ANALYSIS: Presidential Election: How battleground states may be won and lost

Atiku Abubakar and Muhammadu Buhari
Atiku Abubakar and Muhammadu Buhari

While the economy remains a dominant factor for voters across the country, candidates are conscious of subtle peculiarities in battleground states.

The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, has been acting lately like a challenger who feels he has enough momentum to upset President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential election Saturday.

Judging from his recent campaign engagements, Mr Buhari almost seems to agree.

The president, who hesitated extensively before constituting his campaign committee, has been more aggressive in his campaigns of recent, holding two nationwide broadcasts in three days to restate his administration’s achievements and the need to expand them in another term.

Supporters of the president and the ruling All Progressives Congress have been attacking Mr Abubakar’s public service record, his alleged ties to foreign actors and immense personal wealth.

Mr Abubakar, meanwhile, has focused on amplifying his differences with the incumbent on several key economic, national security and social investment policies — which he strongly believes this campaign cycle should be about.

In an Internet broadcast on February 13, Mr Abubakar’s core message was urging Nigerians to troop out to vote, even if some of them intended to vote for someone else, an approach typically taken by front-runners to avoid rocking the polity in the crucial hours leading to the polls.

Mr Buhari’s aggression, which many see as unprecedented for a president that once embraced a taciturn label, appeared chiefly aimed at disillusioned supporters who might sit the election out, rather than at the sliver of potential voters of the opposition.

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Mr Abubakar is not the harmless, acceptable alternative he claims to be, Mr Buhari suggested in his nationwide broadcast on the night of February 14, adding that the people should not be in a hurry to forget the ‘uneventful’ 16 years under the PDP in lieu of his own government’s slow but steady improvement in national development.

The shift of the elections by one week (February 16 to 23) following logistic challenges that confronted INEC afforded the two front-runners to trade verbal punches once more.

Mr Buhari, as commander-in-chief, on Monday at the APC National Caucus meeting in Abuja, gave a matching order to the military and the police to deal “ruthlessly” with those who may consider snatching ballot boxes during the rescheduled poll.

For the visibly angry president, anybody caught snatching ballot boxes would risk his or her life.

This drew strong criticisms from Mr Abubakar who perceived the order as not only unconstitutional.

The former vice president said the Nigerian military “is constitutionally responsible for protecting our national integrity and its borders and has no role to play in the conduct of elections.”

With both candidates rounding off their campaigns last night, the battle on Saturday has now shifted to the 36 states of the federation, as well as the capital Abuja.

Before last Saturday’s postponement, both candidates initially wrapped up their campaigns in their respective home states. The president was in Katsina and Mr Abubakar was in Yola, the capital of his home state of Adamawa where he first declared presidential run in July 2018. Both candidates are voting in their home states.

PREMIUM TIMES identified Adamawa, Rivers, Katsina, Benue, Borno, Kano, Kwara, Imo, Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Ondo, Oyo and Jigawa as some potential battleground states and analysed some dominant factors which are likely to preoccupy voters’ minds as they head to the polling units in these states on Saturday morning.

Adamawa

In Adamawa, which was created in 1991, the PDP won all presidential contests, until 2015, since the return of civil rule in 1999. Other than Mr Buhari’s victory in 2015 when he won by about 123,000 votes, the results for PDP in four previous cycles were not close.

But the state was amongst the few outliers, including Benue that broke for Mr Buhari in 2015, after he had lost them in three preceding cycles.

Currently, Adamawa’s roughly 2.1 million registered voters, consisting of a massive Christian and Muslim population and being home to Mr Abubakar, make it a prime target for 2019 presidential campaigns. There are over 84 million voters across the federation with about 72.8 million of them eligible to vote after receiving their voters’ cards.

The familiar refrain, ‘lock down’ North East and North West, was echoed frequently amongst supporters of the president. During a television appearance last week, Mr Buhari’s campaign spokesperson, Festus Keyamo, said the president would pick Adamawa handily.

But the issues assailing Adamawa voters in this elections appear more webbed in the state’s polity than to expect a blowout for either candidate, according to political columnist Timawus Mathias.

Mr Mathias said voters here are still confronting most of the issues they were promised before giving their support for Mr Buhari in 2015.

The state was amongst the states rattled by Boko Haram insurgency in recent years. Although the military has made a noticeable improvement in Adamawa since 2015, with the state seeing fewer attacks than Borno State, there seemed to have been a sharp uptick in attacks in the weeks leading to the election.

Boko Haram has struck Madagali, a local government area on the state’s far north-east on the border with Borno State, repeatedly since January, including last week.

But the recent spate of attacks has “not dampened the people’s perception of the president as someone who helped cleared the remnants of Boko Haram in Madagali general area since 2015,” Mr Mathias said.

Relatedly, despite Adamawa’s long history of harbouring Christian and Muslim faithful in large numbers, the state has not been spared of sectarian violence, but the conflicts between farmers and herders have been more pronounced under Mr Buhari’s government and “not well handled by the president,” Mr Mathias said.

Whatever support Mr Buhari lacks from his imperfect handling of the pastoralists violence, however, the state governor’s popularity could make up for it, Mr Mathias said.

“Governor Jibrilla Bindow has constructed over 350 roads between 2015 and this year, and embarked on massive urban renewal of Yola,” Mr Mathias said. “He is easily the best governor we have ever had in this state.”

But the analyst sees Mr Abubakar having an edge over the president because he has been a great son of the state.

“President Buhari’s chances could be countered by a groundswell of support for Atiku Abubakar as a son of the state,” Mr Mathias said. “That he is the undisputed second-largest employer of labour after the government will tell on his political fortune Saturday.”

Small and large-scale farmers make up a large chunk of Adamawa’s workforce, but the state remained poor, ranking 24 out of 36 states in human development index as of 2016, according to the United Nations.

Mr Abubakar, Nigeria’s vice-president from 1999-2007, has invested heavily in multiple sectors in Adamawa State, including education, media and agriculture. The prestigious American University of Nigeria is here.

Although many are expected to vote based on ethnic and tribal sentiments, “hunger would play the largest role,” Mr Mathias said.

“The people love President Buhari’s seeming frugal and piety way of life, but what would have a telling impact at the polls is the very terrible economy that has made it difficult for people to afford a meal and medical care,” Mr Mathias said.

“Many voters are likely to remember Atiku Abubakar’s record of creating jobs even as a private citizen,” he added.

Aisha Buhari is also from Adamawa State, but it is difficult to tell whether or not that would have any impact on the results, especially since she has not personally visited the state to campaign for her husband.

“Aisha Buhari was not known until three years ago, which cannot be enough for her to build a potent political structure,” Mr Mathias said. “But an attempt to force her brother on the party to become governor over a popular Mr Bindow, together with how she has not even visited the state to campaign, may pose a negative impact on her husband.”

Katsina

In this North-west state, the presidential election is a straight battle between Mr  Buhari and Mr Abubakar.

Based on history and the observed mood of the people, Mr Buhari, who is from Katsina, will likely defeat Mr Abubakar.

The president never failed to win in his native Katsina the four times he ran for president and many are of the view that 2019 will not be different.

However, there are those who believe that Mr Abubakar may score the highest number of votes in Katsina compared to other candidates who ran against Mr Buhari.

Nuhu Daiwa, a resident of Katsina said although Mr Abubakar, a former vice president, is from Adamawa State, his second home is Katsina “because of his long affinity with the prominent Yar’adua family in Katsina.”

Also, Katsina had been governed by the PDP since 1999 and only lost to the APC in 2015. The party, therefore, still has strong membership in the state.

Akwa Ibom

Mr Buhari will have an impressive showing in Akwa Ibom, compared with his 2015 poor outing in the state.

The president, in the 2015 presidential election, had an abysmal showing in Akwa Ibom State which as at that time was indisputably a PDP enclave.

In that election, the then president, Goodluck Johnathan, had a landslide victory over Mr Buhari, with 953,304 votes against 58,411.

Mr Buhari is definitely not going to have such poor performance, again, in the state in the 2019 election.

The president may not defeat his main challenger, Mr Abubakar, but he will definitely score a much higher vote in the state not necessarily because the people of Akwa Ibom have any love for him or that they have bought into the policies and programmes of his administration, but because of the amalgam of political groups loyal to Godswill Akpabio, a former governor of the state; Nsima Ekere, the APC governorship candidate in the state; Umana Umana, the managing director, Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA); and John Udoedehe, a former minister.

Within the state, Mr Buhari is likely to have his highest number of votes from the North-West District where Mr Akpabio, a senator, holds sway.

Mr Ekere, the APC governorship candidate in the state, is also likely to use his political influence and reach to pull in some votes for Mr Buhari in Akwa Ibom South District, especially from the Ikot Abasi Federal Constituency, where he comes from.

Bassey Dan-Abia, a former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), is known to enjoy a great following in his Esit Eket Local Government Area and the Eket Federal Constituency, where the incumbent governor, Udom Emmanuel, comes from.

Mr Dan-Abia, together with Eseme Eyiboh, chairman of the board, Cross River Basin Development Authority, is expected to get a sizeable number of votes for the president right in Mr Emmanuel’s domain.

Mr Umana, Mr Udoedehe, and a presidential aide, Ita Enang, are also expected to pull in a reasonable amount of votes in Akwa Ibom North-East District for the president.

Overall, Akwa Ibom may be one of the South-South states where Mr Buhari will score over 25 per cent of votes.

Benue

Benue State, known as the food basket of the nation, is also one of the battlegrounds for the presidential elections.

The most possible outcome will be a close call between the two major candidates.

However, factors such as the defection of the state governor, Samuel Ortom, and other top government officials to PDP is expected to give the opposition candidate an edge over the incumbent.

Mr Ortom defected from the APC to PDP mid-2018 saying the party was no longer properly positioned to address the yearnings of Benue people.

His defection was not unconnected with a series of attacks from suspected herdsmen in some parts of the state that claimed scores of lives.

Some residents of Makurdi, the state capital, said the killings will be one of the reasons Mr Buhari may likely not get the kind of support he had in 2015.

The president in 2015 was able to defeat the then President Goodluck Jonathan in the state with a close margin of 373,961 to 303,737; an unprecedented victory for Mr Buhari in the history of the state.

Another factor in favour of the PDP candidate is the support by former Senate president, David Mark, who has large followership in the southern part of the state.

The PDP also had in its folds, big wigs like former Governor Gabriel Suswam, former Interior Minister, Abba Moro, and National Assembly members that defected to the party in 2018.

One factor that may likely favour Mr Buhari’s candidacy is the backlog of over five months salary owed the state government’s workers.

However, some indigenes of the state believe that due to the governor’s stance during the 2018 killings, his party may likely have the support of the people despite the unpaid salaries.

Mr Buhari also has the support of the former governor of the state, George Akume, who many regard as a godfather in Benue politics.

What is certain in the upcoming election is that the people of Benue State will definitely go to the poll on Saturday to vote based on past experiences or antecedents.

Borno

Borno State is a known political comfort zone of Mr Buhari. His winning chances outweigh that of his PDP counterpart, Atiku Abubakar.

It would be recalled that Mr Buhari defeated a sitting president, Goodluck Jonathan, by sweeping 94.4 per cent of the total valid votes cast in 2015.

Mr Buhari got 473,543 votes to beat 13 other presidential candidates including former president Goodluck Jonathan who got the second largest vote of 25,640, a paltry 5.1 per cent.

It is generally believed that Mr Abubakar may still have an uphill task undoing the Buhari cult followership in Borno, especially now that the former army general is a sitting president.

Besides, Buhari’s political investment in Borno State, especially in the area of appointments, has once again consolidated his winning chances.

Borno State has one of the largest representations in terms of top public officers in Buhari’s government.

The former military general had upon the assumption of office in 2015 appointed his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, from Borno State. So are the National Security Adviser, the minister of state for power, works and housing, the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai and the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.

Analysts are of the view that Borno has no option but to give their votes to Mr Buhari, who was ruled the state as a military governor, to have his second term.

On the flip side of public opinion, some analysts are of the strong view that Mr Abubakar’s whirlwind of rising popularity may dust off some of Mr Buhari’s acceptance in Borno, especially if the issue of poor management of the country’s economy is concerned.

Mr Abubakar’s presidential rally, which attracted just about a quarter of the crowd that attended Mr Buhari’s, is a strong indication that Borno may not be able to deliver the two million votes they promised the president at his rally.

The crowd that converged on Ramat Square for Mr Abubakar’s rally on February 6 was a big surprise even for his campaign team that had for long ruled out meaningful showing from Borno.

The stiff contest for the National Assembly seats in Borno State is also another factor that may affect the winning margin of Mr Buhari.

It is already being permutated that due to the fleet of strong PDP candidates that are challenging many of the APC candidates for National Assembly seat, the ruling party may lose some of its seats to the opposition.

And if that happens, it will go a long way in affecting the voting pattern, especially amongst the not-too-educated voters who would definitely be voting along party lines.

Barring all the odds, it is projected that even if Buhari would win the Borno poll, it may not be with the 94.4 per cent landslide victory of 2015. The best the president may garner is between 70 and 75 per cent.

Ondo

At the last count of votes on March 29, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari was declared to have scored the highest number of votes in Ondo State, to beat favoured candidate, Goodluck Jonathan.

The defeat was resounding, as the then incumbent PDP governor, Olusegun Mimiko, held sway and had campaigned vigorously, despite the crisis within his party.

The APC took the state by garnering 299,889 votes to beat the PDP to the second position with 251,368 of the total votes 582, 435 cast during the polls. The margin of victory was 48, 521 votes despite both parties winning an equal number of the 18 local governments in the state.

The APC took advantage of the division in the PDP which suffered a severe fracture following Mr Mimiko’s mismanagement of the internal crisis. The Buhari fever was also very endemic at the time, leaving nothing on its path as it swept through the entire landscape.

The APC maximised their voting strength in Akure South, Akure North, in the Central senatorial district, as well as all the Akokos and in Owo. For instance, the APC scored the largest number of votes in Akure South local government, with 50,411 against PDP which scored 18,125 votes.

However, the power balance has been tilted a little with the fact that Mr Buhari no longer enjoys the maximum popularity that he enjoyed in 2015 when he stood very tall above his contenders in the race for the presidency. He had promised to create jobs, fight corruption and end insurgency.

Voters in Ondo State are not sure if he had kept his promises and are dissatisfied with his performance. This is not the case with adherents of the party, who insist that there is no other candidate as good as the General. Now Ondo people have other alternatives such as the PDP, the Zenith Labour Party and the Action Alliance.

Even though the PDP’s campaign has not been profound, the citizens who are no longer happy about the performance of the APC, are likely to go back to the PDP.

The recent crisis within APC has also not helped its case in the run-up to the election. Some angry members pitched their tent with AA. Similar to Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun, the Ondo governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, has sympathies for his allies who jumped out of the boiling APC to AA to actualise their ambitions to secure seats at the National Assembly, while they are hoping to campaign for Mr Buhari.

However, the recent confusion over the endorsement by the AA party of both presidential candidates of the PDP and the APC may have thrown confusion in that alliance, as most of those who crossed the carpet to the AA were members of the APC and still have their roots there.

Mr Akeredolu’s tacit support for them has also resulted in a flurry of allegations across the two divides of the party’s faction in the state.

There was a last minute effort to unite the factions of the APC for the purpose of winning the presidential election. The arrangement would see the factions going into Saturday’s election in a united front and could return to the trenches after Saturday to slug it out on the grounds of their separate ambitions.

Mr Akeredolu will be out to prove himself a loyal party man. He will try to use Saturday’s election to relaunch himself within the circle of the presidency after a rough fight with the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and Bola Tinubu, an influential leader of the party. It is, however, not very clear if the PDP is about taking back what it held for so long.

The certainty is with the people. If they are allowed to vote according to their conscience and with little or no manipulation, the APC and Mr Buhari may as well kiss Ondo goodbye.

Imo

Although Imo is the only southeast state governed by APC, there are fears the ruling party might lose the state to its closest rival, the PDP in Saturday’s presidential poll. This is because of the internal crisis rocking the party in the state.

However, the picture will certainly not be a replication of 2015 scenario, where, out of the 702,964 valid votes, PDP, with the cooperation of APGA, garnered 559,185 votes for Goodluck Jonathan against APC’s President Buhari’s 133,253 votes.

The most possible outcome will be a close call as PDP is not also having an easy road into the heartland state.

PDP no longer enjoys the overwhelming support it had in 2015 in Imo due to the defection of its members to other parties.  Also, unlike in 2015 where PDP and APGA formed an alliance, the political ruckus in Imo makes such a possibility more difficult.

Besides the fact that APGA fielded a presidential candidate, John Gbor, the party’s governorship flag bearer in Imo, Ifeanyi Araraume, who left APC with his supporters is yet to openly or secretly declare support for either Mr Abukakar or Mr Buhari.

Again, many would have thought Mr Abubakar’s selection of Peter Obi, a former Anambra governor as his running mate, and their subsequent endorsement by Ohanaeze, the apex Igbo socio-cultural group, would stamp PDP’s victory in the five eastern states.

Both moves were however received with aloofness by leaders in the zone. Their grouse was that they were not notified before such decisions were taken.

This perception was nevertheless demystified at the PDP Southeast zonal rally, held in Owerri, the Imo State capital, a few weeks ago.

Aside the massive turnout of party supporters, big wigs in the zone, led by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and the three PDP southeast governors — David Umahi of Ebonyi, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu) and Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) including those from the host state, led by the gubernatorial candidate, Emeka Ihedioha were all present and declared for Atiku/Obi ticket.

On the other hand, the chances of Mr Buhari who enjoys the support of Imo governor, Rochas Okorocha, among many other state actors, is threatened by the unending fracas in Imo APC.

Imo APC was split into two factions over the choice of a governorship candidate. Mr Okorocha was backing his son in law, Uche Nwosu, but the party finally settled for Hope Uzodinma, a serving senator with the deputy governor, Eze Madumere, as his running mate.

With Mr Nwosu decamping to fly the flag of Action Alliance (AA), an auxiliary party formed by Mr Okorocha in 2005, Mr Buhari is left in a dilemma as both AA and APC endorsed his reelection bid.

During APC rally in Imo weeks ago, the president canvassed support for both his party’s candidate, Mr Uzodinma and Mr Okorocha’s candidate as he could not afford to lose the support of both warring groups.

What seems problematic is getting Mr Okorocha’s supporters and those of his opponents to work together and vote Mr Buhari.

Until it becomes certain how the estranged former political allies would relate at the presidential level, it will be difficult to be affirmative on Mr Buhari’s performance, come Saturday.

As it appears, this political conundrum will remain unravelled until Election Day.

What seems certain in Imo however is that Messrs Buhari and Atiku would rely on their individual strengths to win the state. Here, Atiku/Obi ticket seems more marketable as Mr Buhari does not have a good record and credentials in Imo and by extension across the Southeastern states.

Lagos

In Lagos State, the APC will have to put up a much stronger fight than they did four years ago if they are to retain their supremacy in the state.

In 2015, the party, then an opposition party, won by about 160,000 votes polling 792,460 votes to the PDP’s 632,327.

Now the ruling party in the centre, holding 99 per cent of all elective positions in the state, and with Bola Tinubu, the party’s supreme leader in the state, still actively calling the shots; the APC is expected to stretch their margin of victory against the PDP in this election.

However, the growing disenchantment of a lot of the prospective voters with the current government could play into the hands of the PDP. And, unlike in previous elections where the PDP hierarchy in the state is typically engulfed with infighting, there seems to be a remarkable shift this time around as party leaders appear to have shelved their differences for the unity of the party.

Going by events of the last major election in the state – the local council polls in 2017 – where voter intimidation in traditional PDP strongholds by APC thugs led to the latter making a clean sweep of all the 57 councils, the security agencies will have to roll up their sleeves because a push-back by the opposition will simply result in violence.

If the PDP succeeds in keeping – further reducing – the margin of defeat to the 2015 level, it will be considered a massive victory for the party.

Rivers

As numbers matter in elections, Rivers State would be of significance for the outcome of presidential poll holding on Saturday in Nigeria, Africa’s largest democracy.

Out of the 84,004,084 registered voters nationwide, Rivers State has 3,215,273, the highest in Nigeria’s South, after Lagos State. It also has the highest number of registered voters in the South-south who have collected their PVCs (2.83 million).

In Rivers, particularly, the odds are strongly in favour of Mr Abubakar of the PDP – but it may not be so in other demographically huge states, such as Lagos, Kano or Kaduna.

Historically, Mr Abubakar’s PDP has always won presidential and governorship elections in Rivers State since 1999. Even when the then sitting governor, Rotimi Amaechi, defected to the APC prior to 2015 elections, the PDP still won in 2015.

In the 2015 election, Mr Buhari polled an insignificant 69,238 votes against PDP’s 1.4 million votes, which for some moments in the course of the collation exercise, kept the hope of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid alive.

That election in Rivers was widely condemned and its result is most unlikely to re-occur this time around.

The Director-General of the Buhari campaign, Mr Amaechi, is an entrenched political figure in the state, which he led for eight years.

The state security instruments that worked for the PDP in 2015 are now likely to be of use to the APC, or at best they stay neutral.

Mr Buhari may also have gained some sympathy in the state following the flag-off of the Ogoni cleanup, an all-important long-awaited programme to restore the environment degraded following years of oil spillage in Ogoniland.

The multi-stakeholder engagement amid renewed attacks on oil and gas installations by the Niger Delta Avengers resulting in the return of “fragile peace” could also help the APC’s fortune in the state.

Even so, the election is Rivers State is for PDP to lose.

APC is vying with only Mr Buhari as the candidate in Rivers State. For both the senatorial and the House of Representatives elections holding alongside the presidential election on Saturday, the APC has no candidates. The level of mobilisation may, therefore, be low. It would have been a different case if local actors in APC are also on the ballots canvassing sweeping support for both themselves and Mr Buhari.

Also, Mr Abubakar’s core campaign vow to restructure Nigeria to grant states more powers over resources and greater responsibilities appeals to the Niger Delta region of which Rivers State is a key part. The oil-abundant region is long drawn in agitations for resource control and more development.

In any case, Mr Amaechi would be mobilising actions as the DG of the Buhari campaign. Regardless of the odds against it, APC understands it needs a good share of votes in Rivers to consolidate its wins in its areas strength, especially the Northwest.

Kano

Kano has been the major political base of President Muhammad Buhari of the APC since 2003 when he joined politics and contested for president under All People Party (APP) against the then President Olusegun Obasanjo of (PDP). Mr Buhari has consistently won Kano in all the previous presidential elections (2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015).

Mr Buhari’s major strength apart from his widely perceived integrity is the sustainable peace enjoyed in Kano since he ascended the presidency. The incessant Boko Haram attacks that crippled economic and social activities in Kano have become history.

Another strength of Mr Buhari in Kano that may increase his chances this time is the infrastructural development embarked by his administration. Some are the resumption of rail transportation from Kano to Lagos, construction of Kano to Maiduguri and Kano to Katsina dual carriage roads as well as reconstruction of Kano to Abuja road.

The appointment of some notable Kano citizens into some strategic positions may also play a role in voting pattern in the presidential election. Prominent among the appointees are Minister of Internal Affairs, Abdulrahman Dambazau, the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, and the Acting Director of SSS.

One major thing that may count against Mr Buhari in Kano is the increasing cost of living which led to the collapse of many businesses and small and medium enterprises.

Many people accuse him of ignoring his political base in the first two years of his administration. They blame him for not visiting to sympathise with traders when some parts of Sabongari and Singer markets were razed by fire incidences.

He is also accused of not reciprocating the friendship of his late friend, Mukhtar Muhammad, who refused to join Babangida’s administration and resigned from military after the 1983 military coup.

Mr Muhammad supported the presidential bid of Mr Buhari from 2003-2015, but the president did not attend his funeral nor pay a condolence visit to his family in Kano. He is also accused of meting the same treatment the Danmasanin Kano, Yusuf Maitama Sule.

Some people believe Mr Buhari has not given Kano the share it deserves, both in infrastructure and federal appointment. It is widely discussed in local radio stations that Lagos State and the South-west enjoy more infrastructure and federal appointment than Kano and Northwest geopolitical region.

According to some people, Mr Buhari has performed below expectation especially on the economy and the fight against corruption. To many residents of Kano, they expected the president to fight corruption with iron fists, unlike what is happening where only perceived political opponents are investigated and prosecuted.

Some staunch loyalists of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and former governor Ibrahim Shekarau may not vote Mr Buhari in protest to utterances of some Buhari’s associates in Kano who directed their supporters to vote for candidates of another party in governorship and national assembly election.

Although Mr Buhari has a better chance of winning Kano on Saturday, he may not win with wide margin as in previous elections. The ethnic and religious appeals that played in his favour during his contests with former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan have been relegated to the background because both Messrs Buhari and Abubakar are from Northern Nigeria and have identified themselves as Fulani.

If some PDP supporters vote for Mr Buhari as in previous elections, he may likely get 65-70 per cent of the total votes.

Mr Abubakar will definitely perform better than other candidates of the party who contested against Mr Buhari in previous elections. The major strength of the PDP candidate is the support of former Kano governor, Rabi’u Kwankwaso.

Mr Abubakar’s meeting with traders and manufacturers during his campaign visit to Kano may earn him the support of many traders more especially those who are not satisfied with the federal government’s policy of banning the importation of rice through land borders and high rate of foreign exchange.

The perception of some people is Mr Abubakar is more competent and experienced than Mr Buhari in terms of economy, especially in view of his success in business. The common belief is that he has the capability to transform Nigeria’s economy with his economic expertise.

The major weakness of Mr Abubakar is the perception of many that he is a corrupt politician who wants power to enrich himself and his friends. His insistence that he would privatise NNPC is widely believed to be another ploy of syphoning public resources.

Similarly, his stand on the issue of restructuring Nigeria may likely make Kano voters be sceptical and not endorse his presidential ambition.

While Mr Buhari is thus expected to win the state, Mr Abubakar is largely expected to cross the 25 per cent threshold.

Kwara

“O to ge!”––a Yoruba catchphrase translated literally as “Enough is Enough!”–– is by far the commonest lingo in the mouths of politically conscious people in Kwara State as preparations for the general elections reach its crescendo. It is the campaign slogan of chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and supporters of AbdulRazaq AbdulRahaman, the party’s gubernatorial candidate in Kwara State.

“It is our people’s way of saying ‘no’ to (Bukola) Saraki’s reign in Kwara,” Saliu, an Okada rider in Garin-Alimi area of the state capital, told PREMIUM TIMES.

According to the 32-year-old, the widespread acceptance of the catchphrase signals the looming defeat of Senate President Bukola Saraki and other aspirants under the banner of his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

That catchphrase has been countered by “O tun ya!”––again another Yoruba street lingo translated loosely as “Let’s do it once again!”  Proponents of the new catchphrase argue that Mr Saraki should be supported, alongside other aspirants of the PDP in the elections slated for Saturday.

“Saraki is the leader and we will support him with our might,” Babamale Habeeb, a commuter told PREMIUM TIMES. “Buhari failed us. There is mass poverty in the land. We will not vote him; we will vote Atiku on Saturday,” he added.

While the general feeling around the state is reflective of the people’s anticipated support for their preferred local politicians, checks by this newspaper revealed that the trend would significantly determine the fate of the two leading presidential aspirants. While supporters of the APC in the state have largely thrown their weight behind President Muhammadu Buhari, those of the PDP are for Atiku Abubakar.

Oyo

Oyo State is divided into five geopolitical zones of Ibadan, Oyo, Ibarapa, Oke Ogun and Ogbomoso.

The state has 5,580,894 people according to the 2006 census while the number of registered voters who have their PVCs stands at 2,176,352.

The battle in Oyo is also expected to be between Messrs Buhari and Abubakar.

Though, there are indications that candidates of other political parties, especially those that have presence in the state, like ADC, NIP, ADP will also have some votes, it is believed that Mr Buhari being the sitting president and Mr Abubakar who served as vice president between 1999 and 2007, will record the highest votes. This is because both candidates are more popular.

In the 2015 election, Mr Buhari of APC secured 528,620 out of the 928, 606 votes while former President Goodluck Jonathan of PDP who was the sitting president scored 303, 376 votes in the state.

In Saturday’s election, Mr Buhari is expected to have the bulk of his votes coming from APC members as well as others who believe that he has performed well in his first term, while Mr Abubakar of PDP will have his votes from his party members and members of other opposition parties.

Some of the residents of the state who are of the opinion that Mr Buhari has performed well said the president will record the highest number of votes, while those who say Mr Abubakar is the candidate to beat, said the former vice president will capitalise on Mr Buhari’s waning popularity and his inability to fulfil some of his campaign promises to defeat him (Buhari).

Even so, it is difficult to predict who between the two will grab the highest number of votes in the state.

Rahman Akinoso, a professor of Food Technology at the University of Ibadan, while commenting said Mr Buhari remains the candidate to beat by considering his integrity and commitment to good governance.

“I will vote Buhari because of integrity and commitment to good governance. I am of the opinion that nothing can be achieved in term of development if corruption persists. Thus, I want a leader that tackles corruption,” he said.

A Public Affairs Analyst, Sunday Agboluaje, who said that he would vote for Kingsley Moghalu of Young Progressive Party (YPP) for his ideological clarity on issues of development, however, insisted that Mr Buhari will still have the highest number of votes in the state.

“I will vote for Professor Kingsley Moghalu of Young Progressive Party for his ideological clarity on issues of development,” Mr Agboluaje told PREMIUM TIMES.

“In Oyo State, at the presidential level, President Muhammadu Buhari will have the highest number of votes because of the power of incumbency and strong political structures of APC and influence of the Alaafin of Oyo. But for the governorship, African Democratic Congress (ADC) will have the highest number of votes.

But Richard Israel argues that Mr Abubakar will win in the state because Mr Buhari has lost his popularity.

“Going by the reception of events and happenings, I will say, Buhari’s victory is not certain as it’s claimed. The result would not be short of surprises.”

Jigawa

The presidential election in Jigawa State, like other states, would be between the ruling APC and the main opposition party, PDP.

There are factors that would influence the outcome of the election in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari in the state,

Some of the factors are the incumbency advantage, gale of defection, the achievements of the present administration in the state and the candidate’s personality profile in the eyes of down trodden masses.

Clearly, the incumbency factor will give the president an added advantage.

During his first term, 11,603 youth were employed under the N-Power scheme in Jigawa. The beneficiaries are spread across the state and they may likely be the foot soldiers of the president during the election.

Also, part of the Social Investment Programme, the school feeding programme in Jigawa got 4112 cooks employment and some 726,033 pupils from primary one to three are being fed daily across the state.

Also under the conditional cash transfer, there are 40,000 poor people in nine selected local government councils in the state that are benefiting from the scheme with N5,000 monthly. About 30,000 petty traders have received the Tradermoni loan in the state.

Also, Mr Buhari has revived the Hadejia Irrigation Valley. The project, which was initiated around 1981 and 1982, was abandoned due to poor funding.

Farmers in the state are happy with the revival of the project as well as the ban on rice importation into the country by the APC administration.

In Jigawa, even the opposition politicians are very tactful in criticising Mr Buhari because of the grassroots support of the president. APC politicians at the local level ride on the popularity of the president to get support.

Governor Mohammed Badaru throughout his campaign tour spoke more of the president than his achievements in the last four years. In every campaign speech, Mr Badaru delivered special messages claiming that they were from the president. The messages were well received with thunderous cheering from the crowd.

The huge crowd that thronged Mallam Aminu Kano Triangle in Dutse for Mr Buhari’s presidential rally is an indication of his popularity in the state. Analysts say it is the biggest political gathering ever in the state.

The politics of Jigawa State is always a one-way traffic with prominent politicians siding with the government in power. In recent times, about seven commissioners who served under PDP regime defected to APC. However, the defection can only help the APC in subsequent elections.

Mr Abubakar, on his part, is having the support of former governor of the state, Sule Lamido, and some APC members.

Mr Abubakar’s mother was from Jigawar Sarki, a village in Dutse Local Government of Jigawa State before her family migrated to Adamawa State where the PDP flag bearer was born. The PDP candidate may have the sympathy of voters in Dutse Local Government Area because of the roots of his late mother.

Also, Mr Lamido is still relevant in Jigawa politics and many might vote for Mr Abubakar because of his influence.

Nevertheless, Mr Buhari could win 70 to 75 per cent of votes to be cast in the state because he enjoys the support of not only APC members but across all the political party.

Kaduna

Interestingly, Kaduna is divided along geographical, party and religious lines.

With the southern and northern parts of the state segregated by the River Kaduna, residents of the latter, mostly Muslims pitch their tents with the APC while their counterparts in the South, predominantly Christians, want the PDP at the federal level.

“The atmosphere is tense,” Ibrahim Kurfi, a motorcyclist residing in Ungwa Seriki says “Insha Allahu, I and my family will vote for APC and Buhari is definitely going to win this election.”

Same was the position of Hajia Mariam, who owns a provision store in Kawo and another trader who simply identified himself as Ibrahim.  “Four plus four equals to eight,” Ibrahim added to emphasise his sentiment.

The reverse was the case for residents of Sabo, Romi and Command Secondary School area interviewed by PREMIUM TIMES.

Stella Ibeh, a make-up artist in Romi has been having less patronage compared to her previous business under the PDP government.

“I enjoyed myself when Yero was there (referring to former Kaduna Governor, Ramalan Yero) but things are hard now. I have my PVC and I will vote for PDP in all elections,” she said.

Kehinde Adedokun, an artisan, will vote for Abubakar based on his business acumen.

“Actually I’m going to vote Atiku. He has been there before, he’s a businessman and he knows what he’s doing. The present government has been fighting corruption we all know, but let’s give it to someone who can fight poverty for us,” he said

Meanwhile, some residents have already been disenfranchised due to their inability to secure their PVCs. “I applied for transfer since five months ago, from Adamawa to Kaduna, they tell me it’s not ready every time I go there,” one of them, Samuel Olaitan, a graduate of Adamawa State University, Yola said.

The antecedent and prediction

In 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari garnered 15,424,921 to beat his closest rival and then incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan who polled 12,853,162.

A bulk of Mr Buhari’s vote came from Kaduna.

While Mr Buhari polled 1,127,760, Mr Jonathan managed 484,085, less than half of his opponent’s total. This was different from what obtained before.

Prior to 2015, Kaduna was a PDP state from the return to democratic rule in 1999.

Though considered a battle ground state, the mood and politicking in Kaduna suggest that Mr Buhari will carry the day.

Majority of the people in the northern part of the state including Zaria, Kawo, Konfanin Zango and others are expected to vote for him while the southerners will certainly give Mr Abubakar a bulk of their votes.

Overall, Mr Buhari is expected to win in Kadauna, although the margin will definitely be much lower than in 2015.

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