Nigeria’s Presidential election is nine days away. Thirty one candidates are on the ballot. Arms are twisted and people hounded daily. Money splurged hourly. Mean utterances spewed per second. Blatant and brutish lies told regularly. That’s what Nigerian politicians and their foot soldiers do, with relish. Everybody wants to control the Giant of Africa from Abuja. We are promised regal walks in El Dorado where there will be no more pain and suffering. These men and women have vowed to bring heaven in collision with the earth at a cloying intersection where Nigerians will all be happy forever-after.
Out of the 31, however, only two stand out and strong. They are sitting President Muhammadu Buhari, and arch-challenger, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. They are both Fulani. They are both cow business owners. And they are both fervent Muslims. The hoopla about Islamisation has suddenly simmered. It’s no longer a convincing concoction. The noise about Buhari as the arrowhead of rampaging herdsmen has whittled down. It is no longer a believable fable. Buhari holds the broom for the APC; Atiku takes cover under the umbrella. One of these men will win next week’s election.
The 70-year-old Atiku is a stupendously rich man. Many close to the Turaki of Adamawa tell us he is a good and generous human being, and I believe them. Atiku was the VP from 1999 to 2007. In the annals of Nigerian political history, he was literally in the forefront of many economic policy decisions in the country. Ironically, without one conviction, the man from Adamawa is perceived a ruthlessly corrupt man; and he is unable to shake off this perception. And perception is everything. That is Atiku’s Achilles heels in this election.
Buhari standing at over six feet is a bony, bold, venturous, and venturesome retired army general. The former platoon leader, former military governor, former head of sumptuous petroleum parastatals, and former military Head of State and Commander-In-Chief of Nigerian Armed Forces is globally adjudged a man of unquestionable integrity who loathes corruption. Buhari moves the minds of many Nigerians who believe that he is a walking, living truth, rock-solid sincerity, a tower of integrity and decency, and the tonic and analeptic a sick nation like Nigeria needs at this time.
Outside of Nigeria, many who keep close watch on Nigerian politics believe this election will favour the incumbent president. Alex Thurston is Assistant Professor of Teaching in the African Studies Programme at the Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He wrote these words about the election in his opinion I read recently: “He is often tagged as an aloof, slow-moving executive with a narrow and insular coterie of advisers, and he has fallen short of the promises that won him the presidency four years ago… Buhari is still the favourite because of his party’s continued strength in its strongholds in northern and southwestern Nigeria, along with the considerable advantages of incumbency and some specific liabilities of Abubakar”. Thurston must be a good student of basic mathematics. Politics is a game of numbers; not anger. It is about mathematics, not mouthedness. The mathematics of the coming elections as it stands today is clearly in favour of Buhari.
Let’s check this out. According to the Independent National Electoral Commission, a total of 84,271,832 Nigerians are registered to vote. Spread out the chart into regions, the picture of the strength of each candidate becomes crispy clearer. The North-West currently has the highest number of registered voters at 20,158,100. The states the President had always won with ease in past elections when he had no men and means are clustered in this region. They are Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Jigawa, Zamfara. Except for Kaduna which Buhari lost in a close shave once, in others, he is god! The President holds sway and swagger here.
The North-Central has 13,366,070 registered voters. There is no doubt that Atiku has an edge in this region with Benue and Plateau in close play. States where Buhari has traditionally fallen short are situated in this region. Whatever happens in the region will not change the overall dynamics. I will be watching returns from Kwara State very closely. Will those who salivate that Senate President Bukola Saraki breathe his last politically have their wishes granted? The North-East region has 11,289,293 voters. I predict a split with Buhari a slight edge. Adamawa State is Atiku’s home. Hopefully, they will not disgrace their son. But by the time results are coming in from Bauchi, Borno, and Yobe, all Buhari strongholds, anything can happen. There may be gnashing of teeth for Atiku.
The South-West region comes second with the highest number of voters at 16,292,212. The APC governors control all the states. Local governments are in the claws of the ruling party. Lawmakers from this region hold on to the broom, except a miniscule few. More than that, the Vice President of the Federal Republic, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, hails from here. The enthusiasm in this region is unbelievable. Nigerians here believe that Mr. President has done so much with so little in less than four years in office, and they are determined to reward him. Buhari is not a perfect being, and who is? But Mr. President has corrected some of the systemic imperfections uploaded on the polity by scavengers and hyaenas whose ways of life are in romance with reckless and gruesome stealing.
The railway system which is now roaring back to life is a biggie for people in this region. Money spent so far is less than the $2.4bn once budgeted for security and shared by a few people who were once privileged to be in power. I can comfortably predict that Atiku will not obtain more than 30% in ANY of the South-West states.
The South-South has 12,841,279 registered voters. This is one of Atiku’s lovey-dovey comfortable terrain. I expect no shock in Rivers State, but other states here are in play. Senator Godswill Akpabio is the toast of his people in Akwa Ibom. I will not be surprised if Atiku’s train derails here. Former Edo governor and the APC chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, is not folding his arms. Edo people are keeping their state in Buhari’s column. Usually, where the South-West goes politically, Edo goes.
If Atiku desires to sleep with his two eyes closed, it’s because of the support he’ll get from the South-East. The region has the lowest number of voters; 10,057,130. This is the best path Atiku has to the Presidency. His Vice-Presidential candidate, Peter Obi, is from the South-East. Obi as governor made landmark achievements that are still spoken about till today. But, there is no love lost between South-Easterners and President Buhari. Atiku will shake the table here.
In 2003, when he ran under the Congress for Progressive Change with no support on the ground, and no formidable structures in place, Buhari comfortably won in 10 northern states: Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe, Gombe, and Zamfara. In 2007, he kept all the 10 states and added Kaduna and Niger which he lost to Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003. In the 2015 election season, Buhari held on to these states; and then enlarged the tent of captured states with an alliance with the Action Congress of Nigeria in the South-West, and he became President.
It is interesting to note that top four states with the highest number of voters are all comfortable Buhari strongholds. They are Lagos- six million voters; Kano, over five million; Kaduna, almost four million; Katsina, over three million voters.
Momentum is a stratospheric movement of the moment. In Physics, it is real; in politics, it is a metaphor. On whose side is the momentum as of today? Without a shred of doubt, it is in the incumbent President Buhari’s favour.