150 DAYS TO GO: How Nigerians will Decide Tinubu, Atiku, Obi’s Fate in 2023, By Kabir Akintayo
On the 25th of February 2023, less than 150 days from now, eligible voters will decide who becomes the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. While eligible voters would queue in polling units across the country to decide the fate of the leading candidates in what has been said to be a three-horse race, the winner would have a four-year mandate to lead a distressed nation struggling with high unemployment figures, biting poverty, unabating insecurity, rising inflation, crude oil theft, dwindling revenues, high debt burden, Industrial (trade union) crises etc.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it has registered a total number of 96,303,016 voters. The Northwest accounts for the highest number with 22,672,373 voters, followed by the Southwest, with 18,332,191 prospective voters. Northcentral comes third with 15,680,438 voters. South-south has 15,299,374 voters, while the northeast has 12,820,363 voters, and the lowest is southeast with 11,498,277 voters.
Meanwhile, out of the newly registered voters, Lagos and Kano have the highest with 585,629 and 569,103 respectively. Delta state has 523,517, Kaduna state came 4th with 479,231 voters, followed by Rivers state with 473,924. Bayelsa recorded 444,652 while Ebonyi has 401,501 newly registered voters.
According to zonal analysis, Northwest has the highest newly registered voters with 2.51 million, followed by south-south, with 2.46 million. Northcentral came third with 2.31 million voters, southwest had 2.04 million and northeast recorded 1.53 million. Southeast has the lowest with 1.44 million voters.
As it stands now, without prejudice to the remaining 15 political parties and their respective presidential candidates, we have three (3) leading candidates in this race, they are Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP). They are from Southwest, Northeast and Southeast zones respectively.
Political Pundits are of the opinion that the 2023 election will more than ever before follow the line of tribe, religion and zones as politics of identity seems to be the order of the day now. Already, the social media is hot with the unhealthy rivalry between Tinubu’s fanatics and the ‘Obidient’ die-hards. Meanwhile, in the Southeast where Obi hails from, the majority of the people believe it is their turn. As for the Northeast, where Atiku comes from, they also believe it his high time they produced a Nigerian President. Atiku’s popularity has also gotten to parts of northwest on account of APC’s failure to address the scourge of poverty and banditry that has made life difficult for people.
The Obi momentum started like a joke on social media, became a wind in the southeast and it is now a whirlwind sweeping across the south-south, parts of Lagos and parts of the north central. Though, supporters of Obi and that of Tinubu have been at loggerheads since the former started gaining momentum online and offline, the biggest casualty of the Obi phenomenon is projected to be his 2019 running mate, Atiku, who have made Igbo votes across the southeast and south-south his own in previous election cycles.
While the PDP which is fielding Atiku remains a very strong party here, it is difficult if not impossible to stop Obi from taking more than 60 percent of the votes. The Southeast people have never been more motivated for an election as they are now. One, they are angry with the PDP for denying them the ticket after decades of consistent loyalty to the party. Two, they are even angrier with the APC for years of alleged marginalisation and failure to take the country to greater heights as promised in 2015. Three, they believe this is their turn and Obi is the best foot they can put forward since a lot of Nigerians also believe he is capable of driving the change that the country needs.
Obi is therefore expected to win his state of Anambra comfortably as well as Imo, Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi. While Atiku will come second in all the states and in the entire zone, APC which is fielding Tinubu will fancy its chance of taking 25 percent of the votes in it’s states of Ebonyi and Imo, though it is difficult to get 25 percent in state that you are not coming second except there is no convincing or clear winner.
This will not be as straightforward as southeast. Atiku and the PDP are supposed to be in charge here because the structure is there and his running mate is from there. But the heavy Igbo population and the fact that both the south-south and southeast have voted along the same line consistently since 1999 pose massive danger to Atiku.
I will expect PDP and Atiku to take Delta whose governor is the running mate and Akwa Ibom whose governor is the chairman of the campaign council. While Bayelsa remains too close to call, Atiku and PDP need to watch what Obi supporters are doing in Edo. In Rivers which boasts the highest number of voters across the country aside Lagos and Kano, Obi is looking very strong and Wike’s continued tantrums will make it more difficult for Atiku. In Cross River, Tinubu will fancy his chances of getting the mandatory 25 percent since the governor is of the APC while Atiku and Obi will slug it out for top spot.
If there is only one zone Tinubu will win, it has to be here. The southwest APC wing has invested heavily in the party and the President Muhammadu Buhari Presidency. They believe it is their turn and it is the turn of Tinubu to take the turn.
While Tinubu is expected to win all the six states here, Obi will however make it very difficult for him in Lagos because of the heavy Igbo population and the fury of the EnddSARS crowd. Atiku will also fancy his chances of getting 25 percent in Oyo and Osun since they are both PDP states.
Tinubu obviously has a fanatical following among Yoruba Muslims and this passion for him flows into those North Central Muslims whose tribes are historically and culturally linked to the Yoruba. I am talking about Nupe and Kakanda people in Kogi, Niger, Nasarawa and Kwara states. The Ebira people in Kogi state are also in this bracket. Tinubu is therefore expected to win Kwara and Kogi. Niger is 50-50 between him and Atiku but with the APC structure in place, he may manage to triumph. Nasarawa is complicated because of the heavy presence of Igbo and North Central Christians living along the hugely populated Abuja-Keffi expressway which is regarded as part of the state.
Obi will fancy his chances in Nasarawa due to the votes he is expecting from the communities along the Abuja-Keffi expressway as well as Akwanga part of the state where they are mostly Christians. Before the advent of the obi phenomenon, these places used to be PDP and Atiku’s strongholds, he will therefore battle Obi over there now.
The Muslim majority in mainstream Nasarawa may choose Tinubu especially the APC faithful among them. The governor, Abdullahi Sule, is actively working for Tinubu and he is very popular across the state. These factors may swing the votes in Tinubu’s favour and he may win it with a small margin.
Even if he had chosen a northern Christian as his running mate, Plateau and Benue states would still have been no-go-areas for Tinubu for the fact that both President Buhari and APC are extremely unpopular in those places and so anyone who is associated with both will not be welcomed at all. So I expect the APC candidate to perform poorly in Benue. Plateau is an APC state and the Director General of the Campaign Council, Simon Lalong, is the state governor, so it will be slightly better than Benue. The two states are supposed to be for grabs for Atiku and the PDP but Obi and his supporters will have something to say about that.
The millions of Igbo voters in FCT will make their numbers count but PDP is very strong in the capital, so it is battle royale between Obi and Atiku.
Due to the prevalence of politics of identity that I earlier talked about, this is the natural habitat of Atiku where he is expected to win convincingly in Adamawa , his home state, and Bauchi. He is equally very popular in Taraba but the ‘Obidients’ have gotten there and the religious factor may swing some votes in the way of Obi. Gombe is an APC state so, Tinubu and the governor will fight for up to 40 percent of the votes and maybe lose the rest to Atiku. Borno is APC’s stronghold while Yobe may also follow suit if the governor, Mai Mala Buni, is fully committed to Tinubu. Atiku is expected to win a minimum of four out of the six states here.
This is the largest, most populous and most complicated zones of all of them. It has seven states with huge numbers in terms of vote returns. On paper, APC is the strongest here with six out of seven governors but the failure of President Buhari to arrest the untold poverty and banditry that have ravaged the zone for years may have rendered the party unpopular. Atiku is expected to win Sokoto, do very well, if not win, in Kano and Katsina. Tinubu is expected to put up a great showing in Kaduna, Jigawa, Zamfara and Kebbi states while Obi will get a good number of votes in Southern Kaduna.
It will be a straight battle between Atiku and Tinubu. Atiku will appeal to the people more because he is a northern Muslim who looks heathier than Tinubu. As for Tinubu, Buhari’s failure wont help him but if the governors go all out for him the way they did to make sure he got the party’s ticket, Atiku and the PDP may be in for a surprise.
Paths to Victory
Despite the unprecedented momentum he is gaining across the country, there is a glass ceiling Obi is yet to break, that is conquer southwest or any of northeast or northwest. The path is narrow for him. He has to win south-south to add to the advantage he already has in south-east. He also has to win north central since he is unknown in northeast and northwest. But Kogi, Kwara and Niger are the three north central states he will definitely lose, whatever he gets from Nasarawa, FCT, Benue and Plateau wont therefore be enough for him to conquer the zone since Atiku and his supporters will have something to say in those places.
For Atiku, the path to victory is wide open and this may be his best chance of clinching the Holy Grail since he made his debut in 1992. But having lost southeast to Obi, he must wrestle south-south from him, and beat Tinubu in the northwest. If you add that to the northeast which he is sure of winning, he is the President-elect.
For Tinubu, the path to the Villa is also wide open. He has to win north central and Niger and Nasarawa hold the key for him. He must take Borno and Yobe from Atiku’s northeast. He must also wrestle northwest from the grip of Atiku. If Tinubu loses northwest to Atiku by a close margin, he must pray that Atiku loses south-south to Obi. Tinubu has to add north central and northwest to the southwest which he already has and he is the President-elect.
Northwest and south-south are the battleground zones in this election. If Atiku wins both, he is in the Villa. If Tinubu wins the former, he is home and dry.
The election may not however be concluded in the first ballot because if none of the candidates fails to get 25 percent of the votes in at least 24 states, the first two runners will square up in another election called runoff.
Between Tinubu and Atiku, this election is TOO CLOSE TO CALL.
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Report By: PRNigeria.com