Section 134 (2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended makes it clear that a Presidential candidate shall be deemed to have been elected as the President if he wins simple majority votes and also secures not less than 25 per cent of the votes cast in at least two-thirds of all the states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). So, candidates need to win from more than two zones. BODE OLAGOKE, ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU and PAUL OKAH in this report examine the chances of the leading candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives congress (APC) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) in the six geo-political zones.
With less than 30 days to the presidential election, the PDP presidential candidate has been consulting with various stakeholders, campaigning zone by zone in addition to holding town hall meetings to interact with the electorates.
93.4m eligible voters
The six geo-political zones in Nigeria are North-east, North-west, North-central, South-south, South-east, and the South-west. As contained in the prospective voters’ data released recently by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), 93.4 million eligible voters in the six zones will determine the fate of the leading contenders.
In the Commission’s statistics, the voters’ spread shows that the North-west has the highest number of registered voters with 22,255,562, followed by the South-west with 17,958,966 prospective voters. Occupying the third position is the North-central which now has 15,363,731 eligible voters.
The electoral body’s figures also show that the South-south has 14,440,714 registered voters, while the North-east has 12,542,429 and the South-east maintains the bottom spot with 10,907,606 registered voters. Further breakdown by states showed that Lagos has the highest number of registered voters with 7,060,195, followed by Kano with 5,921,370 and Kaduna, with 4,335,208.
PDP is in control of 14 states out of 36 states across the six zones. The states are Oyo, Osun, Edo, Delta, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Enugu, Abia, Benue, Taraba, Bauchi, Sokoto, and Adamawa. This means that they control two states out of the six states in South-west, four states out of the sx in the South-south states, one out of the six states in the North-central, three out of the six states in the North-east and one out of the six states in the North-west.
‘Atiku’s chances bright in North-east, but…’
Also, a political analyst, Aminu Mohammed, speaking on phone with Blueprint Weekend, said his chances are bright in the North-east, adding that he may also get a significant number of votes in the North-west.
“Atiku’s chances in the North-east are very bright. He hails from Adamawa state in the North-east, and his political party, PDP, is in control of three out of the six states in that zone. So, he stands a chance in the zone.
“Aside from this, their Christian population is more in the North-east than in other parts of the North. So, with the Muslim-Muslim ticket of APC, Atiku will benefit from protest votes.”
For the North-west, Mohammed said, “Considering the insecurity problem in the zone and the inability of President Buhari’s administration to address it. Atiku may get significant votes from Kaduna, Zamfara, Sokoto, and some other parts of the zone.”
According to Ojo, Atiku may lose in the North-central because APC is in control of most of the states in the zone including the President Buhari factor.
“The majority of the North-central states are governed by APC – from Kwara to Kogi to Niger, down to Plateau and Nasarawa. I think the only North-central state that is under PDP is Benue state. So, five out of six belong to APC. If you look at it, even if it’s about religion, the governors of Kwara, Niger, Kogi, and Nasarawa states are Muslims. So, the only Christian governor among the five states that APC controls in the North-central is from Plateau state.
“So, I want to believe that the governors don’t have to threaten, neither does Tinubu have to threaten the political appointees in these states that they must vote APC or they will not get contracts. So, for me, it’s as good as saying that the majority of the APC governors will work for the success of the APC presidential candidate in the North-west.
“APC will win most of the North-central states, including the FCT which is also part of the North-central. So, I want to believe that the majority of the voters in these states would toe the line of APC.
“PDP and Atiku will struggle to get the number of required votes in the North-central. He will struggle to win any of the North-central states, including Benue, because the Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom, is one of the G5 Governors group and they are not working for Atiku. So, I’m not sure the North-central is sure for Atiku. Hence, objectively speaking, most of the North- central’s states are likely going to be won by the APC presidential candidate.”
South-east, South-south, South-west
In his view, a political scientist and president, Political Science Teachers Association of Nigeria, Prof. Hassan Saliu, said in theory, all the candidates stand a chance to be declared winners or losers.
Speaking in a phone interview with our correspondent, he said, “At the level of practice, for me, Atiku stands a good chance. Though Atiku is banking on the North-west, North-east, and the North-central, he also needs votes from the South-south. If he wants to win, he must look beyond the Northern zones. He must look towards the South too. And I think he is working hard behind the scene using all kinds of strategies.
On whether or not the G5 governors will affect his chances in the South, Prof. Saliu said, “You have to put the two on the scale. Which one comes first? Win the zone or the majority of the votes? The first is for Atiku to win the majority of votes, and then get 25% of the votes from other parts of the states. So, Atiku and PDP’s calculation is to win in the majority; so this may not affect him.”
On his part, a former national chairman of the National Democratic Party (NDP), Chudi Chukuwani, said Atiku’s chances in the South-east, and South-west, and South-south depend on the level of mobilisation.
“PDP is still strong in the South; so, I believe some states in the South will vote for PDP. But it depends on the level of mobilisation that Atiku can do. Atiku can challenge and defeat Tinubu and Obi in the South, while they can also challenge him and win in the North.”
Atiku to beat
For the Director of Communication of Atiku Campaign Organisation, Dele Momodu, the former vice-president will win the February 25 presidential election.
Momodu told Blueprint Weekend that, “Atiku will win. With the network of friends and political structure that took the former vice-president 30 years to put in place across the six geo-political zones, I can assure you that he will win this election.”
‘Election walk-over for Tinubu’
Like all other major contenders, Bola Tinubu has been going across the region and states to canvass for the votes and support of the electorates ahead of the election, whether the massive supporters seen everywhere he has gone to campaign will eventually turn to vote is another ball game.
According to the INEC, the seven states of the North-west have the highest number of voters culminated to above 12 millions. Out of this, nine million voters are youths.
The North-west political zone is, however, unpredictable this time around for any political party considering the candidacy of a rooted Rabiu Kwankwaso of NNPP from Kano state. Although the APC seems to have the upper hands politically because out of the seven states it controls six while the main opposition controls only Sokoto state with significant presence in other six states.
While the major challenger of Tinubu, the former vice-president, hails from the North-east of Adamawa state, his running mate, Kashim Shettima, is lucky to hail from an APC-rooted Borno state with a favourable Yobe state to complement. In the six North-east states, therefore, APC will convincingly win in Borno, Yobe and Gombe while PDP might take convincing victory in Adamawa, Taraba and Bauchi states.
Over the years, North-central had always been a determinant political region, but the entrance of a third-force of Labour Party will reduce the strength of the ruling APC to Niger and Kwara states. Tinubu might eventually win Kogi state with a slight margin while PDP and LP will dig it out in Nasarawa, Benue, and FCT. Therefore, Tinubu’s chances in North-central cannot be equated to 50 per cent.
The six Niger Delta states of Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Cross Rivers, Delta and Edo used to be the strongholds of the PDP, but the entrance of Peter Obi in this coming election will no doubt reduce the dominance of the PDP. For Tinubu, therefore, the best to struggle for is 25 per cent in Cross Rivers and Edo states. In Cross River, the sitting governor, Ben Ayade’s influence will do the magic while the resentment for Governor Godwin Obaseki and the political strength of former governor Adam’s Oshiomhole will secure 25 per cent for Tinubu in Edo North.
For obvious reasons, Tinubu is expected to win landslide in the six states of Yoruba land. But like in the South-south, the entrance of Peter Obi of Labour Party will, to some extent, reduce the number of votes Tinubu would have naturally garnered in the South-west.
Apart from being a Yoruba man, Tinubu’s party is in control of four out of six states. Even in Oyo state where a PDP governor is in control, the sympathy of “blood is thicker than water will be played out.”
The five South-east states which used to be in control of the PDP have been swept off because of entrance of Peter Obi who is the son of the soil. For Tinubu and APC, the struggle to secure a mandatory 25 per cent in South-east will be a Herculean task.
Although when asked to comment on the challenges confronting the party’s chances at a press conference held recently at the APC PCC headquarters, in Abuja, the Director of Strategic Communications, Alhaji Mohammed Idris, said from all indices, APC campaigns across the country have received total acceptance with mammoth crowds everywhere the team has visited.
Alhaji Idris was asked to respond to the claim by the former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, on the chances of PDP in the South-east.
Speaking during an interview on Arise TV’s The Morning Show, Saraki had said: “South-south is a strong PDP area. We will do very well in South-south, South-east, the challenge we have there, of course, is Labour Party.
“But we will still do well in the South-east and take our 25 per cent. We will do well in North-central, we will do well in North-west and North-east,” he said.
Alhaji Idris, however, said: “The APC campaign absolutely has no challenge across Nigeria. In fact, what you see are challenges with the opposition parties. Our candidate has gone to everywhere and you see the mammoth crowd that has came out to receive him everywhere he has gone in this country and the train is moving, there are no challenges at all.
“If there are challenges we will let you know, but for now APC is coasting to victory; we are sure of what we are doing; we are sure of the kind of acceptance our presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is getting across Nigeria and we hope and pray that come May 29, 2023, he will be sworn in as President of this country.”
Also responding, the special adviser, media, communications and public affairs, Dele Alake, said if the Labour Party is major change to the PDP in the South-east, it is to the APC advantage.
He said, “Let me just say that we have no challenges across the political zones. The challenge of the PDP specifically in the South-east is to our advantage. We have no challenges at all. We are coasting home to victory.”
Speaking with Blueprint Weekend, a political analyst in Anambra state, Mr. Charles Chukwu, said the election will be a walk-over for Tinubu as he has shown more acceptability than Atiku of the PDP and Obi of the Labour Party as well as other candidates for the presidential election.
He said: “From every indication, Tinubu stands a better chance because he has greater support base with greater numerical strength than Atiku and Peter Obi combined.
“Remember that regardless of whatever anybody may say against Tinubu, the Yoruba nation perceive him from the same leader prism they perceived Obafemi Awolowo. In contemporary Nigerian politics, Tinubu has the largest followership in the South-west. If election was conducted in the South-west for Tinubu and Obasanjo, the former president will lose woefully. This is why his endorsement of Peter Obi doesn’t make any sense to us, political analysts.
“Even members of the opposition parties in the South-west will vote for Tinubu. That’s the extent of Tinubu’s popularity in the South-west. You can go and check. Don’t mind all the propaganda against Asiwaju; he is loved by many Nigerians.
“In the entire North, the Buhari factor will be of immense advantage to Tinubu even as he has on his own something of a cult-like followership in the North, because of the men he built in that region over the years. Put differently, Buhari has over 12 million votes’ bank in the North which he had maintained since 2003 when he made his debut in the presidential election.
“This over 12 million votes will automatically go for Tinubu in reciprocation of Tinubu’s support for Buhari in 2015 and 2019. The Northerners I know are highly appreciative people. They see the 2023 election as an opportunity to payback Tinubu for his massive support for Buhari. Remember during the APC presidential primaries, Aisha Buhari reminded her husband of his promise to Tinubu and that it was too late to renege on the promise.
“She also celebrated Tinubu’s victory at the primaries. Before then, Northern APC governors had resolved that power must shift to the South. While they bandied equity as their reason, they had Tinubu at the back of their minds. That’s Northerners for you. They hardly default in agreements even gentleman agreement.”
He continued, “In the South-east, remember that Imo and Ebonyi are APC states today. They weren’t so in the previous general elections. Hence, Tinubu is sure of victory in the two South-east states of Ebonyi and Imo. The governors of these states; Umahi and Uzodimma, are political forces that no one can dismiss with a wave of the hand. So, if Buhari won the Presidency in 2015 and 2019 with little or no votes from the South-east, you can imagine what will happen in the 2023 presidential election now that APC controls two states in the South-east.
“Again, the South-east won’t churn out reasonable votes this time around because of pervasive insecurity and threats to life with sit at home declaration every now and then by ESN/IPOB criminal faction led by Simon Ekpa. This will then be a big loss to Atiku and Obi, who see the South-east as their stronghold.
“Besides the IPOB/ESN threats, Atiku has lost the goodwill he had in Igbo land. In 2019, the Igbo voted massively for him because they saw him as an in-law and by extension a brother based on his marriage to an Igbo woman, but the news today is that he has divorced the woman. Remember too that in 2019 his running mate was Peter Obi, but now he ignored Nd’Igbo and picked Okowa from the South-south.
“A major odd against Obi is that the Hausa/Fulani North will never forgive Nd’ Igbo for accusing their herdsmen of the killings in the South-east, whereas it was the ESN/IPOB criminal terrorists that are responsible for all the killings in the guise of unknown gunmen as has been confirmed by security agencies and other investigative bodies.”
‘Obi will fail woefully’
On his part, a legal practitioner based in Abakaliki, Ebonyi state, Mr. Theophilus Madu, said Peter Obi has no business contesting the 2023 presidential election and so will fail woefully as a result of many factors.
He said, “Peter Obi is making victory easier for Tinubu by reducing the chances of Atiku because he has greater supporters among the PDP. Obi will not win the presidency. There is no way he will win. The South-east, which ordinarily should be his stronghold, is already messed up politically by ESN/IPOB terrorist criminals.
“The North and the West do not trust Obi because he has not condemned the criminal activities of his Igbo Biafra criminals, who have turned the South-east to a slaughter house of their own brothers; neither has Obi promised in his campaigns to fight ESN/IPOB when he becomes president, unlike Buhari who openly said he will fight and defeat Boko Haram in his 2015 campaign promise.
“So, this attitude of Obi makes many Nigerians, particularly the North and West, to see him as complicit in the ESN/IPOB criminality terrorism in the South-east. His Hero beer company has Biafran logo – the rising sun as trademark. Why won’t he be suspected?
“Again, Obi is relatively known in the North just as Kwankwaso is relatively known in the South. Datti, the running mate of Obi, is also relatively known in the North. So, Obi won’t get any significant votes in the North and the South-west. He will, however, make an impact in the South-south because of the Igbo population in this geopolitical zone. He will manage to get some votes in Lagos too and Abuja because of the same Igbo populations there. That’s the situation.”