Peter Obi, Tinubu of the APC will likely get 25 per cent of votes from the state. “Again, Tinubu is the only candidate that can boast of a region, so in the Southwest, even when people claim that it is not fashionable to be associated with him, the dynamics in the last couple of weeks have begun to change the tide in his favour.”
An Associate Professor of Political Sociology, Abubakar Kari, reaffirmed the position and said Tinubu and Atiku are likely to satisfy the requirements of 25 per cent in two-thirds of the states.
“Apart from the middle belt states, there is no state where Tinubu will not get the 25 per cent win. I believe that Atiku will get 25 per cent in all the 19 northern states,” Kari said, explaining further that Tinubu will likely sweep the six states in the South West while all the candidates will likely get the 25 per cent win in the FCT.
“There are so many things that are changing in different parts of the country. I am from the North East and I know for certain that one of the major problems that Atiku has in the region is the propaganda that he has not done anything for the region,” he said.
Kari said while Atiku will likely get the majority votes in the North East, “Perhaps apart from Borno and Yobe states,” it is not certain who will take Bauchi State.
The permutation that Atiku and Tinubu will dominate the northern votes was however rebutted by Dr Ahmed Adamu, an Assistant Professor of Petroleum Economics and a Special Assistant to Atiku Abubakar on Youth and Strategy.
He argued that the perception of Tinubu in the north will serve as a setback for the APC candidate whom he said is viewed as not Muslim enough.
“They don’t care about his Muslim-Muslim ideology, it is only working against him in the north and this is a region with 54 per cent of the voters,” he said. “Peter Obi is not even mentioned in the North,” he said and linked the popularity of the LP candidate to social media.
He, however, said the only threat to Atiku in the north is Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso of NNPP whom he said will take some potential votes that should ordinarily go to Atiku.
Dr Adamu explained that Atiku will also get the South-South and get a portion of the South-East; regions he considered are historically PDP turf while Atiku’s large network of friends and associates will win him the South-West.
Battle between Tinubu, Atiku
During the discussion, political analyst and columnist, Jide Ojo said the election will eventually boil down to an epic battle between the APC and PDP.
“The three frontline candidates represent some ethnic identities but they will not have any state to themselves as before. So in Lagos, there are three candidates going for the votes. So, Tinubu will be struggling for maybe 40 per cent, others will get 30 per cent because the Igbo population in Lagos is very significant,” he said.
Ojo said Kano will be another state where all the candidates will be aiming to get a substantial chunk of the 5.9 million voting capacity.
He, however, said the odds seem to favour Atiku Abubakar more than the other two candidates, especially when there are arguments that the South has had more power in the Fourth Republic than the North.
“Should Peter Obi be demystified as a social media candidate, then it will be down to APC and PDP. If the APC had performed credibly, it would have been for Tinubu, but on the eve of an election, so much discontent over the naira swap, fuel scarcity, people are buying fuel for N350, N400 in the core North, so people are asking what has this presidency done for them,” he said.
Popularity test for Peter Obi
Some members of the panel agreed that Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the NNPP is the best candidate among the four but lacks the voting spread to win the election.
“The best candidate is Kwankwaso, unfortunately, he is not carrying a significant part of the votes,” said Prof Jibrin Ibrahim who however said, Atiku Abubakar is fast recovering from his third position and is now either at par with Tinubu or likely to go beyond him.
Having ruled out Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso as a frontline candidate, Prof Jideofor Adibe said should Tinubu, Atiku or Obi win the election, it would be the first time a billionaire will win and run the country.
Coming at a time many of the public opinion polls have predicted the candidate of the Labour Party to win the elections, panelists faulted the polls saying, “The central problem of polling in Nigeria is that we don’t have a refined understanding of our electoral geography.”
Prof Jibrin Ibrahim said the South East, with a history of minimal voting, should be reflected in the sample.
“However, this time we know that more from the South East will vote than during previous elections, but how many? How many burnt their PVC when IPOB told them to? For example, how many were able to collect their PVC, how many of those were cancelled, all those are critical elements in sampling techniques, “he said.
Fatima Kakuri, a development expert explained how the involvement of new voters, many of which are youths and playing a major role in supporting anti-establishment politicians will affect the election.
She, however, said the third force, which the Peter Obi movement stands for, is an aspiration that will unlikely be satisfied.
Jide Ojo, a columnist and public affairs analyst agreed, saying so much hype about third force will be like a paper tiger, especially in the South East, where the activities of unknown gunmen have robbed Peter Obi of a lot of opportunities to mobilise people.
“Because I am sure you may have less than 20 per cent voter turnout in the entire five states of the South East,” he said.
But Prof Jibrin Ibrahim said Peter Obi cannot be ruled out. “The dynamism of his supporters, his ability to speak a language that speaks to a new group of voters, we know what that group of voters are in terms of their proportions, the young cosmopolitan voters. We don’t know enough about whether or not they will turn up, I feel the assumption that they will all turn up to vote may not be very true,” he said.
To test Peter Obi’s popularity and the influence of the ‘Obidient’ movement, Prof Jideofor Adibe, said Nigerians will have to wait till Election Day.
“What we have seen in other places, in recent times, the recent trend across Africa shows a convergence between online and offline in what happened, we saw it in Kenya,” he said, adding that the online presence of the ‘Obidient’ movement cannot be isolated.
“It is a theory we want to test, it is commonly accepted, even from Google AI that Peter Obi dominates in social media,” he said.