Today’s Echo Exclusive: How Atiku may win the 2019 presidential election

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As the 2019 presidential election in Nigeria approaches, the political landscape is increasingly dramatic as the major players gear up for a thrilling contest. It is estimated that about 55 candidates will participate in this election. However, the two major parties remain the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)

President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC has ruled the country for three 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.

Despite its large hydrocarbon resources, Nigeria is still a third world country with poor infrastructure, widespread poverty and prevalent unemployment. Statistics are difficult to obtain in Nigeria and elections are hardly won by issues and ideology but rather more by a combination of several factors, including ethnicity, religion, and mobilizing capacity.

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 current situation, it is pertinent to look into 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 and most of them are concentrated around the three states of Kano, Katsina, and Kaduna. Next is the South-West, which is largely dominated by the APC.

 

How the States are Likely to Vote

If the possibilities in this election were to be considered in the light of the current issues and the data released by INEC on the number of eligible voters, PDP and APC’s share of each geopolitical zone has been analysed below:

North-West

The North-West seems to be an all Buhari affair as he is expected 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 expected to garner up to 25per cent in many states here.

In Zamfara, a traditional Buhari stronghold, he is expected to get 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 is expected to take 60 per cent to Atiku’s 40 per cent.

 

North-East

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

Despite the insurgency, Borno and Yobe are overwhelmingly for Buhari and he is expected to 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 is expected to 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 is expected to win with 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

 

South-East

This is one of the regions easy to predict, as Atiku will definitely win all the five states here. Buhari is not expected 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 is expected to 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.

 

South-South

This is another region overwhelmingly in favour of Atiku. He is expected to 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.

 

South-West

This is the region most difficult to predict and will most likely be the ultimate determinant. This is a traditional APC stronghold due to the influence of Bola Tinubu. 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.

Summary

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.

Atiku Abubakar, the man facing Buhari is not a fresh face on the political scene. He was Vice president to the first president of the fourth Republic, Olusegun Obasanjo. Therefore, he is seen by many as still another face of the old establishment. However, his recent clamour for restructuring and fiscal federalism has gained much support, especially in the Southern part of the country.

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.

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 was allowed to leave 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.

Perhaps, what will most define Buhari’s era is the widespread economic malaise, marked by high costs and growing unemployment. As prices skyrocketed and many people lost their jobs in the aftermath of the recession, confidence in the system was eroded. Many economic analysts have argued that Buhari is not to blame for the recession, which was partly due to falling oil prices. Nevertheless, recovery could be faster if the government’s body language could inspire confidence in the system.

Moreover, the security situation has gotten worse. Added to the now escalating insurgency in the North-East is the heinous herdsmen attacks on Christian settlements in the North-Central, and the atrocious banditry currently spreading across some areas of the North-West. Recently, some villages were attacked in Zamfara and their civilian residents murdered in cold blood. Slow response by security forces and apparent show of apathy by the government has also led to widespread criticism of the Buhari administration

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, Atiku is perceived by many 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.

Atiku 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. His support for Atiku is seen 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, during a reconciliatory meeting brokered by religious leaders, Obasanjo said Atiku Abubakar had ‘re-discovered and re-positioned himself’ and is now good enough to enjoy his support in the next election.

He 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.

Earlier in 2019, during an event at the Lagos Island club, Obasanjo again affirmed his support for Atiku.

“We have no better man to lead us out of the morass we are in terms of economy, security and international affairs.”

According to Obasanjo, Atiku has three characteristics a leader should possess:

A Leader must know who he is and present himself as he is, not to present himself as a saint

A leader must be honest to himself and the people he wants to serve, and not keep blaming others

A leader must understand the fundamentals of the problems he is meant to solve and be ready to reach out to people that can help him.

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

Conclusion

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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