Below is a table of my 2023 presidential elections vote distribution among the four principal presidential candidates. I cannot lay my hand on 2023 voter cards issued by state; so I was compelled to use the one released by 2019 believing that any variance will more or less be evenly distributed among the states. The table has given estimated votes of each candidate per state and the sub-totals is given for each zone, which add up to the totals at the bottom of the table. Turnout in 2019 Presidential Election was 35% according to INEC. I reduced the total PVCs collected figures to this percentage.
In this article, I have discussed the factors that influenced my judgement on the estimates given. The major factors are incumbency, ethnicity, religion, G5, and the tickets of NNPP and LP.
In summary, the APC ticket is leading—though not with the huge percentages someone computed recently, which I copied and posted on my page and WhatsApp—followed by the PDP’s. As it is now, Labour and NNPP tickets will only play roles of factors that will widen or narrow the gap between the two major tickets.
Now, let us pick the factors one by one.
The effect of ethnicity is obvious in the votes that the parties will get. The springboard of the LP is Igbo vote, APC the Yoruba and Kanuri votes, and NNPP northern Hausa-Fulani votes as it is to a lesser extent for the PDP.
The greatest beneficiary of the ethnic factor is the APC. The Kanuri and Yoruba will massively vote for the party, giving it an irreversible head-start of 9 states cutting across the Southwest, North-central and Northeast, which other parties will find impossible to catch-up with. It is this launchpad that will make the ruling party the undeniable front runner throughout the race.
Other parties will benefit from this factor to limited extent: LP will get the 5 Igbo states solely on this basis and Igbo votes in the south-south, Lagos and Kano. Much of the support that the PDP candidate will get in the Northwest and Northeast is also ethnic though it will seriously be countered by incumbency in many states.
The next factor is incumbency. All the forecasts I read could not hide the clear arithmetic that the APC will be the biggest beneficiary here. It has the Federal Government with influential political appointees from every state in addition to other public servants who can be mobilised in its favour especially when developments before the election make its success at the polls inevitable. The privileges of having parastatals like INEC, CBN, etc. along with the role that security agencies will play in determining the atmosphere of the election in protection or furtherance of APC interest cannot be discounted.
In addition to the monopoly of the Federal Government, the APC leads in 26 states, including the G5 states, against 9 States of PDP and 1 of APGA. While the incumbency in states makes it easy for the APC to meet the 25% constitutional requirement, it makes it hard for the PDP to do so. Labour and NNPP stand no chance at all, kicking them out of the race prematurely. A willing, sitting governor—with the state machinery, ruling party structure and contestants for every seat and backed by the Federal Government—is very unlikely to fail in gathering something between 20 and 25% of the vote for his presidential candidate. Prior to the electoral reforms of the past 10 years, this factor alone was earning a candidate of a ruling party the majority vote.
Incumbency in state will help APC to neutralise the mild ethnic factor in the North which the PDP candidate is promoting in Kaduna, Jigawa, Katsina, Nasarawa, Zamfara, Kebbi, Katsina and Kano. In Oyo and Ebonyi, however, where ethnicity is strong, the effect may not be prominent.
Religion will help LP gain votes in many Christian dominated areas in the North to the detriment of the PDP as we heard from some groups. The Muslim-Muslim identity of the APC ticket has the potential of gaining currency as its antagonists threaten to use it to politically demystify the Muslim north. Facing this challenge means shifting votes in the region from PDP to APC.
As their alliance with the APC becomes conclusive, debates on the relevance of the G5 are unanimous on their huge psychological impact on the PDP. The vote gain for APC may not be spectacular but it will definitely improve the chances of the APC in the unlikelihood of the race becoming tight with the quantum it will increase the gap under normal circumstances.
LP and NNPP
The LP will most likely reach the polling booth on 25th January. Its followers are not in the mood of surrendering to “the north” because doing so will vitiate the raison d’etre of the party, question the character of its candidate and create mass disappointment among its supporters, many of whom may boycott the polls. Its condition that the PDP candidates surrenders his ticket to the LP signifies the impossibility of any alliance. So PDP will lose the votes of LP members which it had in 2019.
But let us even grant the alliance between LP and PDP. According to the table below, it will reduce the margin of the APC but not bridge it completely. In fact, as a reviewer of the draft of this article emphasized that I have credited LP with more votes than it can possibly get, insisting that LP is just a media hype and not taken seriously by Ndigbo. Added to this is the voter apathy among the Igbo as will be explained shortly. So the currency of LP may be more of crypto that hard and the leverage that PDP expects from it is not conclusively weighty enough to change the outcome of the election.
An obvious danger of PDP/LP alliance is the kinetics it will prompt in the NNPP camp. In order to block the PDP candidate, his rival NNPP candidate will then be persuaded, motivated, if not instigated, to align with the APC, a development that will foreclose the election in favour of the latter before the voting day.
Worse is a scenario where NNPP candidate withdraws for APC in the absence of a similar alliance between LP and PDP will be devastating to the PDP. It will be the end of discussion.
Supporters of candidates who are not the major contenders may develop voter apathy if their pessimism becomes entrenched before the elections. Voter apathy in presidential elections is historically highest among the Ndigbo. So the parties that would suffer most are APGA, LP and PDP, especially if IPOB will issue its usual threats. But whether the NNPP candidate withdraws or not, his ideologically bonded followers who are less prone to apathy will abide by his instructions.
The same fear applies to the Northwest and to some extent Northeast in states infested by Boko Haram and banditry. The parties found a way round the problem in 2019 but in 2023, with digital live transmission of results, they need to be more ingenious than usual.
Finally, disillusionment in the North may not allow the record turnouts we witnessed in 2011 and 2015. This will have equal effect on both APC and PDP.
Both the APC and PDP candidates are astute politicians. Each of them may have something up his sleeves. The mighty hand of God is also there, always. So what we said above cannot be in any way final but just a fair representation of what obtains at this moment.
Tilde, PhD, a public affairs analyst served as Commissioner for Education in Bauchi State