Exclusive: How Atiku can win the presidential election

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As the 2019 presidential election in Nigeria approaches, the major players are gearing up for a thrilling contest. Today’s Echo estimates that about 51 candidates will participate in this election. However, the two major candidates are Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)

President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC has ruled the country for over years, after defeating the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP in the 2015 presidential election. It was the first time the PDP would lose power since 1999. Buhari is seeking re-election for another four years.

On Sunday, October 7, 2018, the main opposition party, PDP picked a candidate; Atiku Abubakar, who is a former Vice President and a renowned businessman. Atiku had also contested with Buhari for the APC ticket in 2015 and lost.

As Buhari and Atiku face off in a battle for the reins of Nigeria, Today’s Echo examines how Nigerians will vote and the issues that will determine the winner in this thrilling contest.


 Geographical Analysis of Registered Voters

Nigeria was formed in 1914 by the British through the amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorates. Today, the country is divided into 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). However, the 36 states are grouped into six geopolitical zones based on shared demographic and geography. Each geopolitical zone has a fairly homogenous mix in terms of religion and ethnicity.

Note: To win the presidential election, a candidate must win majority in both number and states and have at least 25% votes in at least 25 states.

To get a better perspective of the situation, Let’s look at the number of registered voters in each geopolitical zone:

North-West: 20,158,100

North-East: 11,289,293

North-Central: 13,366,070

South-West: 16,292,212

South-East: 10,057,130

South-South: 12,841,279

Total: 84,004,084


 Current distribution of eligible voters across the 6 geopolitical zones. Source: Today’s Echo Analytics

The illustration above shows that the North-West has the largest number of electorates, concentrated around the three states of Kano, Katsina, and Kaduna. Next is the South-West, dominated by the APC.


How the States are Likely to Vote

We have considered current issues and the data released by INEC on the number of eligible voters.

Below  is the analysis of PDP and APC’s share of each geopolitical zone:


The North-West seems to be an all Buhari affair as we expect him to win at least 6 states. However, we expect him not to get as much as he did in 2015 when he contested against a southerner. Atiku is should garner up to 25per cent in many states here.

In Zamfara, a traditional Buhari stronghold, he can get up to 65 per cent against Atiku’s 35 per cent

Neighbouring Sokoto will be different as the defection of the governor, Aminu Tambuwal makes it a swing state. This is 50-50

Katsina is overwhelmingly for Buhari at 80 per cent to Atiku’s 20 percent. Similarly, Jigawa will go 70- 30 in favour of Buhari.

In Kano, Kwankwaso’s influence will give Atiku a boost but will not get him more than 35 per cent to Buhari’s 65 per cent. Kaduna will also go to Buhari, though he will take 60 per cent to Atiku’s 40 per cent.



This is another region Buhari is used to winning. However, Atiku will also have a good showing here too because he is an indigene. We also expect Buhari to win at least three states here.

Despite the insurgency, Borno and Yobe are overwhelmingly for Buhari and he will likely win at ratio 65-35 in both states. Bauchi is also for Buhari as he will win by 70 per cent to Atiku’s 30 per cent.

Adamawa is different as it is Atiku’s home state. Atiku wins here with 55 per cent while Buhari takes 45 per cent. So also is Gombe, which PDP won in 2015 and where Governor Dakwambo still holds sway. Atiku will win here with 55 percent while Buhari will take 45 per cent.

Atiku’s biggest gain will perhaps, come from Taraba, where PDP won in 2015 and Aisha Al-hassan(Mama Taraba) has defected from the APC. Atiku should get up to 65 percent here to Buhari’s 35 per cent.


North Central

With the widespread insecurity arising from herdsmen attacks and defection of many popular figures from the ruling party, Atiku will have a slight edge in this region.

In Benue and Plateau, Atiku is set for victory at 60 per cent to Buhari’s 40 per cent. Niger and Nassarawa will be different though, as Buhari will win with up to 60 per cent and 55 per cent respectively.

The two battleground states in the region are Kogi, where Dino Melaye and other defectors are giving governor Yahaya Ahmed a tough time, and Kwara where the APC is hell-bent on demystifying Saraki. Both states are 50-50.

FCT, which usually votes for the incumbent, will slightly go Buhari’s way with 55 per cent to Atiku’s 45 per cent



This is one of the regions easy to predict, as Atiku will definitely win all the five states here. We don’t expect Buhari to get up to 40 percent in any state here, except Imo.

Anambra, Enugu and Abia will likely give Atiku up to 75 percent with Buhari getting around 25 per cent.

Ebonyi, where Governor Umahi has been giving silent support to Buhari, Atiku should get up to 70 per cent with Buhari settling with 30 per cent.

Imo State will give Buhari the highest number of votes in the South-East; 40 per cent estimate.



This is another region overwhelmingly in favour of Atiku. He can win all six states.

In Rivers State, despite the influence of Rotimi Amaechi, Atiku may get up to 70 per cent with Buhari taking 30 per cent.

Bayelsa and Delta will both give Atiku around 65 per cent with Buhari taking 35 per cent

Due to the influence of Akpabio, Cross River is likely to give Buhari up to 35 per cent with Atiku getting up to 65 per cent. Donald Duke is someone to watch out for in this state as he may be a spoiler.



This is the region most difficult to predict and will most likely be the ultimate determinant. This is a traditional APC stronghold due to Bola Tinubu’s influence. However, the current widespread dissatisfaction with the government may be to Atiku’s benefit. Most of the states here are too close to call.

Lagos state has a highly sophisticated and urbanised population with a blend of ethnic groups. It will likely be 50- 50.

Ondo State recently had an election where PDP was displaced, it will likely go to Buhari at 55 per cent with Atiku getting 45 per cent. Omoyele Sowore may be a spoiler for APC here.

Ekiti is also too close to call because PDP was in charge of the state until recently. It is 50-50.

Osun State is yearning for change, as seen in the recent gubernatorial election which PDP nearly won. It will go slightly to Atiku at 55-45.

Oyo and Ogun will likely go to Buhari at 60 per cent while Atiku will get around 40 per cent.


Buhari (15): Zamfara, Kebbi, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Oyo, Ogun, FCT, Niger, Nassarawa, Ondo

Atiku(17): Anambra, Abia, Enugu, Imo, Ebonyi, Cross River, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Delta, Bayelsa, Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Edo, Adamawa, Gombe, Osun

Swing (5): Kwara, Lagos, Ekiti, Sokoto, Kogi


What this Election is About

This election is about three things; The Economy, Security, and Corruption.

The 2015 election, which swept Buhari into power was based on two issues; Corruption and Security. Many people perceived the ascetic, quiet General as a strict man who will not condone corruption. There was also the worsening insecurity in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria where Boko Haram was running riot. Many people saw Buhari’s antecedents as a stern military commander, as just what Nigeria needed to wage an uncompromising war on insurgency and rid the country of terrorism. Many also thought the APC would phase out the endemic corruption that was prevalent under the PDP, and usher in an era of rapid economic development.

It has been almost four years of Buhari’s administration and none of these has happened. Instead, the country was thrown into a debilitating recession which it is still emerging from. There has also not being much progress on corruption.

Disappointment with Government

According to Nuhu, one of the people interviewed by Today’s Echo, corruption is perceived by many to be as prevalent as it was when the PDP held sway.

“I cannot categorically say President Buhari or Vice President Osinbajo is corrupt, but they seem to have a lackadaisical attitude towards corruption around them. Look at the various allegations, including that of Governor Umar Ganduje of Kano State, former pension boss, Raheed Maina, former SGF, Babachir Lawal, and former intelligence boss, Ayo Oke who left the country before the country ordered for his arrest,” Nuhu said

Global corruption watchdog, Transparency International recently released its Corruption Perception Index, which indicates that Nigeria’s corruption perception has not changed from last year.


Why Atiku?

There is growing discontent against the current regime, but it is hard to tell how widely-spread it is. A Buharimeter poll conducted by the Centre for Democracy and Development(CDD) in May 2018 reveals that 40 percent of Nigerians approve of the President’s performance while 44 percent disapprove. This marks a decline of 17 percent from 57 percent rating recorded in the 2017.

To defeat Atiku, the APC is banking on his perception as a corrupt man. An American investigation of money laundering activities in which he was implicated readily comes to mind. There is also a shadow of elitism hanging over his head. As a former vice president, many Nigerians see Atiku as a major player in Nigeria’s sordid past.  Atiku is responding by presenting his credentials as a successful businessman with stakes in several private enterprises. Atiku has also portrayed himself as the one who can get Nigeria working by reenergizing the economy and providing jobs.

He is also a capitalist; an advocate of free trade, which is both a plus and a minus for him. His manifesto reveals plans to operate a free economy and sell off some government corporations, including the petroleum behemoth; NNPC. His critics say he is planning to mortgage government enterprises to himself and his cronies in a move reminiscent of the half-done privatisation policies of previous PDP regimes.

Besides the three major issues, other factors that will be contributing to the outcome of this election are the influence of former leaders and the body language of the international community.

The Obasanjo Factor

Former president Olusegun Obasanjo is perhaps the most dominant figure of the Fourth Republic. As its pioneer president, he has been instrumental in the emergence of three other presidents, including Muhammadu Buhari. Many see his support for Atiku as a crucial factor in his quest to unseat Buhari.

Towards the 2015 presidential election, Olusegun Obasanjo upped his criticism of the incumbent government and displayed body language that showed he wanted regime change. The retired general created a public spectacle when he tore up his PDP membership card and implicitly threw his weight behind Buhari, who eventually won the election.

Although formerly a sworn enemy of Atiku, Obasanjo has explicitly supported him against Buhari, whose government he has called a ‘failure’.

In October 2018, religious leaders brokered a reconciliatory meeting between Obasanjo and his estranged former Deputy. After the meeting, Obasanjo said Atiku Abubakar had ‘re-discovered and re-positioned himself’ and is now good enough to enjoy his support in the next election.

The former president also said among the other presidential aspirants in the PDP, Atiku is the best fit to displace the president during the 2019 polls.

He however, warned him that it would not be easy to defeat President Buhari, who was able to lead a coalition to unseat an incumbent in 2015. He also charged him to obey the rule of law if he becomes president.


The International Community

Obasanjo’s stance also seems to be aligned with the international community. Although, International institutions and Western countries have explicitly declared their neutrality in the election, the body language of some Western institutions indicate a careful  condemnation of the government. This does not mean they support the opposition but that they are more optimistic about regime change than the continuation of the incumbent.

The government must have felt this perceived antagonism from the west, as indicated in jittery pronouncements by top government officials. A good example of this is Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai’s careless utterances, threatening that foreigners who intervene in Nigeria’s matters during the election will leave the country in body bags.


This analysis is in no way definite, it is a result of careful observation of voting patterns, current trends, and available data, and Today’s Echo has tried to be as scientific as possible.

It remains a very tight race that is difficult to predict, unlike the earlier elections of the Fourth Republic. Although Atiku Abubakar may likely win with a slim margin, it can still tilt in favour of either candidates.

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