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Nigeria: Who will inherit President Buhari’s bloc vote in 2023?

By Chinedu Asadu
Posted on Friday, 21 May 2021 11:13, updated on Tuesday, 24 August 2021 11:26

President Muhammadu Buhari raises his fist during an inspection of honour guards on parade to mark Democracy Day in Abuja, on June 12, 2019
President Muhammadu Buhari raises his fist during an inspection of honour guards on parade to mark Democracy Day in Abuja, on June 12, 2019. Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari won a second and final term in office in 2019 courtesy of deep support from the northern part of the country, where he got 77% of the 15m votes he polled.
With preparations in full gear for the next presidential election in February 2023, the big question is: who will win the battle to inherit the Buhari bloc vote? Atiku Abubakar, Nasir el-Rufai, Bukola Saraki, Aminu Tambuwal and Bola Tinubu are all making a case.

The voting pattern in Nigeria’s recent elections points to the north as a major decider of how the outcome usually pans. Apart from having the higher number of voters (44.8m compared to the south’s 39.1m), northern Nigeria also has a more active voting population, according to data obtained from the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Data released just before the 2019 elections shows that the north-west and north-east geo-political zones recorded 44% and 41.7% turnout respectively, the highest in the election, while the south-south (28.9%) and south-east (26.1%) had far less turnout.

Who gets these votes in 2023?

Among the names that have been mentioned in political circles as favourites to inherit Buhari’s bloc vote – in the race to lead the world’s most populous black nation – is Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s vice-president from 1999 to 2007 under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), whose 16-year rule was ended by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015.

Like Buhari, Atiku – a multimillionaire entrepreneur – is a northern Muslim and has had a long-time presidential ambition which dates back to 1992 during the botched Third Republic. Since then, he has contested for president on four more occasions. Although he is yet to declare his intention to run again in 2023, his close associates – and his gestures – say his eyes remain on Aso Rock, Nigeria’s seat of power.

It is not going to be business as usual for the north because they have learnt their lessons from the experience with Buhari.

Atiku told The Africa Report that the state of affairs in Nigeria has become “far worse” than what it was before the 2019 elections and that he has “never been bothered about the future of our country more than I currently am.”