The desire of every political party is to stay on top of its game. Like every party in power, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which made history in Nigeria four years ago as the first opposition party to dislodge a ruling party, would no doubt be desirous of retaining power. But the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which until 2015 was in power for 16 years, beginning from 1999, appears to be making frantic efforts to return to power.
Like it happened in the build up to the 2015 presidential contest, a few opinion polls have begun predicting the possible outcome of the contest. While some gave it to the APC candidate and incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, others have tipped former Vice President and PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar as the one likely to carry the day.
Ironically, the Pollster, Williams and Associates, which predicted the defeat of the PDP’s candidate in 2015, have predicted that Atiku will carry the day, ahead of APC’s Buhari, this time. Interestingly, London-based The Economist magazine, which had endorsed Buhari four years ago, ahead of the PDP’s candidate then, Goodluck Jonathan, has again predicted Buhari’s win in this Saturday’s contest.
In forecasting Buhari’s triumph over Atiku this Saturday, the newspaper said “the President, Muhammadu Buhari, will win re-election in February, as a new opposition coalition may collapse before the vote.”
But the position of the foreign correspondent of the newspaper, Aman Rizvi, is at variance with the official position of his medium. According to him, the election would be close, and that the PDP will have a slight edge.
“Mr. Buhari’s approval ratings have languished below 50 percent for most of 2018. Ominously, he has been hit by a wave of defections to the PDP. Desertions to the APC four years ago, by many of the same people, felled ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Mr. Buhari’s electoral opponent in 2019, Atiku Abubakar, is one such double-turncoat. He is also a septuagenarian, billionaire businessman, former vice president and three-time presidential aspirant. With Mr. Abubakar distrusted for his wealth and opportunism, the election will be close. Its outcome will hinge on who arouses less apathy.
“So, who will win? Many Nigerians do not care. The back-and-forth floor crossing has convinced them that the same people will be in charge either way. The PDP holds a slight edge, if only because expectations for Mr. Buhari were higher and his failure to meet them was more recent”, Rizvi said.
Interestingly, before Rizvi’s position was made public, a sister company of the newspaper, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), had in October last year, predicted a win for Atiku. Its forecast and some of variables that were analysed to make deductions, tally with those of Rizvi, Saturday Sun can confirm.
“Our baseline forecast is that the president, Muhammadu Buhari, will lose power, and that the next government will be led by Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP, the main opposition party), but instability will remain an insoluble challenge,” the EIU noted.
Barely four months after its first prediction, and less than two weeks to the botched presidential election, the EIU, insisted that Atiku would win the election. But it added that the margin of victory was getting slimmer by the day ahead of the poll.
Regardless of the forecast, Saturday Sun can authoritatively reveal that if the elections are free and fair, the will of Nigerians will prevail, and in the absence of fraud, the election result will be tight, with the difference between the scores of the winner and loser low.
Historically, this is the first time two strong candidates from the North will be running on two most formidable political parties in the country. Buhari was on the ballot three times previously before making it the fourth time. But for Atiku, this will be the second time he will be on the ballot for the presidential contest.
The first time was in 2007. But he was only cleared to run barely 48 hours to the election. His performance was abysmal. Since then he had made two other unsuccessful bids to be on the ballot. But this time, he will be slugging it out with a fellow Muslim, a fellow Fulani man from the north, President Buhari. After Buhari’s emergence as candidate, same weekend Atiku emerged, national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, said the 2019 election will not be about “religion or ethnicity,” but about “character, personal integrity and antecedents” of the opponent.
But Saturday Sun’s investigations reveal that “character and personal integrity” alone may not be enough to win the support of the electorate today. Also, contrary to Oshiomhole’s assertion, religion and ethnicity will play a decisive role in the election. Since both of them are Muslims, the votes of the northern Christians and other minority groups in the North-Central, North-West and North-East will matter.
Atiku is from the North-East, while Buhari is from the North-West, a zone that has produced three presidents since 1979, including Buhari. However, the late Tafawa Balewa from Bauchi State was the first and last country’s leader, produced by the North-East zone.
APC, PDP outlook in the build up to 2015
Before the 2015 presidential contest, there was no guess about where Senate President, Bukola Saraki stood with Buhari. National leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, who began the Buhari project as far back as 2012, were on the same page. Governor Ibikunle Amosun, who joined the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in 2007, was on the same page with Buhari. Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi and El-Rufai were on the same page in Kaduna. Former vice president, Atiku Abubakar and all the five PDP governors, senators, and members of the House of Representatives, had all defected to the APC. All these, made APC’s prospects promising ahead of the 2015 contest. It was therefore not surprising that it eventually won the election.
But today, almost all the political heavy weights that left the PDP for the APC before the 2015 elections, have all returned to the PDP. The only person that did not return is former Sokoto State governor, Senator Aliyu Wamakko.
Investigations also revealed that the crisis rocking the APC in parts of the South-West and North-West, may affect the party’s fortunes at the poll.
However, the party has also gained some heavy weights from the PDP too. Former Kano State governor, Ibrahim Shekarau has returned to the party, just as former Akwa Ibom State governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has joined the party. They too will help to boost the chances of the APC in the presidential contest.
Buhari’s first entry into the presidential race was in 2003. But the first time he ever posed any serious challenge to the PDP was in 2011. In that contest, Buhari ran against Jonathan, a southern Christian. In Kaduna for instance, the contest was fierce. Although, Buhari eventually defeated Jonathan in that election in Kaduna, the margin was slim. While Buhari polled 1, 334, 244 votes, Jonathan polled 1, 190, 170 votes. But in the final analysis, Jonathan won the contest, beating Buhari in seven of the 19 northern states and the FCT. The states are: Adamawa, Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba.
In the North, Saturday Sun investigations reveal, politics is like war. But in prosecuting any war in the North, be it political or otherwise, religion and ethnicity play major role. These two factors may perhaps be responsible for why Buhari only post 12 million votes and above each time he runs against a southerner Christian.
For instance, in 2003, which was the first time he was coming into the race, Buhari polled 12, 710, 022 votes against Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP, who polled 24, 456, 140 votes. Buhari ran on the platform of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), which was in firm control of the North at the time.
But in 2007, which was Atiku’s first time on the ballot, Buhari was PDP’s major challenger in that contest. Atiku was however not the PDP’s candidate at that time. Umaru Yar’Adua, a fellow northern Muslim was the PDP’s candidate. In the end, Buhari only managed to poll 6, 605, 299 votes, against Yar’Adua who polled 24, 838, 063 votes. Yar’Adua, who was rounding off his tenure as the Katsina governor at the time, also floored Buhari, a fellow Katsina man in the state. However, when Buhari again squared up against Jonathan, a southerner Christian in 2011, he recorded 12, 214, 843 votes. But Jonathan carried the day with 22, 495, 187 votes.
Again in 2015, when Buhari ran against Jonathan, he not only defeated Jonathan in the North, but he went ahead to win the contest for the first time, polling 15, 424, 921 votes, against Jonathan’s 12, 853,162 votes. Pundits however say, he may have won because of the crisis that hit the PDP, ahead of the 2015 contest.
In the South-East, Buhari scored 198, 248 votes, Jonathan polled 2,464,906. In the South-South, Buhari had 418, 590 votes, Jonathan had 4, 714,725 votes. In South-West, Buhari had 2,433,193 votes, Jonathan scored 1, 821,416. In the North-Central, Buhari polled 2,411,013 votes, Jonathan recorded 1,715,818 votes. In the North-East, Buhari polled 2,848,678 votes, Jonathan had 796,580 votes and in the North-West, which is Buhari’s base, and where he enjoys a cult following, he polled 7,115,199 votes, and Jonathan managed to poll 1,339,709 votes. Interestingly, Kano alone accounted for close to two million votes in favour of Buhari against the PDP’s candidate, Jonathan. Ironically, the difference between Buhari and Jonathan’s votes was 2.5 million. In 2011, when Jonathan defeated Buhari at the time the PDP was intact, with Buhari running on the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the margin was about 10 million votes.
Although there are some prominent members of the APC from the North who, out of fear of the “unknown,” may have decided to remain in the party, it is unlikely if they will commit the same energy and resources they committed to prosecuting the 2015 contest for the APC in this election.
Regardless, to win today, Buhari and his party would have to do more in the North-Central and North-East. Saturday Sun investigations reveal that with Governor Samuel Ortom’s exit, APC’s chances of winning in Benue State appear slimmer. Also, because of the incessant killings on the Plateau, the state would pose a big challenge to the APC. Although it won the governorship in 2015, PDP floored it in the presidential contest in the same year. Since 2011, Buhari has never won Nasarawa State. This is despite the fact that his party, CPC, at the time won the governorship in the state.
In the North-East, with the exit of Senator Bayero Nafada from the APC, the party may find it difficult re-enacting the 2015 magic in Gombe State. Findings also show that the party lost Taraba State in 2015, and since PDP still controls the state, it may be impenetrable for the APC in 2019.
Adamawa, investigations reveal is another dicey state for the APC. Majority of those who helped it win the state in 2015 have either deserted the party or have been forced away by the party. The governor is still in the APC. It is uncertain if the APC can afford to go to sleep banking on the state. Its strength however lies in the presence of some heavyweights from the state in the party. They include Gen. Buba Marwa, Boss Mustapha and Babachir Lawal among others.
Buhari and APC are home and dry in Bauchi State as far as the presidential contest is concerned. Yobe, has always been won by the then opposition party, which has now metamorphosed into the ruling APC. Whatever happens in Borno may have effect on Yobe. Borno appears more like a one party state. In 2015, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno delivered 473, 543 votes to Buhari, representing about 97 per cent of the total valid votes cast, leaving Jonathan with just 25, 640 votes.
The South-South and South-East appear to be PDP’s fortress, leaving parts of the South-West and North-West as battle grounds for the two parties. If the outcome of the Osun and Ekiti governorship elections are anything to go by, pundits say, the PDP candidate may put up a good fight in the two South-West states.
Fear of voter apathy
The February 16 postponement, at the last minute, of the presidential election caught many voters who had traveled to their homes over a long distance, to perform their civic responsibility, napping that, one week after the incident, they are still smarting from the experience. This, analysts believe may also affect the margin of votes and the eventual outcome of the polls today.
One voter who will not vote this Saturday, no matter the incentives is Kwemyet Shagan, a civil servant. She had traveled to her hometown where she had registered to vote, last Saturday to cast her vote but couldn’t because of the postponement. “I won’t vote again because last Friday, I left my base in Jos at 4:30 in the afternoon, drove for three hours to my village. Visibility was almost zero because of fog and dusty weather at night but I made it home to vote,” the middle-aged woman told Saturday Sun. “I woke up in the morning at 6am to get ready to vote only to hear that the elections have been postponed. I had to drive back to Jos, had a breakdown halfway, finally fixed my car and got home about 6pm.”
The visibly angry young lady who recounted the suffering she went through before she could get her car fixed said she would no longer be able to exercise her franchise during the 2019 presidential elections. “For this presidential election, I’m done. I’m not traveling because the resources have been spent. I will stay at home and watch on TV and listen to the proceeding on Radio.”
But on further reflex, she added: “Maybe I’ll vote on March 9 if salary has been paid by then. If I had my way, I will ask INEC Chairman to refund my money because he caused it. He should have announced the postponement earlier. As for me, I’ve played my part in developing the nation.”
One other voter who spoke with our correspondent, ROSE EJEMBI in Makurdi on the issue is Joshua Asemota, a businessman. Like Shagan, he lambasted the electoral body for the abrupt postponement, which he noted had resulted in voter apathy. Asemota who noted that he is no longer keen about casting his votes as he was, last week, wondered if his vote will count at all, at the end due to the way and manner the electoral umpire had conducted itself.
“I will only vote this Saturday because my polling unit is very close to my house,” he said. “If I had travelled and can’t easily access my polling unit, I wouldn’t stick out my neck to participate in that rubbish called Nigerian elections at all. It is quite disheartening that the INEC umpire had no regard for Nigerians. I felt sad when I saw youth corps members and other ad-hoc staff sleeping in the open last week without any sleeping arrangement made for them by INEC, only for them to wake up to the shocking news of the postponement. Nigerian election is a joke and a shadow of what it ought to be.”
Also speaking, Moove Collins, a disenchanted undergraduate said but for the fact that he has a strong belief that his one vote can make a great difference and help bring about the desired change, he wouldn’t have come out to vote this Saturday.
“I wouldn’t have voted again but for the fact that my one-man vote might bring about the expected change. Maybe my vote will be the only one that can make the difference. But for this reason, I would have said that I won’t vote at all going by what happened last week. I travelled home for the election only to discover that there would be no election after I had spent a lot of money on transport fare to the village. This is very sad and I pray it doesn’t happen again.”
The real battlegrounds
There are five states that appear to be the real battlegrounds. These sates are Bauchi, Lagos, Kaduna, Kano and Jigawa. And because in Nigeria, there are no serious ideological divide, what divides the country is ethnicity and religion, these two factors will play decisive roles in these states.
Bauchi State, like most states in the country, is divided into three senatorial districts. They are Bauchi north, Bauchi south and Bauchi central. There are 20 councils in the state. While the north and the south both have seven each, Bauchi central has six. But Bauchi south accounts for the highest, with Bauchi council, which is the state capital, posting the highest number of votes in every election. It is closely followed by Toro council. This perhaps may be responsible for why the zone has always produced the governor. The governorship candidates of both APC and PDP are from this zone and they are expected to lead the battle for their respective parties today.
Although Buhari has been winning the state, the cohesion currently enjoyed by the PDP in the state may help the party put up a good showing in the state this Saturday, especially with the support of the likes of Yakubu Dogara, who is a Christian. What would have caused a colossal damage to the APC’s fortune among the Christians in the state has been averted. This is the reinstatement of Prof. Suleiman Bogoro, as the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND). Education minister, a fellow Bauchi man and a Muslim sacked him in 2016. In 2015, Buhari polled 931, 598 against Jonathan’s 86, 085 in the state.
For the first time, Lagos, according to INEC, has the highest number of registered voters in the country. And because of the cosmopolitan nature of the state, the population of non-natives appears to be competing with that of the natives. The Igbo especially played significant role in the number of votes the PDP garnered in 2015 in Lagos. Although the level of mobilisation this year appears not to be as high and as intensive as what was witnessed four years ago, the Igbo business community in Lagos appears to have been adequately sensitised by the PDP’s vice presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi. In 2015, Buhari polled 792, 410 against Jonathan’s 632, 327.
Here too, religion and ethnicity will play significant roles in determining the outcome of the contest. Kaduna’s case appears peculiar, as all the major actors who helped swing the votes in favour of Buhari and APC have all returned to their former party, the PDP. With this development, the 2011 scenario may likely play out. In 2015, Buhari polled 1, 127, 760 against Jonathan’s 484, 043.
Kano could be said to have been the sole decider of APC’s fate in 2015, with its unprecedented 1,903, 000 votes to Jonathan’s 205, 979 votes. But the architect of that political magic, Kwankwaso, is leading the PDP’s onslaught against the APC in Kano at the moment. Therefore, even if Buhari will win, pundits say, the margin may not be as much as what was recorded in 2015.
Jigawa State is almost like a 95 percent Muslim majority area. The charge against Sule Lamido in 2011 and 2015 respectively that he was supporting a Christian against a fellow Muslim is no longer there. Today, Lamido is personally leading the campaign telling the people that to refer to Buhari as the only person who is truthful meant that their fathers were liars, to which the crowd will always respond with a resounding “No!” Besides, the APC government in the state appears to have performed below expectation. In 2015, Buhari polled 887, 983 against Jonathan’s 142, 44.
Will Nigerians validate the polls’ predictions? The answer would be certain in a matter of hours from now.