With the presidential and national assembly elections holding today, the die is obviously cast between President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in relation to who emerges victorious at the end of the day. TAIYE ODEWALE and SALIHU OYIBO, DANIEL AGBO and ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU take a hard look at the contending factors.
Though out of the 91 registered political parties, 73 fielded candidates for the presidential election being conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), based on the realities on ground, in terms of structures of the parties and popularity of their candidates across the 36 states of the country and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), President Buhari and Atiku stand neck to neck in winning the contest.
Presently, while the APC as the ruling party at the centre with presidential position of the country in its kitty controls 22 out of the 36 states, the PDP has 13 sitting governors with the remaining state (Anambra) controlled by the All Progressives Grand Alliance ( APGA). This is aside from the two leading parties having almost equal numbers of federal lawmakers across the two chambers of the national assembly.
Specifically while the APC, the political platform upon which President Buhari is running for the election, controls the executive arm of government at the centre, the Atiku PDP platform controls the leadership of the 469 members of the legislative arm of government at the centre.
Also, while the APC came to power at the national level with Muhammadu Buhari presidency in May 2015, the PDP had earlier won and controlled power at such level for 16 years from May 1999 to May 2015, spanning the Olusegun Obasanjo, the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan’s presidencies.
Little wonder that in terms of national spread and networking for votes as seen with the mammoth crowds of supporters at their various presidential rallies across the states, President Buhari and Atiku Abubakar are far, far ahead of candidates of the other 71 political parties participating in the election.
Making the race more of a neck to neck contest between the duo are the facts that the peculiar Nigerian factors basically, religion, ethnicity and regionalism have little or no roles to play in shaping the directions of the Nigerian electorates because both are of the same Fulani ethnic stock, Islamic faith and are from the Northern axis of the country though from different geo-political zones.
Nevertheless on zonal basis, while President Buhari can be said to have more presence and acceptance in the North-west, North-east and South-west, Atiku going by emerging realities on ground will beat Buhari to it in South-south, South- east and North-central.
State by state
Taking the zones state by state, President Buhari in the North-west, in Kano with registered voters of no fewer than 5.5 million people, is most likely to win the state with millions of votes, but with Atiku having the required 25% of the votes cast due to the influence of the former governor, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, there.
In Katsina, with about 3.2 million registered voters, President Buhari, being a son of the soil, will win the state with very wide margin to the point of Atiku not having the required 25% of votes cast, which may also play out in Kebbi with a voting strength of 1.8 million people.
President’s winning streak
President Buhari’s expected winning streak in the zone will also play out in Jigawa state which has approximately 2.1 million registered voters, but with Atiku having the required 25% of the votes cast, a similar scenario that may play out in Zamfara state which has voting strength of 1.7 million people.
However, in Sokoto and Kaduna states in the zone, President Buhari and Atiku are in for serious contest with almost equal chances of winning there. This is as a result of the factors of the sitting governor in Sokoto, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, now in the PDP and strong political strategists like the former governors of Kaduna state, Ahmed Makarfi, Ramalan Yero, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi and the PDP governorship candidate, Mohammed Ashiru, etc, giving Governor Nazir el-Rufai a rabid supporter of President Buhari the political fight of his life at the home front in Kaduna North or Zaria Emirate axis which has the highest percentage of the close to 4 million registered voters. This is in addition to the fact that the Southern axis of the state has, since 1999, been a PDP stronghold while Kaduna Central, the traditional base of President Buhari himself is also hotly being targeted by both parties.
In North-east geo-political zone, apart from Taraba and Adamawa states with a total voting strength of about 3.8 million people when put together, President Buhari going by prevailing factors and realities on ground will defeat Atiku in Borno state which has a voting strength of 2.3 million people; Yobe with a voting strength of 1.365 million people and Bauchi with a voting strength of 2.426 million people.
As Atiku is expected to checkmate the winning streak of President Buhari in the zone in Adamawa, his home state, which has voting strength of almost 2million registered voters, so also he is expected to give President Buhari a run for his popularity in Gombe state which is a PDP-controlled state with about 1.4 million registered voters aside from Taraba another PDP state in the zone which has never been won by President Buhari due to peculiar factors.
The state has 1.777 million registered voters.
On a clear note, going by obvious factors, Atiku may have the upper hand over the president in at least four out of the six states in the North-central from Kwara to Kogi, Benue, Plateau and even the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) which has never been won by Muhammadu Buhari since 2003 that he had been running for president.
While Niger state with a voting strength of about 2.4 million is a sure banker for Buhari, the same cannot be said of Nasarawa state which has 1.6 million registered voters if previous records of electoral performances between Buhari and PDP presidential flag-bearers are considered.
While President Buhari has never won in the state since 2003, the PDP candidates from former President Obasanjo in 1999 and 2003, to Yar’Adua in 2007 and Jonathan in 2011 and 2015, won the state; a trend that has put Atiku on a solid pedestal against Buhari in the state.
In the South-west zone which has the second largest number of registered voters after those of the North-west, President Buhari is more rooted than Atiku as a result of required political structures symbolised by all the six governors of the states who are APC members and the tremendous influence of the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in the entire zone. The zone comprises Lagos (6.5 million voters); Ogun (2.3 million voters); Oyo (2.9 million voters); Ondo (1. 8 million voters); Ekiti (910,000 voters) and Osun with a voting strength of about 1.7 million voters.
Though President Buhari for sure will win in the zone, Atiku will also have good showings across the six states with percentage performance of 30 to 40 of votes cast.
In the South-south, aside from Edo state, where President Buhari may have a good showing being an APC-controlled state and the home state of its national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, Atiku is sure to defeat him outrightly in the remaining five states of Rivers which has voting strength of 3.2 million people; Akwa Ibom (2.1 million people); Bayelsa (923,000 voters); Delta (2.8 million voters) and Cross Rivers with a voting strength of 1.5 million voters.
Similar winning streaks based on prevailing realities are also there for Atiku in the five South-east states. In fact, apart from Imo state being an APC-controlled state where President Buhari is expected to square it up with Atiku despite the positive sentiment of an average Igbo voter for Atiku who is running on a joint ticket with Peter Obi, an illustrious son from the zone , Atiku may trounce Buhari in the remaining four states of Enugu (1.9 million voters); Abia (1.9 million voters); Anambra (1.9 million voters) and Ebonyi (1.4 million voters) with wide margins of votes that may deny him the required 25% of votes cast.
Though the two leading contenders even before the postponement of the election on Saturday last week by INEC have had a plethora of endorsements from regional and socio-cultural groups across the country, victorious assertions made by them and their parties in the week further make the election an epic battle between them.
President Buhari, Atiku speak
President Buhari on Monday, in Abuja during the National Executive Council meeting of the APC, boasted that he was sure of winning the election without rigging, and Atiku at a similar meeting organised by the PDP the following day, said the Buhari APC was hell bent on rigging the election having allegedly realised that a free, fair, transparent and credible electoral process will not favour it.
But at the APC NEC meeting, Buhari openly and bluntly ordered the military and the police to be ruthless with any categories of election riggers in today’s polls which ironically was kicked against by the PDP on the strength of alleged unlawfulness of directive, particularly the one given the military by the president.
Expectedly, in the heat of the claims and counter claims between Buhari and Atiku on being well-positioned for victory in today’s election, assertions to that effect moved from them to minders within their parties.
Buhari’s the candidate to beat – Oshiomhole
The APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, in his submission at the party’s NEC meeting, said: “Buhari is the candidate to beat in the election based on his integrity and performance so far. Atiku is no match for him in any way in a free and fair contest because the generality of Nigerians know that going forward to the next level by voting for APC is far, far better than going backwards to the looting era which PDP as a party represents.”
Our victory delayed – Secondus
But his counterpart in the PDP, Uche Secondus, said “APC’s propaganda cannot save it from defeat this time around.”
According to him, last Saturday’s postponement of election by INEC was a delay of victory for Atiku which cannot be denied today in anyway by the APC.
He said: “In reality some anti-democratic forces cropped up to delay our victory dance, but surely it would come because Nigerians have resolved and are determined to throw away the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Besides, the PDP train is moving fast like running water. Therefore, we have enough impetus, from our teeming supporters across the country, to claim our deserving mandate
“A young supporter of our party who apparently weighed down by hunger inflicted on the people by poor governance in Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi state, carried a placard at our rally with an inscription ‘I will vote for Atiku even if it’s with my blood.’
“That is the spirit of our members and supporters out there, and we have no choice but to provide them the needed leadership required to make Nigeria better. It is Atiku Abubakar’s time and no one can stop it.”
Whether it is Atiku’s time or continuation for President Buhari, the 84 million Nigerian electorates will decide today the outcome of which is expected to be accepted by both winner and loser in line with the peace agreement signed to that effect penultimate week in Abuja.
Whichever way the pendulum of victory swings to, as long as INEC gets it right democracy and Nigerians would surely be the ultimate winners.
In Kogi state, a public analyst, Dr Muhammad Anda, said the 2019 presidential election will be won by Atiku. According to him, there are odds that will work against President Buhari in the election, considering the non-payment of salaries by the APC-led government in the state.
He said it would definitely pose a negative effect to the re-election bid of the president.
He said the people of the state seem to be tired of the APC government in state due to the nonperformance of Governor Yahaya Bello in terms of provision of social amenities and infrastructure development.
He also said the failure of the president to make a categorical statement on the ailing Ajaokuta Steel Company during the party’s electioneering in Lokoja “has made many people to have divided minds on whether to vote for APC candidate or not,” and that the PDP “will win but with little margin.”
In the opinion of Peter Audu Musa, a civil servant, President Buhari may win in Kogi due to his efforts in the fight against corruption, and that the people of Kogi-west had resolved to move to the next level of development with President Buhari, assuring that the APC candidate will win 15 local government areas out of the 21 local government areas in the state.
A legal practitioner, Barrister Mathias Ikyav, said President Buhari will win the presidential election.
He said: “The situation is dicey, but Buhari will have an upper hand. It will be quite tight just as it happened the last time, but the president will win. I am saying this because all the state apparatuses have been programmed to favour him. Although many people will not want him to come back, somehow the majority of the people will still vote for him.
“People are disenchanted with the government; they know that he had not performed too well, but they don’t want another person from the North again to come and continue for the next eight years.
“Buhari and Atiku are the same Fulani people. The response he gave on the issues of herdsmen with farmers was not clear. Many people feel if he comes back it will be reparation of the same thing, and they will want to vote in the evil with shorter time in office to finish and go instead of giving another to suffer for eight years.”
However, a university lecturer, Dr James Ashiekpe, said Atiku will win the next election.
He said: “It is difficult to say when someone is in power, but has the government done anything to warrant its re-election?
“Two years into the Buhari government, people suffered and there was poverty everywhere, but a year into election, they started twisting facts. Now that the election is here the people are made to be confused about who is genuine. Look at the security situation in Nigeria now. People are being killed, kidnapping has taken another dimension. The president has not convinced anyone that he will do better if he is re-elected into office again.
“Atiku may not be a better person, but let it be on record that if you cannot perform in office as president you will be voted out.”
It’s Atiku’s time – Saraki
President of the Senate and the director-general of PDP presidential campaign organisation, Dr Bukola Saraki, said the election is for the party to win, and that “it is Atiku Abubakar’s time and no one can stop it.”
He said: “Atiku Abubakar by the grace is going to be the next president of the federal republic of Nigeria. It is not by magic because Nigerians have gone through three and half years of poverty, unemployment, insecurity. Then, why are you surprise that they want a change? Nobody wants to live in poverty, nobody wants insecurity and nobody wants unemployment. That is why the message has resolute and they are panicking.
“But my message to them is that you won in 2015 because democracy was working in Nigeria. This democracy that worked for you, is to work for generation yet unborn. Do not ruin Nigeria’s democracy because of your ambition, democracy is bigger than you and as such it worked for you and it will also work for others,” he said.
“Again, the choices are clear. Do you want the country to be governed by a president that will obey the rule of law; a president that will obey democratic principles? Or do you want a president that believes that there should be jungle justice. I know Nigerians know what is good for us.
“On Saturday, is not just to vote for Atiku Abubakar and not just to vote for PDP, is a vote for Nigeria. A vote for what Nigeria represents. We are appealing to all Nigerians to come and vote. They don’t want election to hold, we know they don’t want election to hold on Saturday. By God’s grace the man that will take us to promise land, Atiku Abubakar will win.
“Like they say, when your time has come, it has come and no one can change it. Atiku Abubakar your time has come.”