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Between Jonathan, Buhari, Others: Election like never before


Ahead of the March 28 presidential election, the political atmosphere appeared tensed as the two major political parties namely Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) and their candidates make a last minute push for victory in the poll.

There is no doubt that the shift in the initial date for the poll has provided ample opportunity for the electoral umpire INEC to make adequate preparation, and the presidential candidates to re-strategize on their approach, alignment and negotiation. Within this period, President Jonathan apart from the successful ongoing onslaught against the Boko Haram insurgents in the Northeast region, has approved certain policies, he believes will earn him more votes from Nigerians.

His government has with the period of the shift reduced the price of fuel by N10, approved the slash of power tarrif by 50 per cent. The president has consulted and interfaced with different groups especially in the Southwest region which many see as the battleground for the election. He has promised full implementation of the recommendations of the Confab report if re-elected into office. Obviously, the president, and his foot soldiers are leaving no stone unturned in the battle for votes, especially in the Southwest region that is the stronghold of the major opposition party.

On the hand, the presidential candidate of the APC, General Muhammad Buhari (rtd) and his supporters are also not resting on their oars since the poll was shifted. Apart from his visit to Chatham House London to deliver lecture and interact with the international communities, he has engaged in town hall meetings with different groups across the country. Upon return from the oversea trip, Buhari debunked the rumour that he was sick and had visited London for medical treatment.

Election like never before

SINCE 1999, Nigerians have not witnessed a presidential poll that its prelude has generated much controversy, hate campaigns, tensed atmosphere, intrigues, scheming, blackmail, mudslinging, allegations, divisiveness, bad blood, threats, inflammatory and unguarded utterances, propaganda like the forthcoming poll which many see as a tight race between the two top contenders namely President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The contenders, the pretenders

JUST like previous general elections, events and campaign rallies so far have shown that this year’s presidential election has more pretenders than contenders.

Out of the 14 presidential candidates, only two namely Jonathan of the PDP and Buhari of the APC appeared to be serious and ready for the contest. They have traversed the length and breath of the country selling their party manifestoes and soliciting for votes. Their activities have dominated the country’s political space for the past months. They have virtually taken over all the media spaces both in the print and electronic media trying to outwit each other in game of propaganda and razzmatazz.

Other candidates appear to be lacking not only in finance, but strategy and support to carry out their campaigns. Their presence in the political space has not gone beyond being shortlisted by INEC as presidential candidates with the exception of Okorie and Sonaiya that have shown some level of seriousness in their campaigns. Most of the candidates do not have functional party offices talk more of campaign offices.

Majority of them have by their actions and body languages shown that they are nothing, but lackeys or allies of the two major presidential candidates namely Buhari and Jonathan. They have been aligning, and re-aligning with them on several topical pre-election issues, hoping that if they win, they will be compensated with appointments or contracts. The trend is not new in the country for it has been part and parcel of the political activities since 1999. Immediately after the poll, the pretenders in the race will faze out.

Factors That May Determine Poll

AS it is now, the presidential election will be a two-horse race between President Jonathan of PDP and General Buhari of APC. Several factors will determine the outcome of the poll. This will include voters’ population, power of incumbency, religion, ethnicity, party platform, financial strength, personalities involved, power struggle between the North and South and others.

With the Voters Register released by the INEC for the 2015 elections, it is crystal clear that the battleground for votes by the two major candidates will be in the Northwest and Southwest zones. Northwest which comprises of mostly PDP States namely Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara has the highest number of voters: 18,900,543.

Many see the zone as Buhari’s stronghold having hail from Katsina, but spent most of his life in Kaduna. Also from the zone precisely Kaduna is Jonathan’s vice, Arch. Namadi Sambo.

With PDP in control of Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, and Jigawa leaving APC with Sokoto, Kano and Zamfara, votes will be keenly contested in the zone. But with the massive support Buhari enjoys in North now like never before, it is expected that he may have an edge ahead of Jonathan in the zone, unless the voters decide otherwise dying minute. It is going to be fight to finish for APC and PDP in the zone.

It has been observed in recent time that there has been mass defection of PDP supporters in the zone to the APC, just as APC supporters have also moved to the PDP. While the likes of former governor of Kebbi, Senator Adamu Aliero, Mallam Uba Sani and others have defected from the PDP to the APC. Former governor of Kano State and Minister of Education, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau and former governor of Sokoto, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa have moved from APC to the PDP. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal and his predecessor, Alhaji Umar Ghali N’abba had also defected from the PDP to the APC. Tambuwal is the APC governorship candidate in Sokoto.

From the INEC Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) collection record so far, the Northwest zone has the highest rate of collection. Religiously most voters in the zone are predominantly Muslims.

In the Northeast states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe are 10,038,119 voters, insecurity will definitely rob Buhari and Jonathan of votes in the zone, considering that many voters have been displaced by the Boko Haram insurgents. States that are not greatly affected by the insurgency in the zone and are under the control of PDP are Taraba, Gombe, and Bauchi States.

With the recent successful onslaught against the insurgents in the area by the military, PDP may garner sympathy votes in the region if polls are not shifted there as being speculated.

Another source of worry for the PDP in the zone is the crisis of confidence in Bauchi State chapter of the party which has pitched the State governor Mallam Isa Yuguda against the Minister of FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed.

Also the recent alleged frosty relationship between the Presidency, and the national chairman of the party and former governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Adamu Muazu over the unguarded verbal attack on the North by the President’s wife, if not well handled might affect the party’s fortune in the zone during the poll. Apart from Taraba, other states in the zone are predominantly Muslims. There will be intense battle for votes by the two major candidates in the zone.

The North Central zone mostly controlled by the PDP has 7,675,367 voters. Just like Northeast zone, some PDP big wigs in the zone such as deputy governor of Niger State, Ahmed Musa Ibeto and some House of Assembly members have defected to the APC. The states in the zone include Nassarawa, Niger, Kwara, Benue, Plateau, Kogi and by extension Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja. APC controls Nassarawa and Kwara, while the PDP controls the remaining four states.

Many believe votes may be shared 50-50 in this zone as APC may like win Nassarawa, Kwara and Niger leaving PDP with the other three states. Opposition has always win Niger state in recent presidential elections in the country. The recent political development in the state is a pointer that history may repeat itself.

In the Southwest zone with the second highest number of voters 14,298,356, Buhari and Jonathan will battle for votes because the zone appears to be the decider of the outcome of the poll. It is the beautiful bride that is being court seriously by the ruling party, and the major opposition party.

The importance of the zone cannot be underestimated by the two major political parties in the race. It is the traditional stronghold of the APC for long now. Besides, Buhari’s running mate, a renowned legal expert and senior pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is from the zone.

Many believe that the choice of Osibanjo coupled with his religious background will sway votes for Buhari in the zone. Apart from this, the zone is seen as the political stronghold of the APC. Many see this an added advantage for Buhari all things being equal. But PDP has also made a serious political in-road into zone with President Jonathan’s recent assurance that he will implement the recommendations of the National Confab if re-elected.

The ongoing construction of Lagos-Ibadan expressway is another milestone of the PDP in the zone. There is no doubt that the people of the zone has their grudges against the PDP for neglecting them in terms of their due share in the Jonathan’s presidency in the last four years.

One thing that may work against the party in the zone is former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s frosty relationship with President Jonathan. Ahead of the poll, Obasanjo has not launched consistent attack on Jonathan’s presidency and the PDP, he has publicly denounced his membership of the party by tearing his membership of the party. Obasanjo has openly campaigned and fraternized with some APC stalwarts in recent times.

Jonathan and the PDP really understand the implication of Obasanjo’s action and the strength of the opposition in the zone. That is why they are busy trying to netrualise Obasanjo and APC political relevance in the zone ahead of the poll. It can be observed that the President Jonathan and his strategists have spent more days in the zone than any other zone in the country in the recent times.

It is widely believed that whosoever wins the zone may definitely emerge the winner of the poll. Major targets of the PDP in the zone especially in Lagos are non-indigenes and aggrieved Yorubas who are disenchanted with Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s strong political grip on the zone.

Among President Jonathan’s strategists in the zone are the governors of Ekiti, Ayodele Fayose, his Ondo counterpart, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, Senator Musliu Obanikoro, Chief Buruji Kashamu, Chief Olabode George and others. PDP is in control of two states in the zone namely Ekiti and Ondo while the rest four is controlled by APC.

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