2-horse race

Nigeria 2023: Will the election follow the 2019 poll pattern?

By Ben Ezeamalu

Posted on January 30, 2023 11:15

The 2019 presidential election in Nigeria was a two-horse race between President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party.

President Buhari eventually polled 15.2 million votes to defeat Atiku, who got 11.3 million.

Traditionally, the Nigerian electorate’s voting pattern is along religious, ethnic, and regional lines.

Ahead of the election, the permutations placed Buhari, who is from Katsina in the north-west, to win majority votes in the north over Atiku, who is from Adamawa in the north-east.

Since he made his debut on Nigeria’s presidential election scene in 2003, Buhari has always won a huge chunk of the northern votes.

But in 2019, Buhari faced stiff opposition in Atiku. Both of them are from the north, Fulani, and Muslims. So it became a question of “what will be the margin of victory” for the president, particularly given that Atiku’s PDP traditionally puts up a good show in the southern states.

As expected, Buhari won most of the northern states except the north-central states of Benue and Plateau, and the north-eastern state of Taraba. The three states are among the predominantly Christian-populated states in the north.

The four other north-central states – Niger, Bauchi, Nasarawa, and Kogi – are also seen as battleground states. The first three are heavily Muslim-dominated while Kogi is slightly Muslim-dominated.

Buhari lost in Atiku’s home state, Adamawa, albeit narrowly, polling 47% of the votes against the former vice president’s 51%.

Conversely, in Buhari’s Katsina State, the APC won 79% of the votes against Atiku’s PDP 20%.

But the APC won most convincingly in Borno and Yobe states in the north-east, where they got 91% and 89% respectively, against Atiku’s 8% and 9% respectively. Four years earlier, against a southern Christian opposition who was an incumbent, Buhari had won 94% of the votes in the two states.

In the seven states in the northwest – Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, and Zamfara – the APC won convincingly in all. The party got 5.5 million votes (72%) while the PDP polled 2.3 million (28%).

The PDP is hugely popular in southern Nigeria, which has a predominantly Christian population, and has won most of the states in the zone, particularly in the southeast and south-south regions, since 1999.

In 2019, the party won all the states in the two regions, amassing 81% of south-eastern votes against the APC’s 19%.

In the south-south, the PDP polled 68% while the APC got 32%. However, the total number of votes in these two regions is the lowest in the country. As a result, the wide margin of victory notwithstanding, the PDP’s win in the regions did little to neutralise the heavy defeat in the north.

For the APC, the south-east Anambra State was a nightmare result.

In the 2015 presidential election, the party suffered its heaviest defeat there, barely scraping 0.01% of the votes against the PDP’s 99% (it even got more percentage of votes in the PDP candidate’s home state). Although the ruling party’s fortunes in the state improved in 2019, it got its least percentage of votes (5.5%) there.

Perhaps no surprise, the former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, who used to be in the PDP, has launched his own campaign to take the presidency, at the helm of the Labour Party.

The battleground of the south is the southwest region, populated by Yorubas and having a sizable number of Christians and Muslims.

In the 2019 presidential election, the PDP won in Ondo and Oyo while the APC emerged victorious in Lagos, Ogun, Osun, and Ekiti. However, the region’s votes were almost equally split, 53%-47% in favour of the APC, the lowest margin in all the six regions.

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