Nigerians will be deciding who would lead at the helm of affairs for the next four years through polls on the 25th of February 2023. The polls which will be presided over by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are tasked with the job of providing Nigerians the necessary materials to cast their votes for their preferred candidate and to make sure the votes are counted accurately to decide who wins the election.
Unlike, the last 10-16 years, which has seen Nigeria’s political party produce two strong candidates which are usually between the APC and PDP but this time, we have 4 strong candidates from four major parties are Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (former two-term governor of Lagos State) for APC, Atiku Abubakar (former Vice President of Nigeria) for PDP, Peter Obi(former two-term governor of Anambra state) for Labour Party and Rabiu Kwankwaso(former governor of Kano state) for New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP).
This is the first election in Nigeria that has more than three candidates that are strong contenders. The four candidates are also from the four different geo-political zones in the country, we have two each from the northern and southern regions of the country and each appears to have a stronghold in their territory.
Considering the previous elections which have taken place in Nigeria since 1999, the winning candidate wins at least four of the six zones, which means that no candidate can win the election without winning at least one of the three zones in either the northern or southern part of the country. President Muhammadu Buhari, in 2015 and 2019, won the three northern zones, and one zone in the south to win the election. However, this time we have more than two strong contenders and therefore it might not be so easy for anyone to secure three zones, but might be able to secure victory if the candidates secure the highest number of votes from less than four zones, but must meet the requirement of at least a quarter of votes in at least two-thirds of the states in Nigeria including the FCT.
With each candidate having a superior hand in at least one of the geo-political zones in the country and the election is set to be won and lost in the state, Let’s take a look at how each of the candidates may fear in each of the zones across the country while considering how the states voted during the last election which was held in 2019.
This is the zone with the highest number of states (7) and one of the most populous states in Nigeria. In the 2019 election polls, President Muhammadu Buhari won all seven states against his opponent Atiku Abubakar, scoring high numbers in Kano, Kastina, Kaduna, and Jigawa. The states also elected APC governors, five of whom are concluding their second term this year. However, considering the current circumstances surrounding the 2023 elections and with candidates like Rabiu Kwankwaso for NNPP, and Labour Party Vice Presidential candidate for Peter obi, Yusuf Datti-Ahmed are from this zone, it is expected that there would be a tough battle but it would be between the two big parties. This is due to the division currently in Kano which might prevent the PDP from doing well there, leaving the fight between, APC and NNPP candidates, due to the large number of followers behind Mr. Kwankwanso of the NNPP.
In Kaduna, which includes a share of Christians in the south, it is expected that Labour Party will use that to rack up votes since it also chose its governorship candidate from that part of the state and if it gets significant poll returns from the state, it will be at the cost of PDP and thereby widening the margin of victory for the APC.
With six states, available in this zone including the FCT, it is projected that the battle should be between the APC and PDP candidates. Looking at the 2019 poll, which was President Buhari won this region by 441,830 votes over his opponent Atiku Abubakar. However, considering the current trajectory of the election, it is also believed that the Labour Party should win some states in this region, due to the large number of Christians in this zone but considering how previous elections have played. It would be risky to play in that direction.
Many Christian leaders and sectional groups have all declared their support for Peter Obi but the battle here, accentuated since the 2015 poll, had always involved Christian communities pitching their tents with the PDP, against tendencies now represented by the APC. Other states like Kogi and Nasarawa, have never elected Christian governors as opposed to the other states. It is only clear that if the Labour Party will do well in this region, it will be where PDP is dominant due to the Christians there.
This is another zone that is expected to be a battle for both APC and PDP. This zone is the home of Atiku Abubakar and also the home of Kashim Shettima, who is the running mate of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for APC. Looking at previous results, APC should have no issue in this region as this region gave President Buhari huge votes during the 2019 elections. However, the tides have changed because the APC governor in Bauchi state was popular with President Buhari at that time but not so with Bola Tinubu, Governor Bala Mohammed seems lukewarm towards the PDP candidate Atiku Abubakar, and will be waiting on President Buhari go ahead before he can make his own choice of candidate.
However, Atiku will get his share of the cake in Adamawa and Taraba states but Mr. Obi can get his share from this following the recent endorsement by former Nigerian Chief of Army, Theophilus Danjuma, and Christian Leaders in the Zone. Other states like Borno and Yobe, which have never elected PDP governors before will swing towards APC as they did in the last election, bearing in mind that Kashim Shettima was the former governor of Borno state.
In this region, eyes are majorly on Lagos, Oyo, and Osun due to the fact votes have always been divided almost equally into these states as each of these states has favored both APC and PDP at one particular time. In Lagos, the fight is between Tinubu and Obi, with the latter favorites to win considering the number of youths which are in the state but Lagos still remains one of APC strongholds as the ruling governor, Babajide Sanwo Olu came in through the support of Tinubu. The tide will be different in other states, with PDP and APC going head to head in other regions. Oyo which is being headed by a PDP governor might sway towards PDP due to the recent electoral crisis in Osun state which saw APC challenge the INEC decision in court and win to regain its power. It is expected that this state might still favour APC yet again.
This zone has gone with the PDP in every presidential election since 1999. President Buhari only got a total of 403,968 votes from the five states in 2019, compared to the 1,693,483 it gave Atiku. But the picture is about to change for the PDP in this zone too. Mr. Obi had helped Atiku to record his largest votes in the zone from Anambra where he polled 524,738 votes. The prominent politicians who rule the coast in the zone have remained on their old tracks. The PDP and APC have two governors each in the zone while APGA, on which platform Mr. Obi was governor, still runs Anambra. APGA does not have much interest in the presidential race, so it is not likely to stand in the way of Mr. Obi.
Due to the fear of electoral violence and factional groups which have constituted problems in the state for a while now and violence which have been recorded against candidates running for office in this region, there might not be a huge turnout as compared to other regions, however, this doesn’t stop Mr. Obi from recording huge numbers in this region.
This zone is a fortress for PDP since the 1999 presidential election, PDP has won in this zone every presidential election, winning 5 out of 6 states except Edo state. The picture seems different now with the issue of Wike in Rivers who fell out of luck with Atiku when he rewarded Delta states who gave him the highest number of votes by choosing a VP from there. In Edo state, it is expected that the state will still go with PDP as usual but with the emergence of Peter Obi, he is set to benefit the most from the division being experienced in this region.
Regardless of the power play by the G5 governors which came out with no effect as they could not unite behind a candidate and therefore had to split, Tinubu also stands a chance at securing a good number of votes from this region, especially since Rivers state Governor, Nyesome Wike has directed his state to vote for APC.
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