While the political parties fielding candidates for the 2019 general election are rounding off their campaigns this week, the general view across many quarters is that the presidential election is not going to be an easy win for any party.
Political analysts and public opinion are insinuating that the result will also defy expectations and permutations on how the election would be won and lost.
Although the epic battle seems to be between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that is seeking to retake power, which it lost to APC in the 2015 elections, the ruling party is hopeful of landslide victory based on some permutations that it was massive votes from northern and western states that gave victory to Muhammadu Buhari, the APC presidential candidate in the 2015 election.
Buhari polled a total of 15,416,221 votes to defeat Goodluck Jonathan, the then incumbent president and candidate of the PDP, who got 12,853,162 votes.
For getting more than one quarter of the votes in 27 states, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said Buhari met the constitutional requirement and declared him president-elect.
But analysts are saying that Saturday’s election may not go in tandem with the victory permutations as President Buhari is likely not going to get the usual bloc votes from the north again.
Speaking exclusively to BDSUNDAY on the possibility of the APC and President Buhari re-enacting the victories in the states and geo-political zones as in 2015, Tomiwa Erinosho, a political strategist and co-founder of Town Talk, said a lot has changed since the last election that may likely alter the equation.
“The INEC says that the total registration is now about 84, 2 million; if the level of voter apathy witnessed in 2015 is repeated, we may be looking at somewhere between 28 and 33 million voters this time around. If that is the case, it may be safe to say that Buhari may be able to poll between 12 and 15 million going by his performance last time. It means he has a clear package,” Erinosho said.
“Historically, he has always polled around 12 million, which means that, if there are 30 million voters, he still has a clear advantage, if the experience of 2015 is anything to go by,” he further said.
Voter turnout will determine the race
Analysing the behaviour of voters across the states and geo-political zones, the engineer and researcher said that the victory or otherwise of candidates this time around would be determined to a large extent by voter turnout.
“If you now break it down to different regions by votes, then it becomes more interesting- The northwest has the highest number of voters, but they have the lowest in the continuous voter registration (CVR) across board; the Southwest has the second highest voters but has one of the lowest the CVR; it also has one of the highest cases of voter apathy; the North central is number three but a small region, but has a significant number of newly registered voters and they are known to be very active when it comes to casting votes; South-South and South East are small regions in general but very active. For instance, Bayelsa has 55 percent increase in newly registered voters. Voter turnout in these regions is always high. The North East used to have a huge voter turnout before now, but nobody knows what the behaviour is going to be like, with the security situation there,” he explained.
According to him, “Now if you look at the economic situation in the South West for instance, the level of poverty, high rate of unemployment, particularly among the youths- people are disgruntled. So, they may probably come out to support someone who has promised to support their struggle in terms of job creation. Fighting corrupt may not be a priority to many of them even though that is very important. So, that tells me one thing; that even if the APC wins in South West, the margin may not be as wide as it was in 2015. I may not give you the numbers now.”
“North West, we know is the President’s domain, it is not a matter of whether he will win there, the question is what margin. But again, things have changed in that zone. For instance, you can see what is happening in Zamfara. Some people may decide for protest votes over the killings. Kano, Sokoto, Jigawa delivered bloc votes to APC in 2015, but today, PDP has many supporters in those places.
“In North Central, remember that states like Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Plateau voted for Buhari in 2015. It is going to be different now, but we do not know how they will behave this time around. The North Central will be a battle ground,” he said.
According to Erinosho, “In the North East, in 2015, it was purely for Buhari. It will be different today because the presidential candidate of the PDP is a son-of-the soil. It will be naivety for anybody to say that Adamawa will go to the APC with the same margin it won the PDP in 2015. Taraba State is a PDP state and it is yet to be determined what the behaviour would look like, but it is not likely that it will go to the APC.
“South East and South-South are traditionally PDP and despite the push by the APC to make a clear in-road in those zones, it does not appear the voting pattern will change much.”
Special states to watch
The APC is facing a tough battle in Rivers, Imo, Zamfara and Ogun State.
He noted that “The party is going into an election as a house divided against itself. In some states, its house is not in order. We have a situation where two governors of the party are contesting senatorial election on the APC platform, but backing governorship candidates of two different parties, a situation that has created confusion in the party.”
Ademola Oni, a lawyer, noted that the north is divided unlike in 2015 when it was one strong and big north.
“The election is between two northern heavyweights; if Buhari wins or loses or Atiku wins or loses, it is still the north in power. So, you don’t expect the bloc vote for Buhari in this election,” Oni said.
The lawyer further noted that with the likes of Aminu Tambuwal, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Bukola Saraki, Yakubu Dogara, among others, whose votes and those of their followers went in favour of Buhari, this time around, such votes may go elsewhere.
Toeing same line with Oni, Okechi Okwandu, a political analyst, said the constitution stipulates that a presidential candidate needs more than one quarter of the votes in 27 states to be declared winner in an election and that such is not going to happen this time because of the intrigues of the 2019 election.
“For the first time, two Fulanis who have huge followership are contesting for the highest office in the land, it is not going to be easy because votes must be shared,” he said.
The situation, according to him, would have been to the advantage of a third force, but other candidates are rather withdrawing and supporting the two giants.
Looking at the 2015 election figures, Magnus Ajere, a banker, noted that Buhari won in 21 states, of which 14 were northern, three middle belt and five western states.
“While the permutation is that the president is going to win in all western states and some south-south and south-east states this time, the president has also lost some states like Kwara, Benue, Sokoto, Kano with the Kwankwaso factor, Plateau due to the killings and of course, Adamawa and Bauchi because of Atiku and Yakubu Dogara”, he said.
“Taraba will naturally not vote for APC because of the killings as well, while the like of Rivers State is sure of 100 percent vote for PDP,” he further said, adding that the crisis in the ruling party, arising from acrimonious primaries could also work against the ruling party. “Already, Imo people are bent on removing the Okorocha factor, while in Ogun, the incumbent governor is supporting candidate from another party.
“If the Supreme Court ruling Friday is anything to go by, the APC is not going to field any candidate in all the elections except that of the presidency. This may affect the electoral fortune of the party in the state. Zamfara also is having a similar situation with Rivers. Although the party is already campaigning but the party’s name is not on the ballot. When you put all these together you can begin to have idea of what the country will be expecting to see in the next few days from now.
However, the ruling party is not sleeping; it is making efforts at winning over new voters and states. But majority of public comments suggest that voters are not listening to campaign promises again because they are never fulfilled, but would rather vote according to their conscience.
An analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that he was certain that the APC would not win Benue State.
“How can Buhari win in Benue except if the people have lost their memory. The party abandoned the people when it mattered most. Don’t forget that it was the behaviour of the Federal Government towards the killings in Benue that resulted in the exit of Governor Samuel Ortom from the APC. Kwara State was totally for APC in 2015 because of Bukola Saraki factor; today, things have changed. The table has turned. If you have followed the politics in Kwara State, you will agree with me that for the APC to win would be like a Carmel passing through the needle’s eyepiece,” the analyst said.
All eyes on INEC
The major fear being nursed by many is that despite the assurances by INEC that their votes will count, they think the electoral body may have been compromised, while parties will take vote buying, which they experimented at the Ekiti and Osun off-season elections, to a dangerous level.
Zebulon Agomuo and Obinna Emelike