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Next Saturday, Nigerians will be going to the polls to elect a new president. Who wins? Since this all-important civic duty has been scheduled for February 25, 2023, Nigerians have been counting the days. The D-Day is just seven days away.
In September 2021, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released a final list of candidates validly nominated by their political parties for the election. INEC said in a press release on Tuesday, 20 September, 2022 that 18 political parties fielded candidates and running mates for the presidential election. Since the flag off of the campaigns, the respective political parties have been touring the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory to seek for then support and votes of Nigerians.
Our correspondents in some of the states present a picture of what they see as the position of the major candidates and their chances in the election.
It is the belief of many in Kano State that the political popularity of Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and Dr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso will dictate course of the election in the state. This is because these heavyweights have strong political structures. However, Kano State is highly sophisticated and unpredictable. The APC has promised Tinubu two million votes but going by the number of highly rated members of APC that have left the party, coupled with the dwindling political popularity of President Buhari, many think that the status quo of past elections should not be expected.
However, to some observers, the flag bearer of NNPP, Dr. Kwankwaso, might spring a surprise but the defection of former Governor Shekarau to the PDP may puncture this contention. Besides, Kwankwaso is said to be negotiating with the PDP to let his candidate have the governorship.
South East states
In the five South Eastern states namely: Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo, Peter Obi is the front runner not just because of his ethnicity and age, but because the South East feels it is their turn to produce the next president of the country.
Obi’s popularity cuts across the states and this has drowned whatever parties like APC and PDP are doing there.
The political weight of the leading presidential candidates in Rivers State might not necessarily give a clear picture of their standing because of other overwhelming circumstances that are shaping the battle in the state. Votes will come to Atiku from the three senatorial zones, Rivers East, Rivers South East and Rivers West. The war of attrition between Atiku and Governor Nyesom Wike is a strong factor in the election. The APC is at a higher disadvantage because all the bigwigs of the party across the zones in Rivers State seem solidly behind former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and the party’s governorship candidate, Tonye Cole, who are clearly pursuing other interests rather than campaigning for Tinubu in Rivers State.
For Obi, because of the general acceptance that he is the most qualified among the candidates, a large number of the population has decided to become structures for him.
Delta could see the PDP, APC and LP sharing the votes due to the heterogeneity of the South district. Votes might also be shared among the three top candidates in the central district. Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege’s performance in this zone is to the advantage of APC. Obi has a chunk of youthful supporters. On the other hand, Atiku’s chances in Delta Central could suffer setback if the PDP fails to do something to its depleting ranks. Delta North may favour Obi or Atiku because, while Obi enjoys the Igbo affinity of the Anioma, Okowa as Delta-Igbo remains a threat to Obi’s chances. APC is literally stifled in the zone.
The leading parties in Plateau are APC, LP and PDP and the emphasis is more on the personalities of the candidates and their pedigrees rather than their political platforms. The North District, a strong base of the PDP, is the most cosmopolitan and has the highest number of voters in the state. PDP has never lost the presidential and senatorial elections in the zone. There are indications that PDP may retain the zone, but Jonah Jang, who is a strong member of the G5, is a factor there. Also, LP is capable of pulling a surprise based on its acceptability among the youths and Christians who are in the majority in the zone. There is huge resentment against the APC, probably because of its Muslim/Muslim ticket.
The Central is the zone to watch because the governorship candidates of the three political parties are from there. In the South, the election will be fierce because of the political gladiators, including Governor Simon Lalong, Idris Wase and Dame Pauline Tallen, from there, who might want to prove a point in the politics of the state and Nigeria.
Former governor and Senator representing Kebbi Central, Muhammad Adamu Aliero and Senator Yahaya Abdulahi have both defected to the PDP and will slug it out with Governor Atiku Bagudu of the APC. Aliero is strong and holds sway in rural politics while Abdulahi defeated former governor Saidu Dakingari in 2019. These are factors in the election. However, Senator Bala Ibn’NaAllah of Kebbi South is the only Kebbi APC member at the Senate and will join forces with Bagudu. These politicians call the shots in Kebbi and the defections have given a pointer to the direction of the presidential election in the state. The huge Fulani population in Kebbi may go for Atiku.
The forerunners in Kaduna North zone are APC which is leading the pack and enjoying massive support of the government led by Mallam Nasir el-Rufai coupled with the entire party structure; and the PDP which will be banking on the strength of former Governor Ahmed Makarfi, former Vice President Namadi Sambo and former Governor Ramalan Yero. Obi is expected to garner support from Zaria and Sabon LGAs where a great percentage of minority tribes reside. Likewise, Kwankwaso might also attract some support in some few areas. The central district is expected to be the battleground because of the cosmopolitan nature of the district. The non-indigenes in Kaduna North and Kaduna South are expected to buoy the candidacy of Obi, in addition to the youths across political divides. Kaduna South is considered a PDP enclave and is expected to remain so. Thus, Atiku is expected to get massive votes there going by past records. However, he would have to contend with the growing influence of the Labour Party in the district.
Cross River State
PDP is the most popular of all the political parties in the state because the party has been in government since 1999, until 22 months ago when Governor Ben Ayade defected to the APC and changed the dynamics. PDP has the three serving senators, a number of House of Representatives members and minority membership in the state’s House of Assembly. It, however, has no serving local government chairman or councillor in the state. Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s APC has Governor Ben Ayade with appointees in wards, polling units, local government and senatorial districts. Peter Obi’s Labour Party has its major stronghold in the southern district, where it has a House of Representatives member, Mr. Daniel Asuquo, who is running for the Senate. The party also has candidates for all the political positions in the senatorial district and enjoys strong support of young people across party lines.
In Benue, Governor Samuel Ortom was ordinarily supposed to be leading the charge with the state machinery but his no-support posture for his party’s presidential candidate; Atiku Abubakar seems to have whittled down PDP’s influence. Ortom has openly declared for Peter Obi. Political pundits, however, submitted that the governor may not have full control of his senatorial district considering the influence of the Minister of Special Duties, Senator George Akume, who is solidly rooting for his APC. The battle in central district of the state is solely between PDP and APC. In Benue South, known as Zone C, former president of the Senate, Senator David Mark and his political disciple and successor in the senate, Abba Moro hold the ace for PDP. The deputy governor of the state, Benson Abounu remains a great supporter of PDP. The parties in the state face a mixed bag of fortunes considering the positioning of the various bigwigs in the state.
In Nasarawa, APC’s Bola Tinubu has an edge over other contenders because the major deciders of where the political pendulum swings are in the ruling party. They include the national chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and the senator representing Nasarawa South, Alhaji Umaru Tanko Al-Makura. Both Adamu and Al-Makura have, over the years, controlled the political structures across the zones in the state. Also, the APC enjoys the power of incumbency in state, a situation that analysts said will favour the party’s presidential candidate. Although there are speculations that as an ally of Atiku Abubakar, Governor Abdullahi Sule may influence things in his way, but the tell-tale signs are that Sule is a true party man and will hardly undermine the process against a platform that brought him to limelight. “Even if he wishes to do so, he has no structure to actualise that since he is relying on Adamu and Al-Makura to ensure his return,” an analyst confided.
The contest in Ondo State is between the PDP and the APC. Though other political parties are there but many of these parties, including the Labour Party, have no structure in the state. The PDP in the state is banking on the result of the 2019 presidential elections, and the party leadership has vowed to repeat the feat in 2023 while the APC wants to rewrite history with the election and make a statement, especially in the central and southern senatorial districts. However, the strength of APC lies in the Northern district of the state where Akeredolu hailed from. The table might also turn for PDP in the Southern senatorial district, as APC has embarked on aggressive campaigns in the district to change the narrative with the election. This might be achieved as most of the strong politicians who hail from the area and have been delivering the area to the opposition PDP have dumped the party for APC. Such political bigwigs include Chief Olusola Oke, Sola Iji, Oladunni Odu, among others.
Commentators have said religion will play a major role in the election in the state and for that, the chances of winning favour the PDP. A PDP chieftain Mr. Jerry Tyolanga and an APC member, Mustapha Ahmed, who gave their opinions said both the northern and the southern senatorial zones of the state are 90 per cent Christian and that they have taken a stand against the APC Muslim-Muslim ticket. They contended that the people, in one of their meetings in Abuja with a retired General, resolved to vote for Atiku Abubakar. The campaign against Muslim-Muslim ticket is currently high in the state. However, the APC is the most favoured candidate in the central zone. The zone is dominated by Muslims who have never allowed a winning space for the PDP since 2007 and have already taken a clear stand to be with the APC.
APC and the PDP are the two leading political parties in Kwara State. The others include the NNPP, YPP, SDP and the PRP. Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq is the number one campaigner for Tinubu. Among leading political figures backing candidacy of Bola Tinubu in their senatorial districts in the state are the senatorial candidates of the APC in Kwara Central, Kwara North and Kwara South. Also, the 24-member Kwara State House of Assembly is presently controlled by the APC. On the other hand, the PDP is relying on perceived poor performance of the state government to nurse any hope. The PDP enjoys statewide spread and popularity among residents of the state, while former national and state political office holders, including old members of the party in the three senatorial districts of the state are determined to return the party to power. The Labour Party recorded a rather low turnout of party supporters when its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, visited the state recently.
Atiku has a very large followership in Niger State with the likes of former Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, Senator Zainab Kure, Dr. Shem Zagbayi, Prof. Jerry Gana and the PDP governorship candidate, Alhaji Liman Isah Kantigi among others. This, however, may not transform into electoral victory for Atiku Abubakar.
Nothing much has been heard or seen being done by the state chapter of the party to promote Atiku since after the flag off of the party’s campaign.
The inability of former Governor Babangida Aliyu to shift his base to Minna from Abuja has greatly affected the PDP in Niger State.
Similarly, nothing much has been heard or seen to have been done by the supporters of LP’s Peter Obi since the campaign flag-off of Obi/ Datti in Minna in January.
However, the APC is working very hard for its candidate, Senator Bola Tinubu while the party is also working to retain power in the state at all levels.
Lagos State is one of the states considered as must-win for any of the presidential candidates to have a path to victory. Analysts have however posited that the chances of presidential candidates to pick up big numbers in the election are down to how well they can get the votes out, by ensuring huge turnout of voters in their strongholds. Tinubu has the home advantage, as a former governor of the state. To his credit, he has almost completely unified his former associates, who once deserted him, around his candidacy. Unlike about a year ago when the state chapter of the party was fragmented, the party structure is fully behind him. Supporters of Obi, Tinubu’s closest challenger in the state, also believe the turnout would be high, but expected to favour their man. Obi’s main support base is the thick Igbo population in Lagos, which is very enthusiastic about his chances in the race. The Christian community has also been identifying massively with his aspiration, while youths, who projected him to the front runner status in the first place, are keen on delivering him on February 25. The Hausa/Fulani community in Lagos, according to a survey, is strongly pro-Kwankwaso, with Atiku as their second choice, if the NNPP man is no longer in the race. Lagos is trending Obi and may flip, but Tinubu is holding the aces.
Zamfara West senatorial district has an APC Senator. This is the zone of the first governor of the state, Ahmed Sani, former Governor Abdulaziz Yari, former deputy governor, Muntari Anka as well as the current governor, Bello Matawalle. Going by the heavy weights in the zone, one can conveniently say APC candidate, Bola Tinubu will be the candidate to beat. However, findings revealed that the zone has prominent PDP stalwarts like Ambassador MZ Anka, former governor of old Sokoto State, Yahaya Abdulkareem among others. And always going by history, the zone has produced some PDP local government council chairmen. Thus, the party, it was gathered, is relying on the APC blunders to woo its supporters. According to Abba Mohammed one of the youth leaders in an interview. “Yes, our opponents have the moneybags, but we have the people”. For Obi and Kwankwaso their chances are very slim, the battle will be between Tinubu and Atiku.
Adamawa state is the battle ground for Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi if feelers are anything to go by. Although, the candidate of PDP has not held his campaign rally in the state yet but being a son of the soil, his followers are all over the place. He needs little or no introduction in Adamawa and, going by reports, he is most likely to win the state. But this is not without a stiff challenge from the Labour Party candidate, Mr. Peter Obi who has visited twice in one month because of the kind of reception and encouragement he got from the people. Given the widespread support he is getting from traditional rulers, traders and civil servants, Obi will certainly give Atiku, the Wazari Adamawa, a good run for his money and popularity in Adamawa state. The APC candidate, Bola Tinubu may come a distance third in the presidential poll in Adamawa State because most people are not pleased with the performance of APC at the national level and they will not want to give it another chance.
PDP is the ruling party in Akwa Ibom. A significant observation here is that candidates of the APC and the PDP for other posts are not campaigning strongly enough for Tinubu and Atiku respectively. There is a lookwarm attitude to their aspirations on the streets of Akwa Ibom. And this is despite the fact that the state governor, Emmanuel Udom is Atiku’s campaign council chairman. Obi of LP is surprisingly very popular in Akwa Ibom and may spring a surprise there with votes which may, however, not be large enough to give him a victory. This, notwithstanding, the state being a traditional PDP state, which has not changed despite Akpabio’s defection to the APC, Atiku is positioned to win there. The margin may, however, not be much if money is adequately pumped there by the APC.
Katsina is the home of incumbent President Buhari and it should ordinarily be a stronghold of the APC. However, the spate of insecurity in that state has enormously eroded the acceptability of the APC in that state. Moreover, because Buhari is no longer on the ballot, the traditional PDP structure which ruled the state from 1999 to 2015 has resurrected and is working hard for an Atiku win across the three senatorial districts. Despite this, however, an observation of campaigns in religious circles almost evenly favour Tinubu’s Muslim Muslim ticket which has narrowed the gap that would have existed between Atiku’s and those of the APC candidate.
The election here is likely to be a very close one between the two.
From findings on the field across the country, the February 25, 2023 Presidential election promise to be a tight one among Atiku, Tinubu and Obi.