President Muhammadu Buhari and PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar
As Nigerians vote today, ALEXANDER OKERE examines the factors that are likely to determine the fate of the two leading presidential candidates, President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party
At least 60 million registered voters across Nigeria are today expected to troop to their respective polling units to cast their votes in the much-awaited presidential and National Assembly elections.
While Nigerians will vote to choose who will represent them in the Senate and the Federal House of Representatives for the next four years, all eyes are on the presidential poll, which many believe will be keenly contested.
Presently, 72 presidential candidates are vying for the highest office in the country but political watchers have argued that the election is largely a battle between the candidates of the two major parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.
The candidate of the APC and incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, was announced as the party’s standard bearer in September, 2018. Buhari’s candidacy was later affirmed by party delegates through a direct presidential primary in October.
A former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, emerged the candidate of the PDP with 1,532 votes, defeating 11 other aspirants during the party’s keenly contested presidential primary also in October.
The two candidates are not new to the presidential race. Buhari, a former military head of state, is contesting the election for a record fifth time, having made three unsuccessful attempts in 2003, 2007 and 2011 before emerging the President in 2015 after defeating the then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.
Atiku, on the other hand, is flying the flag of a major opposition party for the second time. He contested under the Action Congress of Nigeria in 2007 but lost to former President Umaru Yar’Adua.
While Buhari is promising to strengthen the fight against corruption, Atiku has pledged to restructure the country and stimulate economic growth.
Although the two heavyweights are from the North which has the highest population, and have in the last 14 weeks engaged in heated political campaigns across the country, some factors might determine the direction the pendulum of votes will swing in the six geopolitical zones on Saturday (today).
In the 2015 presidential election, the APC polled 885,988 votes as against the PDP’s 142,904 votes, to win in Jigawa State; it also won the governorship election. The influence of Governor Abubakar Badaru and the party’s support base could provide a huge advantage for Buhari in today’s election. However, Atiku could make an inroad through the influence of the PDP leaders in the zone, including former governor Sule Lamido, who would prefer state returned to the PDP.
In Kaduna, Governor Nasir el-Rufai has not failed to demonstrate his loyalty to the President both in words and actions and will be expected to do all within his power to deliver the state to him. He is also seen as a controversial governor based on his recent utterances about the forthcoming poll. But el-Rufai has a former governor of the state, Ahmed Makarfi, to contend with. The governor has also been at loggerheads with the Senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sanni. He is also not in thegood books of the Christian community and followers of the Shi’a Muslim cleric, El Zakzaky, who have vowed to use the weapon of their votes in today’s elction. However, a win for Atiku in the state will be a major contest as both parties put their popularity to the test today.
With over 5.4 million voters, Kano is undoubtedly the powerhouse of votes in the North-West and will be a major determinant of the eventual winner of the election between the two major candidates.
In 2015, Buhari got 1,903,999 votes as against the 215,779 votes Jonathan polled. The President has always held sway in the Centre of Commerce since the 2003 presidential election, irrespective of the political platform. However, the bitter rivalry between Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and his predecessor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, may change the tide as both leaders are opposing forces whose influence cannot be underestimated. While Ganduje is regarded as the leader of the APC in the state, Kwankwaso leads the PDP. Expectedly, they demonstrated this during the recent presidential campaigns in the state.
With the governor’s incumbency factor and Buhari’s large following, the result of the presidential poll will, perhaps, confirm Kwankwaso’s true popularity, if Atiku puts up an impressive show.
Katsina State is the home state of President Buhari where he enjoys massive support as demonstrated in the last presidential election. With his cult-like following in the state and the influence of Governor Aminu Masari, the PDP may face a Herculean task in its attempt to split the votes.
However, the influence of the Sheu Musa Yar’Adua in the state may draw some support in favour of Atiku.
Being an APC-dominated state, the voting pattern in Kebbi State is largely going to be dependent on Buhari’s popularity, as recorded in 2015 when he scored 567,883 votes to defeat Jonathan of the PDP with a margin of 466,861 votes.
In Sokoto State, a repeat of the landslide victory Buhari recorded in the last presidential election is unlikely if the incumbency factor of Governor Aminu Tambuwal of the PDP is anything to go by. Sokoto has 1.9 million registered voters and each of the candidates is expected to have a fair share of the votes.
Like Kebbi, Zamfara is largely an APC-dominated state. But the crisis currently rocking the party and the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission not to recognise any of the party’s candidates in the governorship and NASS elections could increase Atiku’s chances in the state, if the grievances among the disgruntled stakeholders in the APC are not addressed.
Adamawa State is Atiku’s domain, where he wields a lot of influence. It has over 1.9 million registered voters. During his days in the APC, the party defeated the PDP in the 2015 presidential and governorship elections. Although the ruling party currently has a sitting governor to its advantage, that may do little, with the former vice president’s reported connection to the people at the grass roots.
Borno State has an estimated 2.3 million registered voters and has never been under the leadership of the PDP since 1999. The two governors, the late Mala Kachalla and Ali Modu Sheriff, who preceded incumbent Governor Kashim Shettima of the APC won on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party.
Buhari’s cult-like following also extends to Borno, having run for President as the ANPP candidate in 2003. In the 2015 presidential election, he won overwhelmingly with 473,543 votes from the 510,920 valid votes cast. This, therefore, may make it difficult for Atiku to make a substantial breakthrough in Borno at the poll.
But the state has come under several attacks by insurgents, in spite of efforts by the Buhari administration to tackle the menace. However, it remains to be seen whether this will count for the PDP.
The President also enjoys massive support in Bauchi and Yobe states, where he won convincingly in the last presidential poll. With Governors Mohammed Abubakar and Ibrahim Gaidam, respectively, both of the APC on his side, chances are that he will prove a formidable force for the PDP to surmount.
Gombe is believed to be one of the strongholds of the PDP. The state Governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo, had contested the presidential primary of the party but lost to Atiku. However, Dankwambo has backed the party’s presidential candidate and assured him of his support. However, Buhari won in Gombe in the 2015 presidential poll, a record that will put Atiku’s popularity in the state to the test.
Like Gombe, Taraba is under the leadership of the PDP. In fact, Buhari lost the last presidential poll to Jonathan in the state, polling 261,326 votes as against the former president’s 310,800. Again, Atiku’s chances of victory may receive a boost with the defection of a former Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Hassan, to the United Democratic Party. The influence of Governor Darius Ishaku and a former Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd.) in favour of the PDP candidate cannot be underestimated.
The election in Kwara State will definitely be a battle between the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who are both struggling to gain political control of the state. Although the PDP lost Kwara to the APC in the 2015 presidential election, it regained power when Saraki and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed defected from the ruling party to the opposition.
The presidential poll will surely put to the test the reported popularity of the two leaders and their ability to deliver the state to their respective candidates.
In Benue, Buhari’s popularity may not have a significant effect on the voters, going by the criticisms against his administration over insecurity in the region. Governor Samuel Ortom, who won his first term in office under the APC, joined the opposition PDP last July. Analysts believe it will be easy for Atiku to ride on the alleged failure of the APC to protect the lives and property of the residents against attacks by bandits.
Plateau and Kogi
Plateau and Kogi states have one thing in common – the two major political parties won one of the states by a narrow margin. While the PDP had 549,615 votes as against the APC’s 429,140 votes, the latter won in Kogi by polling 264,851 votes as against PDP’s 149,987. Both states are under the control of the ruling APC but they remain battles grounds with the possibility of the winner coming from any of the parties.
Nasarawa had been under the PDP from 1999 till 2011 when the incumbent Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura emerged on the platform of the APC. Pundits are of the view that the PDP lost in the state in 2015 through protest votes and the Northern factor in favour of Buhari. Now that the major candidates are of the Northern extraction and are Muslims, a repeat of the 2015 win may not be easy to achieve.
The opposition PDP in Niger State believes it will have an edge over its rival in the election, hinging its strength on the alleged poor performance of the APC government in the area of physical infrastructure. But the ruling party maintains that Buhari remains the candidate to beat at the polls because he had endeared himself to the residents, especially farmers who benefitted from his administration’s agricultural programmes. Although the APC has incumbency power on its side, the influence of the opposition cannot be wished away easily.
As far as the South-West is concerned, Lagos will be the cynosure of all eyes when the results of the presidential election begin to trickle in. The state has over six million registered voters. But one thing that has always decided the outcome of elections in the nation’s commercial capital is the influence of a former governor of the state and national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Since the return of democracy in 1999, political power has never left his domain. Tinubu played a prominent role in the victory recorded by the party in five out of the six states in the zone in 2015 and has not failed to demonstrate his commitment towards ensuring that Buhari not only wins in the entire South-West but also across the country. Expectedly, the President will bank on that.
However, the growing overbearing influence of the former governor on governance in Lagos State has been a strong message in the campaign of the PDP, “freedom” being a major promise for the residents. Although the main opposition PDP lost in 2015, it did prove to be a strong contender. It got 632,327 votes while the APC got 792,460 votes. What is more, Atiku would be banking on the support base of the PDP in Lagos and the high population of the Igbo people who are resident in Lagos through his vice presidential candidate, Peter Obi.
Unlike Lagos, Oyo State came under the government of the APC in 2015, after the merger of the Action Congress of Nigeria and a few other political parties to form the APC. In the last presidential election, the ruling party won massively. But the influence of the PDP cannot be underestimated. By and large, it is expected that the two parties will leave nothing to chance in the battle for the soul of the state.
The Gateway State has been in the news for “wrong” political reasons. The APC presidential rally was on Monday temporarily marred by a restive crowd suspected to be supporters of the Allied Peoples Movement, a party whose governorship candidate, Adekunle Akinlade, reportedly has the backing of Governor Ibikunle Amosun. Although Amosun has repeatedly assured Buhari of his support at the polls, there is the speculation that division within the APC in the state might affect the fortunes of the party.
Besides, Atiku has the backing of an ex-governor of the state, Gbenga Daniel, and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has not hidden his opposition to Buhari’s re-election bid. Political watchers believe that pressure is on the incumbent governor to prove his loyalty by preventing the opposition from coasting to victory.
The outcome of the governorship election in Osun, where the APC struggled to defeat the PDP through the support of the candidate of the Social Democratic Party, Senator Iyiola Omisore, has been seen by many as a sign of the strength of the major opposition and the threat it poses to the ruling party in the presidential poll. The election in Osun might prove to be a tight one as both parties boast of a considerable crop of political leaders who can mobilise support. For instance, while Buhari will bank on the influence of the former governor, Rauf Aregbesola, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola and Omisore, Atiku has the support of a former governor and Chairman of the Coalition of United Political Parties, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
In the 2015 polls, only about 50,000 votes were between the APC and the PDP when Buhari won in Ondo. But the ruling party has reportedly been in an unending struggle against itself since the emergence of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu in 2016. While not much has been heard of the opposition party since the departure of ex-governor, Olusegun Mimiko, the PDP would be hoping to take advantage of the division within the APC to get the votes it needs to win in the state.
Of all the South-West states, Ekiti was for the PDP when the results of the 2015 poll were announced, largely due to the influence of the former governor, Ayodele Fayose. The candidate of the PDP, Goodluck Jonathan, polled 176,466 votes as against Buhari’s 120,331 votes. But the opposition lost to the APC in the 2018 governorship election, which returned ex-Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Kayode Fayemi, to the government house.
This development has, undoubtedly, increased the ruling party’s power of incumbency that could work in its favour in today’s election. However, Fayose would be willing to demonstrate that he still enjoys large following among the residents by mobilising support for Atiku to repeat the PDP’s 2015 record.
The presidential election in Akwa Ibom will surely be a strong test for Governor Emmanuel Udom and the PDP for one major reason – the exit of the strongman of Akwa Ibom politics and the former governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio. On August 8, 2018, Akpabio joined the APC along with his supporters, promising to deliver the oil-rich state to the President. While the APC saw his departure as a big blow to the PDP, Emmanuel has vowed to ensure that Akwa Ibom remains a PDP stronghold. It is, therefore, going to be a battle of supremacy between Akpabio and the incumbent governor.
The PDP has held sway in Bayelsa since 1999 and attempts by other political parties to wrest power from it has always hit a brick wall. It is the home state of former President Jonathan, who has not left anyone in doubt about his preference for his party’s candidate. Atiku is expected to win comfortably there as it might prove a difficult task for a former governor, Timipre Sylva and the Minister of State for Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri, to deliver the state to the APC.
Edo State will surely be cynosure of all eyes because it is the home state of the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, who will be looking to be the first national chairman of the party from Edo to win the presidential poll in the state. His predecessor, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, lost the state to the PDP in 2015.
Edo had remained a stronghold of the PDP largely due to the influence of a former Board of Trustees Chairman of the party, the late Chief Tony Anenih, until the emergence of Oshiomhole as Governor in 2008. Buhari does not only have the support of the former labour leader but also that of Governor Godwin Obaseki. But the PDP as an opposition cannot be wished away. In fact, the state chapter of the party is perceived as the strongest opposition in the South-South region. It currently has two senators and four members of the House of Representatives. For today’s poll, therefore, the two presidential candidates stand a 50-50 chance of recording victory.
Delta, Rivers and Cross River
The PDP has never lost to an opposition party in the three states in the last 19 years. In the 2015 presidential election, it got 1,211,405 votes in Delta while the APC got 48,910 votes. In Cross River, the PDP got 414,863 as against the 28,368 votes polled by the APC.
Amid the running battle between Governor Nyesom Wike and the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, the PDP gathered its highest votes in the South-South from River State, polling 1,487,075 votes while the APC got 69,238 votes. The battle has now shifted to the 2019 presidential election with both leaders vowing to come out victorious. Pundits, however, believe that the pressure is more on the APC which is currently divided between Amaechi and the senator representing Rivers South, Magnus Abe.
Many will be looking to see how things will pan out at the polls today, in view of the crisis rocking the APC in Imo State. While Governor Rochas Okorocha pledged his support for Buhari in the presidential election, he has not hidden his support for his Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu, who is also the governorship candidate of the Action Alliance. Analysts see the development as one that could work against the APC.
Also, Atiku’s choice of Obi and his running mate could attract significant number of votes that the PDP needs to have a good outing in the state.
The PDP won massively in Anambra in 2015 and the party is seen as a formidable force in the state, despite not in government. The incumbent Governor Willie Obiano, who is of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, has been reported as showing subtle support for President Buhari, and this could work for the APC.
But Atiku’s endorsement by Ohanaeze Ndigbo has given a boost to the PDP, which also has a former governor of the state, Peter Obi, as the vice presidential candidate.
Ebonyi is a PDP state and could remain so when the results are announced. But the rumoured support of Governor David Umahi for Buhari recently has raised concerns about the direction of the governor’s allegiance.
Abia has over 1.9 million registered voters and has a PDP governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, whose support would be a huge advantage for Atiku. However, it is expected that the margin of votes gathered by the two parties might not be far apart as recorded in 2015 because of the defection of a former governor of the state, Orji Kalu, to the APC.
The Coal City is also a PDP stronghold and has been so since 1999. Although the APC now has two former PDP leaders – a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, and a former senator, Ayogu Eze – in its fold, that might not significantly override the popularity of the opposition party and Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s influence.
However, the two presidential candidates will have to wait to see the outcome of the choices made by voters when INEC announces the results.