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Battle For 2023 Presidency: HOW TINUBU, OBI, ATIKU, KWANKWASO STAND  

• State of the race 

Akani Alaka writes on the chances of the leading four presidential candidates in Nigeria’s 2023 general election.

Even as permutations insist it’s a straight fight between APC’s Bola Tinubu and PDP’s Atiku Abubakar, all eyes are on Peter Obi of the Labour Party as the candidate with the real potential of upstaging the established political order in Nigeria at the 2023 presidential elections. Therefore, it was not a surprise that the flag-off of his presidential campaign at Lafia, the capital city of Nasarawa State, last Saturday generated so much attention online and offline.

As expected, supporters of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the rally with the ‘sparse attendance’ was a confirmation of their claim that the Labour Party’s presidential candidate does not enjoy much support beyond the social media.

But Obi’s supporters, who shared pictures of the rally alongside that of the two opposition parties retorted that the seemingly low attendance was a confirmation that contrary to the practice of mobilization of crowds for rallies the PDP and APC are renowned, those present at the LP’s rally came on their own without any form of ‘mobilisation.’

Beyond such ‘banters’ it was also significant that Obi began his campaign in Nasarawa State in North-central Nigeria. Analysts have said one of the major obstacles to Obi’s emergence as Nigeria’s next president will be his lack of support in Northern Nigeria.

This was despite two polls which indicated that the former Anambra governor is well ahead of Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the APC, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso considered the frontrunners among the 18 candidates that will be on the ballot of the 2023 presidential election.

Contrary to those two polls, a research report by Fitch Solutions Country Risk and Industry Research widely published the same day Obi kicked off his presidential campaign had predicted victory for the presidential candidate of the APC.

Fitch noted that the fact that the two previous polls were conducted online where only 36 percent of Nigerians, according to the World Bank, have presence limited the surveys and were, therefore, unreliable.

“Surveys showing that Obi is ahead of his opponents, Bola Tinubu (APC) and Atiku Abubakar (PDP), were mostly based on responses gathered online. Since only 36.0 percent of Nigerians use the Internet (World Bank, 2020), we believe that these results are skewed toward urban, affluent voters who are most likely to support Obi. We also highlight that these polls suggest that a large share of voters remain undecided,” the research said.

On why Tinubu would defeat Obi and Atiku, Fitch said Obi lacked support in the Muslim North where the “majority of the voters are located and where also turnout on elections were higher than other parts of the country.”

It further noted that the 1999 Constitution stipulated that for a candidate to be elected Nigeria’s president, he must not only score the highest number of votes but also 25 percent of votes in at least 24 states of the federation.

The report said, “it would be herculean for the Labour Party which lacks structure and not having candidates for most of the positions for state Assemblies, House of Representatives, Senate and governorship, to deliver above those that have stakes for such positions. Furthermore, the northern electorate historically tends to vote for presidential candidates from their region. With Obi being a Christian from the South (Anambra State), increasing his voter share in the North will prove challenging,” the report said.

Obi, Atiku, Tinubu, And The Battle For North Central

Yet, Nasarawa State, with the sitting APC governor is one of the states in the North where analysts believe that the Labour Party candidate has the prospect of scoring a high number of votes. This is despite the fact the sitting Governor, Abdullahi Sule, is not only a member of APC but was also one of those who worked for the zoning of the presidential ticket of the party to the Southern part of the country.

Also, Abdullahi Adamu, the national chairman of APC is from the state. Thus, the APC has a strong foothold in the state. This is aside from the promise of Governor Sule and members of APC in Nasarawa to also deliver the state to Tinubu.

However, the PDP is also strong in the state, having come second to APC in the last general election in the state. The Nigerian Xpress assessments, however, revealed that Obi may be in a pole position to take the second position given his popularity among a large populace and mostly, non-indigenes of the state in communities like Mararaba, Karu, and other areas near the FCT. A large number of the non-natives are from the South-east and, therefore, likely to be sympathetic to Obi.

But also it was believed that the Muslim-Muslim ticket would work against Tinubu and in favour of the LP candidate in Nasarawa with its large Christian population.

Therefore, analysts believe that Obi may not just get the statutory 25 percent in the state, but also has the potential of upstaging Atiku and even, Kwankwaso.

Also, the same scenario is likely to play out in Plateau and Benue States in North-central Nigeria. While the sitting governor of Plateau belongs to the APC, Benue is under the control of the PDP.

However, the Governor of Benue, Samuel Ortom, was one of the governors that has refused to fully commit to the presidential project of his party’s candidate over the continued stay in office of Iyorchia Ayu as the chairman of the party.

Analysts said Obi may benefit if Ortom’s infighting with the presidential candidate persists. After all, the Benue State governor recently said that but for the fact that his party has its presidential candidate, he would have willingly joined the ‘Obidient’ train.

Just like in the other North-central states, the Muslim-Muslim ticket will also definitely affect the chances of the APC, though it is believed that the party may be able to get the 25 percent statutory or more in the state.

In Plateau, the sitting governor, Simon Lalong is not only a member of APC but the Director General of the presidential campaign organization of Tinubu. It is believed that Lalong, the only Christian governor of APC in the Northern part of the country was chosen to douse agitations against the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of his party.

But Plateau, as was gathered by The Nigerian Xpress remains a major spot of agitations and mobilisation against the APC same faith ticket even though Governor Lalong is leading the campaign.

A very popular cleric in the state has been very vocal in the campaign against the APC, just as he has also been against the prospect of President Muhammadu Buhari being succeeded by ‘another Fulani’ in the form of the PDP presidential candidate. Anger over insecurity, as manifested in killings and plundering in villages across the state by elements believed to be Fulani herdsmen is also expected to work against the APC.

Thus, it was not a surprise that the LP candidate has become a very popular option for the people of the state in the race for the 2023 presidency.

However, with the large Muslim population in various parts of the state, the APC incumbency factor may also help Tinubu in the battle for votes in the state. The Nigerian Xpress predicts that the battle is between APC and LP in Benue as things stand now.

Despite being the seat of power, the PDP defeated APC in the 2019 presidential election in the Federal Capital Territory. But Obi is enjoying wide support in the seat of power with predictions that the LP presidential candidate may upstage PDP and win in the capital city while Atiku will come second. Just like in other parts of Central Nigeria, anger over the Muslim–Muslim ticket is also expected to play in favour of Obi at the FCT.

The Nigerian Xpress can confirm that respected clerics are already sensitizing their large congregations to vote against APC because of the same faith ticket gamble. In addition to this, the FCT is also home to a large populace of indigenes of the South-east who are mostly rooting for the LP candidate.

In Kogi State, the battle in the presidential election is expected to be between the APC and the PDP. Governor Yahaya Bello who is one of the leaders of the APC presidential campaign has committed himself to ‘deliver’ Kogi to his party’s presidential candidate. But the PDP also has a strong footprint in the state with chieftains of the party promising to ensure that Atiku wins the presidential election as a prelude to their return to power in Kogi after the lapse of the tenure of Bello.

But the state also has a large segment of the Christian population, though opposition to the APC Muslim-Muslim ticket has not been loud, at least for now in the town. However, it was also gathered that the fate of the PDP candidate in Kogi may also be determined by how he is able to settle his rift with Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers who has refused to commit himself to campaign for him over the insistence of Ayu to remain in office as the PDP chairman. This also applied to other states where the PDP is not in power and the Rivers State governor has been helping to oil the machinery of the party. Thus, like in those other states, some chieftains and leaders of the party have taken sides with Wike in the ongoing battle with Atiku.

The PDP chieftains may choose to align with Wike if he chooses to work for Tinubu or Obi to the detriment of his party’s candidate during the election as speculated. This may also be the case in Niger where the sitting governor is a member of APC and as such, Tinubu is expected to win. While the PDP is expected to come second, analysts said the fact that some chieftains of the party are in the camp of Wike may also affect how well Atiku will do. In addition, the relatively large Christian population of the state is also expected to enhance the chances of the LP candidate getting 25 percent of the votes.

Tinubu, Atiku, Kwankwaso in North-west

However, in the largely Muslim North-west states of Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, and Jigawa, the battle is expected to be between Tinubu, Atiku, and Kwankwaso.  Analysts said Tinubu will have a slight edge over Atiku if the mostly APC governors keep their promise of working for him.

Also, the series of defections from the APC to PDP after the party’s primaries is also another factor likely to work against Tinubu across most of the North-west states and especially in Katsina. In Kebbi, the defection of former governor Adamu Aliero, former Rep majority leader, and their supporters from APC to PDP after the primaries may also work against Tinubu. Some analysts have said the defections may work in favour of Atiku.

Analysts said Kwankwaso whose sight is majorly set on installing his in-law as governor of Kano may also win the state for his NNPP in the presidential election. However, he will have to contend with Governor Abdullahi Ganduje who, as can be seen on the campaign train of APC, is a major promoter of Tinubu’s presidency.

But the NNPP presidential candidate is also expected to put up a strong showing in Jigawa State where analysts believe the PDP has the chance of recording an outright win.

In the same vein, The Nigerian Xpress assessment reveal that the eagerness of the large number of non-indigenes in Kano who had hitherto refused to be part of the electoral process to vote this time around may also help Peter Obi not only in Kano but in the entire North-west.

The LP’s vice presidential candidate is from Zaria, Kaduna State, and thus is expected to attract votes for the party. But Obi is becoming increasingly popular in the mostly Christian Southern senatorial district of Kaduna where the people had always voted for the PDP. This may reduce the votes that will go to Atiku in the state to the advantage of the LP.

The Director General of the Atiku Presidential Campaign Council, Aminu Tambuwal is the governor of Sokoto State. The pressure will be on him to deliver the seat of the caliphate for his presidential candidate. But Tambuwal, who was re-elected with just over 300 votes in 2019 will be up against former Governor Aliyu Wamako of APC who has so far proved to be a formidable force in Sokoto State.

Indeed, Buhari won the presidential election in Sokoto State in 2019. The ongoing defections and counter-defections between members of APC and PDP in the state are indicative of the fact that Sokoto is up for grabs between Atiku and Tinubu.

North-east Atiku, Tinubu

In the North-east, Adamawa has a sitting PDP governor and is the home state of the PDP presidential candidate. Thus, Atiku is expected to win the presidential election in the state. But APC also has a strong foothold in Adamawa, and ordinarily, will be expected to get more than the statutory 25 percent, but for the anger over the party’s Muslim-Muslim ticket.

But the state also has a large Christian population who may decide to go with Obi in the presidential election. The same can be said of Taraba where the other Christian governor in the North, Darius Ishaku is presiding.

As a PDP state, Atiku is expected to win in Taraba, however, the APC is also strong in the state. Analysts also said the protest against the Muslim-Muslim ticket of APC may also favour Obi. The people of Yobe and Borno States have not voted for the PDP since the return of democracy to the country to democracy in 1999.

The presence of Kashim Shettima, former governor of Borno State as the running mate to Tinubu will certainly enhance the chances of APC victory in the two states in the presidential election. However, the same cannot be said of the other states in the region – Bauchi and Gombe. While Bauchi has an incumbent PDP governor, Gombe is governed by the APC. People in both states have elected the PDP and APC before.

In addition, Gombe has a large Christian population. However, The Nigerian Xpress gathered that Tinubu and Atiku remain the candidates to beat in both states.

The Obi Challenge For Tinubu

In the South-west, five of the six states are currently governed by the APC. One of the states, Lagos is the home state of Tinubu, the APC presidential candidate.

However, the battle for Lagos is expected to be between Tinubu and Obi, who are enjoying massive support from youths who are disenchanted with the status quo and have registered massively to vote in the 2023 election.

Also, the large number of non-indigenes, especially Igbo residents in Lagos is expected to enhance the chances of Obi in the presidential election in Lagos. This will greatly affect the chances of PDP which has always relied on the non-indigenes to come second in Lagos. Tinubu is also expected to win in Oyo, Ogun, and Ondo states while Atiku who maintained a string of political associates in the region is expected to come second.

For Tinubu, analysts said the outlier is Osun State where the APC governor is set to leave the office for a governor elected on the platform of PDP in the next couple of weeks. The new PDP governor in Osun, Ademola Adeleke has already indicated his commitment to the Atiku project. This is not a surprise given the role played by the PDP presidential candidate in his emergence. However, the other PDP governor, Seyi Makinde of Oyo is among the supporters of Wike who have refused to campaign for Atiku. Nevertheless, The Nigerian Xpress appraisal revealed that Atiku would score well over 25 percent in all the states in the South-west, perhaps except for Lagos.

South-east Locked Down For Obi

Most of the states in the South-east seemed locked down for the LP presidential candidate. Of the five states, two – Imo and Ebonyi are currently under the control of APC while Abia and Enugu are being governed by the PDP governor. The All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, is the governing party in Anambra, Obi’s home state.

Analysts said the agitation for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction as well as records of Obi as a two-time governor of Anambra State is a factor that has led to the wide embrace of the LP presidential candidate.

However, the PDP members, especially those contesting elections for national legislative seats which will be held the same day as the presidential election are trying to push back and vigorously campaigning for Atiku. Analysts predict that while it may be difficult for Tinubu to score up to 25 percent of the votes in any of the South-east states, Atiku will come next to Obi in the tally of the results of the presidential election of the region.

Wike, Obi Challenge For PDP In South-south

In the South-south, all six states, except Cross River are under the control of the PDP. Also, the running mate to the PDP presidential candidate, Ifeanyi Okowa is the governor of Delta State, while the Akwa Ibom Governor, Udom Emmanuel is the chairman of the Atiku Campaign Organisation. The South-east and the South-south are two regions where the PDP has always recorded nearly 100 percent electoral victory since 1999.

But aside from the Obi phenomenon which will surely deny Atiku this benefit in 2023 in the South-east, the wrangling with Wike may also be a major setback to the expected harvest of votes from the region.

Wike has already indicated that he is not ready to campaign for Atiku in his Rivers with claims that he was not consulted by the PDP presidential candidate before he selected people from the state for his presidential campaign council.

But Wike’s influence in the South-south is beyond Rivers as he has key members of the party in Cross River and Edo who are ready to toe his line if he decides to support the LP candidate who has been visiting him or Tinubu, for instance.  Thus, The Nigerian Xpress review revealed that the battle for votes in the South-south will be between Atiku and Obi with the possibility of Tinubu scoring 25 percent of the votes in most of the states still very high.

Tinubu will seem to have a slight advantage over his other three opponents as predicted by Fitch. Analysts, however, said this will also depend on the Northern governors of the party keeping their promise of delivering their states for him.