Abdulrahman Mele /
If previous elections are anything to go by, we have a lot of lessons to learn from the antecedents of the country’s recent political history. The persistence of huge gaps between number of registered voters and actual votes casted on election days, the sentiments that always comes to the foreground in election periods as well as the growing polarisation of political parties towards regions are good parameters for making sound analysis of what to expect in the 2023 general elections.
Nigeria has always recorded low voter turnout relative to total registered voters and the 2023 general election is clearly not going to be any different. There is always a huge difference between the total number of eligible voters registered by the electoral commission and the actual number of votes casted in the elections and this particularly applies to presidential polls.
There are numerous reasons for the habitual voter apathy chief among them being the failed promises of politicians and the realities of everyday life to the average Nigerian. Consequently, there is widespread disillusionment which will make most Nigerians rather indifferent to current campaign promises or the profile of any of the fore contenders.
The relatively high turnout of 44% in 2015 was due to massive support for Buhari in the North and the drop to 35% in 2019 could be due to the disappointment of the electorate who had had over-bloated expectations on his Presidency. It could drop further in 2023 but at most, it is hardly going to exceed 50% turnout (about 47 million votes) or even much less if the new voting technology deployed by INEC poses some technical problems that could disenfranchise a lot of voters.
In the 2015 general elections in which there was a euphoric support for Buhari of the APC especially in the North, the total registered voters was 68,833,476 but only 44% (28,587,564) voted on the presidential Election Day despite the huge pro Buhari sentiment. The APC won 53% (15,424,921 votes) against President Jonathan of the PDP who secured 44% (12,853,162 votes).
Four years later, in 2019, INEC registered a total of 82,344,107 voters and the turnout was 35% (26,454,825 votes) when Atiku contested against Buhari’s second term bid. Buhari (APC) scored 55% (15,191,847 votes) against Atiku (PDP) who got 41% (11,262,978 votes)
It is obvious that a lot of people simply register with INEC to secure the voters card as one of the means of identification and sometimes in response to calls or even threats against people without the PVC across Nigeria. On election days however, it is obvious that fewer people actually take the trouble to go to where their PVCs are registered to vote because of disenchantment with the government’s promises. This explains a good part of the high level of voter apathy in the country. Thus, the total registered voters kept increasing from 2015 to date – 68 million in 2015, 82 million in 2019 and 94 million in 2023. But voter turnout had been on the downside with a drop from 44% in 2015 to 35% in 2019. It is almost certain that less than 50% of the 94 million registered voters would turn out at the polls on February 25.
On the 25th of February, the Presidential polls will hold together with that of the members of the National Assembly (Senators and Members of the House of Representatives) and all contestants are expected to work for their party in their constituencies. They usually mobilise voters, many of whom are party members and staunch supporters. Most of the registered voters who abstain from voting are the undecided voters who do not have strong party affiliations and often see no reason to take the trouble of going to the polls.
On the other hand, the power of State Governors always counts in giving presidential election victory to the party with majority states. In 2007, the PDP had 31 states and the ANPP had just 5 and the PDP grabbed the presidency. In 2011, PDP still controlled most states and Jonathan won. With the mass defection of governors from the ruling PDP to the newly formed APC in 2014, the PDP was left with only 15 states thereby losing the presidency despite its power of incumbency.
Today, the APC has 21 State Governors against the PDPs 14 and this stands to the advantage of Bola Tinubu. And then APC has a majority in the Senate with 66 Senators (the PDP has 38) and in the House of Representatives, the APC holds 227 seats and the PDP has 121. Contestants for the National Assembly posts would stand by their party and could not risk promoting another party at the polls. This still stands to the benefit of the ruling APC.
But then, there are numerous sentiments but nothing of the sort of euphoria that greeted Buhari’s emergence as a flag bearer of the newly formed and strong opposition APC in 2015. Apart from the excitement in the South West (Yoruba) to have their kinsman (Tinubu) in the Villa and the massive Igbo rally behind Peter Obi, voters in the north are not very enthusiastic of the election having been disappointed by the current APC government’s performance that cumulated in unprecedented economic hardships as well as current crises of petrol and cash shortages.
The PDP might loss traditional northern Christian votes that always goes to the PDP to the Labour Party for obvious reasons. The fielding of two Muslims on the APC ticket has already generated religious sentiments and the fact that Atiku is a northern Muslim left a lot of staunch opponents of the APCs composition with no option but to go for Obi – a Christian from the south.
Sentiments that could significantly influence Voters’ Decisions in the 2023 polls
Sentiments could never be removed from the motivations for voters’ decisions. People always have motives that are often more sentimental than rational and this is the glaring reality surrounding the 2023 electioneering activities. Below are some of the sentiments and how they would probably influence the outcome of the polls.
NORTH-SOUTH POWER SHIFT – There are sentiments over power shift between the North and South with many in the south feeling it is the turn of the south now after Buhari ruled for 8 years. This is an unwritten agreement in most political parties and there are a lot of people that feel this should be regarded in selecting flag-bearers for the presidency, the APC respected this and the PDP violated it. THIS WILL FAVOUR TINUBU
YORUBA – Yoruba have not ruled since Obasanjo who left office in 2011 and would not risk to miss out on the opportunity to rule the country again – THIS WILL FAVOUR TINUBU
RELIGIOUS (MUSLIM-MUSLIM) – Some Christians have protested against the APC’s decision to pick a northern Muslim as co-runner to a Muslim candidate and would opt for a Christian candidate in which case it is only Peter Obi now – THIS WILL FAVOUR PETER OBI
ANTI-BUHARI SENTIMENTS – The APC government of Buhari has loss all favour from Nigerians and current occurrences in the country is fanning anti APC sentiments – THIS WILL FAVOUR BOTH ATIKU AND OBI
IGBOLAND / IPOB FACTORS – The emergence of Peter Obi as a successful candidate on the Labour Party platform has robbed PDP of a traditional stronghold and IPOB sentiments in the region is likely to push a lot of igbo votes to the Labour Party and threats from IPOB might force a lot of voters in the region to remain at home – THIS WILL FAVOUR OBI AND REDUCE TRADITIONAL PDP VOTES
NORTHERN MUSLIM SENTIMENTS – The opposition of Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC by some Christian groups might push some Muslim hardliners to support the APC – THIS WILL FAVOUR TINUBU
STATE GOVERNORS AND INCUMBENCY – State Governors play crucial roles in delivering their states for presidential candidates and although the new methods adopted by INEC might make it impossible for governors to rig votes in favour of their candidates, we could not rule out the importance of having a state governors standing for a presidential candidate on Election Day. APC has 21 state Governors and a majority in the NASS whereas the PDP has 14 Governors and less members in the NASS (but 5 of them opposes Atiku and might work against him) The PDP has no guarantee of good votes from the G-5 Governors and just 10 days to the polls, governor Wike reiterated their opposition to Atiku and issued further threats (remember, Rivers has the highest number of registered voters in all PDP controlled states) – THIS CLEARLY FAVOURS TINUBU
CURRENT CRISES IN THE NATION (PETROL AND CASH SCARCITY) – It is now obvious that the CBN naira redesign and swap policy is a plot to set the nation on fire and anger the electorate to vote against the APC. But then, it hit early enough for the APC candidate to pass adequate message across the nation that he is staunchly against the move and that it was a ploy against his ambition. Save for people who
would decide to punish the APC for this, the vast majority of Nigerians know who is inflicting this hardship on them (the CBN governor and the anti-Tinubu cabal in the corridors of power). This will certainly be one of the factors that will promote voter apathy this year but it will not cost the ruling APC as much as the plotter expected.
Registered Voters and Ruling Party in the 36 States
ABIA ADAMAWA AKWA IBOM ANAMBRA BAUCHI BAYELSA BENUE BORNO CROSS -RIVER DELTA EBONYI EDO EKITI ENUGU GOMBE IMO JIGAWA KADUNA KANO KATSINA KEBBI KOGI KWARA LAGOS
TOTAL REG VOTERS
2,120,808 2,196,566 2,357,418 2,656,437 2,749,268 1,056,862 2,777,727 2,513,281 1,766,466 3,221,697 1,597,646 2,501,081 987,647 2,112,793 1,575,794 2,419,922 2,351,298 4,335,208 5,921,370 3,516,719 2,032,041
1,932,654 APC 1,695,927 APC 7,060,195 APC NASSARAWA 1,899,244 APC NIGER 2,698,344 APC OGUN 2,688,305 APC ONDO 1,991,344 APC OSUN 1,954,800 APC OYO 3,276,675 PDP PLATEAU 2,789,528 APC RIVERS 3,537,190 PDP SOKOTO 2,172,056 PDP TARABA 2,022,374 PDP
YOBE ZAMFARA FCT
1,485,146 1,926,870 1,570,307
TOTAL REGISTERED VOTERS PER GEO-POLITICAL ZONE AND PARTY INCLINATIONS
NORTHWEST – 22,255,562 Registered Voters
(Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi Sokoto and Zamfara)
States – 7
APC – 5
PDP – 1
The ruling APC has 5 Governors out of the 7 in the region and is therefore at advantage in the Northwest with the highest number of registered voters by region. Kano and Kaduna, both APC states, are among states with the highest number of registered voters and both governors are staunch promoters of Tinubu’s bid.
SOUTHWEST – 17,958,966 Registered Voters (Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun)
States – 6
APC – 4
PDP – 2
The Southwest is Yorubaland and there is every reasons to expect the Yoruba to vote overwhelmingly for the APC. Lagos has the highest registered voters in the country and the state is overwhelmingly for the APC. Labour Party will most probably come second because of the big population of igbo’s in the port city and their unrestrained support for Peter Obi.
NORTH-CENTRAL – 15,363,731 Registered Voters (Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger,
States – 7
APC – 6 PDP – 1
The ruling party has a majority of state governors in this region and the governor of Benue, the only PDP state in the region, belongs to the antagonistic G-5 governors who are obviously not going to work for Atiku Abubakar.
SOUTH-SOUTH – 14,440, 714 Registered Voters (Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Rivers) States – 6
APC – 1
PDP – 5
The South-South is traditional PDP region and the APC currently has only one governor there, but then, it has an ally in Rivers state (and Rivers state has the highest number of registered voters in the region) and if Wike can deliver votes for Tinubu, it will be a big blow to Atiku and give the APC at least the required 25% of the total votes. Peter Obi will grab some of the votes that usually goes to the PDP but is unlikely to get the required 25% in most of the states here.
NORTHEAST – 12,542,429 Registered Voters (Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Taraba, Bauchi, Gombe)
State – 6 APC – 3 PDP – 3
The northeast is home to PDP presidential Candidate Atiku Abubakar as well as the Vice Presidential candidate of the APC, Kashim Shettima and it is widely expected that Atiku will get substantial support in Adamawa while the APC will secure adequate votes from Borno, Yobe, Gombe and Bauchi States. Although Gombe and Bauchi are currently governed by
the PDP, the APC presidential candidate has a lot of allies in the region. As in most parts of the north, Labour party is expected to perform awfully low here as well.
SOUTHEAST – 10,907,606 Registered Voters (Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi, Anambra, Imo)
States – 5
APC – 2
PDP – 2 APGA – 1
Peter Obi of Labour Party will expectedly grab a lot of traditionally PDP votes from the Southeast because of widespread positive sentiment for 7
the igbo candidate. Notwithstanding this however, the APC has one state governor and its campaign in the region has shown possibility for substantial votes for the ruling party as well.
TOTAL REG VOTERS
2,120,808 2,196,566 2,357,418 2,749,268 1,056,862 2,777,727 1,766,466 3,221,697 1,597,646 2,112,793 2,172,056 3,276,675 3,537,190 2,022,374 500,000
TOTAL REG VOTERS
2,513,281 2,501,081 987,647 1,575,794 2,351,298 4,335,208 5,921,370 3,516,719 2,032,041 1,932,654
ABIA ADAMAWA AKWA IBOM BAUCHI BAYELSA BENUE CROSS -RIVER DELTA EBONYI ENUGU SOKOTO OYO RIVERS TARABA 1/3 OF FCT
BORNO EDO EKITI GOMBE JIGAWA KADUNA KANO KATSINA KEBBI KOGI
Atiku has a pool of 33 million votes in traditionally PDP strongholds in the south but the emergence of the Labour Party will definitely take at least 50% of votes from the PDP leaving Atiku with 17 million votes – plus 30% of what he might grab from traditional APC states (17 million votes) he has a pool of 33 million Votes minus votes of northern Christians for Obi might leave Atiku with 30 million
With 21 states ruled by the APC, Bola Tinubu has a pool of 56 million votes from APC governed states but the PDP might take about 30% of votes from traditional APC states leaving Tinubu with 40 million votes
1,695,927 7,060,195 1,899,244 2,698,344 2,688,305 1,991,344 1,954,800 2,789,528 2,419,922 1,485,146 1,926,870 500,000
LABOUR PARTY’S POOL
TOTAL REG VOTERS
KWARA LAGOS NASSARAWA NIGER OGUN ONDO OSUN PLATEAU IMO YOBE ZAMFARA 1/3 of FCT
ANAMBRA 1/3 of FCT
The Labour Party is not ruling in any states but APGA of Anambra State might turn to Peter Obi in the presidential poll and he could grab like 10 million votes from the south’s total votes pool and possibly 5 million from northern Christians offering him a pool of around 15 million registered voters.
Going by the above observations, Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the APC is the most likely winner and the election is obviously going to be very tight. Atiku has lost momentum after serially contesting and falling out of favours with prominent politicians across Nigeria including some PDP governors that are currently in power. And then the emergence of Peter Obi is a massive spoiler for Atiku’s traditional votes from the South South and South East.
Peter Obi of the Labour Party might perform better than many people anticipated and might outvote Atiku because of his sudden intrusion into traditional PDP states and the renewed hopes of the Igbo people as well as sentiments of some northern Christians opposed to the Muslim-Muslim
ticket of the APC and the refusal of the PDP to allow power to shift to the south. Obi however cannot get the required 25% of the total votes from 2/3 of the 36 states because his party does not have presence in these places, he does not have a single governor working for him and he is not popular in the north. His votes, no matter how huge, will be akin to the votes Buhari has been securing in the North in previous elections between 2003 and 2011.
These are my personal views and not based on any official documents or other people or organisations’ views and analyses.
Maiduguri, Borno State email@example.com