• Saturday, June 22, 2024
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Can the G-5 swing Nigeria’s large undecided voters?

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The Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) G-5 governors have been unable to decide on a candidate to support in the February 2023 presidential elections. The preference of the group of five when it happens however, is unlikely to alter the decisions of majority of voters who have decided on their choicefor president.

In late November, five governors elected on the platform of the main opposition PDP and some aggrieved party stalwarts, announced the formation of the Integrity Group within the party. The group of five including Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State and Nyesom Wike of Rivers state, have been clamouring for the resignation of the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, since the party’s presidential ticket was won by Atiku Abubakar in May 2022.

The internal revolt by the five has left the PDP and Abubakar greatly weakened and struggling to main a reasonable modicum of party unity and discipline.

In December 2022, Wike had said he will start campaigning for his preferred presidential candidate in January

Early this month in Ibadan, Oyo state, during the flag-off for campaigns for the re-election of Makinde, the Rivers state governor and his host assured that the G5 will soon ‘announce’ its preferred choice of presidential candidate for the February 25 election in Nigeria.

In an interview with the BBC Inline image
last week, the Wike vowed that there will be no coming back once the G5 governors take a decision on their choice of a presidential candidate.

“The point I am trying to tell you is that PDP should have their opportunity because there will come a time the door will be shut and nothing will happen. If that day comes, if heaven wants to come down, let it come down,” he said.

“Nobody should threaten anyone. If we (G5) take the decision today that we will not support the PDP candidate, we will give reasons why we will not support him and there is nothing anybody will do about it. They should better be careful,” he had warned.

Atiku has brushed aside the G-5s capacity to derail his election. “The interesting thing is that our campaign has moved on. We said in the beginning, it’s about Nigeria, it’s not just about the PDP.The issue is, PDP is one big family…It’s not about Governor Wike. Governor Wike is just one governor, one member of the PDP and he has only one vote so also are the other four governors who are members of the G-5 governors,” Phrank Shuaibu, a senior communications aide to the PDP presidential candidate fired back

“So, we look forward to a situation where we will all come together and if they join the train because the train is moving and we are cruising at a very good altitude, it could be a day to the election, it could be one month to the election, it could be 39 days to the election and they decide to join the team and work with the team, it’s all good and fine,” he added.

A series of polls over the last three months show that while majority of voters have made up their minds on who they would vote for in next month presidential election, there is a high number of registered voters who are still undecided.

An ANAP foundation poll released in September 2022 showed that, “undecided voters make up a huge 32percent of registered voters”. The ANAP poll finding is further validated by the outcomes of other polls including a survey conducted by Bloomberg also in September, which suggests that the percentage of undecided voters is around 17 to 45percent.

A Nextier poll conducted among rural-based voters in 12 states further suggests that 19.8percent of voters or one-fifth of voters polled are yet to make up their minds.

“The reasonable inference to draw from these three credible polls,” politician and public affairs analyst, Dakuku Peterside opined,“is that undecided voters may turn out to be the underrated decider of the direction the pendulum of the 2023 elections will swing.”

While it might be hard to believe that in an election as polarising as this one, there are still voters up for grabs just about a month to the presidential elections, undecided voters are out there and would be decisive in determining who becomes president of Africa’s largest economy.

It is this group of ‘swayable’ voters that the G-5 would be seeking to influence and draw towards their preferred candidate.

Yet, their capacity to do just that is limited. With the PDP presidential candidate lagging in third place behind Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and Bola Tinubu of the All Peoples Congress (APC) in all the major polls conducted so far, it is unlikely that the governors and party apparatchiks of the PDP possess the prevalent popularity and gravitas to sway the bulk of undecided voters to their side and to their endorsed candidate.

It is very unlikely that the governors of Enugu and Abia statesas well as the de facto leader of the G-5, Nyesom Wike would be able to stop the growing popularity of the LP candidate in their states. Across the Southeast and South-South regions, Mr. Obi’s popularity is unmatched by any of the other presidentialcandidates. It is clear that this popularity is most likely going to be translated into votes in February for the LP candidate.

“Governor Wike cannot sway majority of voters in Rivers to change course and it will be shocking if Peter Obi does not win this state,” a member of the opposition PDP in the House of Representatives said.

“The political realities on the ground is that, if the choice of the governor isn’t Obi, then he is going to come out humiliated and he knows this, that is why they haven’t been able to reach a consensus on a preferred candidate and advertise their favoured choice to the country,” he added.

Peter Obi is the only option for good governance – Amuga

What is clear is that, the emergence of Peter Obi, has taken the sail off the wind of the governors and political leaders in the Southeast and South-South regions. Their capacity to sway voters has been heavily diminished by LP candidate’s popularity; a surge driven by the pessimism and general disenchantment of the present and the optimistic desire of many young Nigerians for a better future.

In the 2022 Bloomberg poll, more than 65percent named Obi as the candidate best able to improve the economy, tackle corruption and reduce insecurity.

Many of his supporters agree with an October 2022 Economist Magazine article that noted, “Mr. Obi’s sudden ascent represents a rare chance for Nigeria. The country ought to be rich: it has huge reserves of oil, gas and other minerals, plenty of fertile land and a young population of go-getters. Yet Nigerians are poorer today than they were ten years ago and 40percent of them survive on less than $1.90 a day.

“The reasons why Nigeria is poor are rotten politics, bad governance and corruption. Politicians in Nigeria have long stirred up ethnic and religious divisions by promising to direct state resources to members of their own group.

“Once in power they have pursued contorted economic policies such as a fixed exchange rate and massive fuel subsidies. Some policies seem to make sense only as a way of allowing cronies to siphon off cash…If he (Obi) were to sustain his lead until the election in February, he would be the first politician in decades to show that a new sort of politics is possible in Nigeria”.

Bob-Mike, an oil industry worker in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital says, he likes and respects Governor Wike, “but he (Wike) cannot stop Obi. We have no problem with Wike; we like him and he has done well in the state. The dominant view on the streets in Rivers is that we will vote for Obi for president and vote PDP for other positions. Most of us don’t even know the Labour Party governorship candidate in Rivers state”.

In Benue state, Dr. Manzo Abubakar, a former Secretary-General of the Alliance for Democracy saysthe presidential election in the state would be clearly won by the LP while the governorship will be a clear fight between the PDP and the APC.

“Ortom is unlikely to endorse any candidate outside Obi because that is the choice of most Benue voters and indigenes who see the APC as a party and the PDP’spresidential candidate as responsible for and sympathetic respectively to the massive killings of thousands of Benue indigenesand destructions of properties by ethnic Fulani terroristsagainst indigenes of the state,” he said.

“The reality, is that apart from Oyo where ethnic solidarity is compelling Governor Makinde to be cautious in supporting a candidate outside his Yoruba ethnic group, none of the other G5 governors have the capacity to draw decided or undecided voters to their side.

“Those who have not made up their minds are not likely to be swayed by governors who do not necessarily represent their interests. Governors are politicians, and all professional politicians are fixated on self-preservation rather than the public good. Most genuinely undecided understand what constitutes public good and they will likely vote along that line,” Abubakar added.