BY OLUSOLA FABIYI
Nigerian politicians may not be good mathematicians, but when it comes to permutation, they are never deficient. Thus, before the commencement of the ongoing campaigns, politicians and political party leaders had sat down and calculated the chances of their presidential candidates, using many empirical formulas, many of which were based on frail and inconceivable reasoning.
Consequently, even when all indices point to the possibility of a let-down, they remain optimistic in the face of an eye-catching failure. They deserve no pity. Just as Ralph Waldo Emerson, the late American essayist, lecturer, philosopher and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century said; every man is entitled to be valued by his best moments.
The February 16 election undeniably, hums as the best moments for the two notable presidential candidates, Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress and his closest rival, Atiku Abubakar, who is flying the flag of the Peoples Democratic Party. The election, according to the President and his supporters, will enable him to consolidate on his achievements. To Atiku, it is time to wake the sleeping giant of Africa and get the country working again.
During the 2015 elections, both Buhari and Atiku belonged to the same political party, the APC. Both of them and others, teamed up to fire at the presidential candidate of the PDP, Goodluck Jonathan. It was a battle the former governor of Bayelsa State found too hectic to face. The barrel of inoculation and acidic attacks from the enemy’s camp was too much for him to carry on. This made the PDP to become an opposition party. That was the first defeat the party would suffer in 16 years.
But now, Atiku, who played a prominent role in the conspiracy that nailed the party through which he was elected as vice president twice, has dropped his broom. Apart from taking shade under the PDP umbrella, he is also its presidential candidate. Many factors that worked for and against the PDP in the last election are believed to either have changed, or changing.
In 2015, the voting pattern was tailored around tribal, religious and sectional considerations. For example, in the North-Central, which consists of six states and the Federal Capital Territory, Buhari garnered 2,411,013, while Jonathan scored 1,715,818.
Jonathan, the candidate of the PDP, was believed to have been able to get this number of votes because of the sympathy his party had in the zone. In 2019, Atiku is expected to build on the votes won by Jonathan. The reason for this is not far-fetched. Unlike in 2015, two out of the states that were hitherto in total support of the APC had returned to the PDP. The states are Kwara and Benue. Also, it is generally believed that civil servants are disgruntled in Kogi State. This may reduce the votes expected for the APC if votes are allowed to count in the state. The two leading presidential candidates will therefore have their fair share among the 13, 366,070 registered voters in the zone.
Things may also change a little in the North-East, which was like a walkover for Buhari in 2015. In the zone, which has six states, Buhari got 2,848,678 votes compared with the 796,588 that Jonathan had.
Can Buhari repeat such stellar performance this year? Realities on ground may not support such hypothesis. In 2015, there was hardly any opposition to Buhari in the six states. But now, Atiku, who is the closest challenger to the President’s second term ambition, is from the zone. Apart from the late Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa from Bauchi State, no other son or daughter of the Boko Haram-ravaged zone had become the President of the country. Atiku, who hails from Adamawa State, will fight Buhari to get a fair share of the 11,289,293 registered voters in his traditional home ground.
For Buhari, who hails from Katsina State, which is one of the states in a zone that is lucky to have seven states in the country, North-West has always been his favoured zone. In 2015, it was as if there was no opposition in the area as he got 7,115,199 as against the miserable 1,339,709 votes that Jonathan had. This year, INEC’s figure showed that the zone has 20,158,100 registered voters. That makes it the highest among the other six zones in the country. Atiku is expected to perform better in the zone than Jonathan. This is because of many factors. The tribal and religious considerations that made the former President to be treated like a leper are not going to be considered as minus against the former vice president. Besides that, Sokoto State, which supported the President totally in 2015, had rescinded its decision as the Governor, Mallam Aminu Tambuwal, had returned to the PDP. Also, Kano State which stood behind the President like rock is now polarised. The popular votes with which the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-rufai, came to power have also waned in Kaduna. The crisis rocking the President’s party and the unabated killings in Zamfara State may further reduce the votes expected to be scored by President Buhari.
However, it is still expected that the former military ruler will triumph against his challenger in the zone.
The South-East has never hidden its hatred for President Buhari and his party as demonstrated in 2015 when the President got trifling 198,248 votes as against Jonathan’s 2,464,906 from the zone. The zone with only five states, also parades the least number of registered voters of 10,052,236. The picking of Peter Obi, a former governor of Anambra State from the zone and the crisis rocking the APC in Imo State, the only state it controls in the area, is a further testimony that the APC will have a poor outing in the area. It is also noteworthy, to remember that the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the umbrella socio-cultural organisation of the entire Igbo, just proclaimed Atiku as its preferred candidate.
The South-South will also follow the South-East pattern in voting, with some little achievement expected to be recorded by the President in the zone. In the six states in 2015, Buhari scored 418,590 as against
Jonathan’s 4,714,725 votes. Unlike in 2015 when he was in opposition, President Buhari is expected to reap more votes now from the 12,841,279 registered voters in the area. The gale of defections that had hit the PDP in Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Rivers states may work for the APC.
The South-West was considered to be the battle ground in 2015, where in the six states; President Buhari got 2,433,193, while Jonathan had 1,821,416 votes. Then, Ekiti State was being governed by the PDP. But now, Ekiti had fallen and the current vice president also hails from the zone. What’s more? Members of the party in the zone believe that the area should produce the president after President Buhari must have completed his eight years in 2023. These are some of the dynamics that would make the leaders of the APC in South-West to go for a larger chunk of the 16,292,212 voters in the region.
The few days left for the election are enough to change any political permutation. But one thing is sure: there would be a strong contest on Saturday, February 16, 2019 between the two leading candidates and none of them can conveniently claim victory until the umpire, which is INEC, proclaims one of them as the winner.