With 25 days left for Nigerians to elect their next president, three major candidates, each from the three major ethnic groups, would be battling it out to earn the favours of the electorate.
In a State of the Race Presidential Insight Report, by market research firm 234 Intel, that sought to appreciate the sentiments of the country’s voters towards the 2023 elections, the survey found that the presidential race remains too close to call less than a month to the polling day. It will in fact be much tighter than the last three presidential elections, 234 Intel projected.
Margins would be critical in deciding who wins in February, the survey further found.
“Winning in strongholds will be insufficient to guarantee victory in the first ballot. Candidates would need to win well across multiple states and avoid wholesale defeats in their blind spots,” the report noted.
As the polls draw nearer, the projected margin of victory is either shrinking or expanding for the three major candidates. Peter Obi of the Labour Party, the report found leads by four percent (down by 11 percent in November 2022), a lead that is clearly statistically too small to predict a clear outcome.
Atiku Abubakar of the PDP is running closely in second place ahead of APC’s Bola Tinubu who is himself not too far behind the PDP candidate.
Obi is projected to win 14 states, Abubakar, 12 states and 10 states are projected to be won by Tinubu. A lone state, Kano, the survey projected, will go to a former governor of the state and presidential candidate of the NNPC, Rabiu Kwankwaso.
Voters themselves will be voting behind a visage of grave pessimism about their future, a pessimism that has ballooned exponentially over the last eight years.
Their sense of hopelessness about the future, however, is unlikely to dissuade many from going ethnic and religious in their votes. As the survey found, “when faced with important decisions of national interest, Nigerians tend to ignore reason, succumb to their primordial tendencies and relate more comfortably with their “kin connections”.
Ethnicity alongside religion, the report predicted, would be the key factors that will influence next month’s elections.
Atiku Abubakar, a Hausa-Fulani from Adamawa State in northeast Nigeria is projected to win at least 51 percent of voters in Hausa speaking states with an overwhelming Muslim population.
Two in three Hausa speaking men in the northwest currently favour Abubakar for president, a sizable bloc he would need if he is to win in February. In the northeast, Tinubu’s running mate is vigorously contesting the region against the PDP candidate.
Atiku Abubakar’s biggest disadvantage is the presence of the NNPP candidate, Rabiu Kwankwaso, who is leading in Kano and competing favourably in the northwest.
Of the three leading candidates, the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi, is the only candidate who holds commanding leads to the exclusion of other candidates in his base; the southeast and large parts of the south-south.
Obi is also leading among young voters aged 18-35 by 71 percent, newly registered voters by 69 percent, and by Christians, especially in the north by 85 percent.
The southeast and south-south regions, once safe states for the PDP, are significantly seeing a retreat away from the main opposition party towards the Labour Party candidate.
Peter Obi has turned the normally accepted two horse presidential contest into a billowing three horse race. “At this point,” the insight report posited, “it is essential to dispel the notion that Peter Obi has no chance of winning the 2023 presidential elections. A few years ago, that might have been the case. Today, however, the data suggests otherwise; he definitely has a path”.
It goes on to project that the Labour Party candidate, “currently holds healthy leads in all the states in southeast as well as Edo, FCT, Plateau, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Cross River and Rivers. He also holds a slight advantage in Delta and Bayelsa”.
Obi is further projected to come second in Lagos, Oyo, Kaduna, Adamawa and Taraba states.
“The northwest and northeast are his current blind spots, and he is losing among northern and southern Muslims by as much as 89 percentage points”.
APC’s presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu is likely to find comfort in Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo, Ogun and Borno states where he holds comfortable leads. While he is likely to win Lagos marginally, Tinubu will have to contend against a very strong showing by Peter Obi.
Tinubu has the strong support of Yoruba- speaking Muslims who reside in the southwest and north-central regions. They favour his candidacy by more than 78 percent. He also leads by 81 percent among civil servants and government workers as well as members of the APC political party in states where the incumbent governor is a member of the APC.
Tinubu’s main drawback is among women aged 19-45, Christians, young people (18-45), students, professionals and traders.
Other critical factors that would influence the elections next month, the survey found, include insecurity, INEC’s technology and the youth.
Young people, the report noted, are more interested in voting in the 2023 elections than at any time since the birth of the 4th republic in 1999. The reason was well captured by a young registered voter who saw the high levels of motivation as being driven by the need to “improve my destiny and participate in building the future I want to see”.
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High levels of poverty and illiteracy also mean that vote-buying will largely influence outcomes especially in the rural areas.
“Politicians will seek to weaponise hunger and provide gratification in exchange for votes,” the report noted, finding that, “almost half of the survey respondents will vote for anyone who provides them with financial incentives”.
Thus, as noted in the survey report, “it is difficult to conclude that the majority will suspend their living realities in this cycle of elections. Many households continue to face difficulties in meeting their basic needs. Incomes have shrunk in the new school fees season. Meanwhile, fuel shortages and rising transport costs serve as a constant reminder of the harsh realities that Nigerians are forced to endure in order to survive”.