#NigeriaDecides: It’s a ‘Battle of 72’ and here are the odds of the leading candidates

It’s a few hours before the much anticipated Presidential and National Assembly polls and all eyes are set on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deliver on its mandate of a credible and fair election to Nigerians, especially after a widely unexpected postponement which sparked off national outrage.

While INEC has in the last 4 years put in a lot of work to ensure that the 2019 polls are overall successful, the election management body deserves commendation for the level of work it has put in thus far; from the registration of new p0litical parties, to the monitoring of the party congresses, disputed primaries and campaigns of the country’s 91 parties, the professional handling of the ensuing court cases, voters sensitization, as well as its strict adherence to the election calendar, save the last minute postponement suffered last Saturday as a result of sabotage as the electoral umpire adduced.

In addition, INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu through his daily briefings to stakeholders, has in the last one week done a lot to assuage voters, following the dwindling expectations of Nigerians in the commission’s ability to deliver a credible election, but a lot is still expected of the body as the exercise holds Saturday nationwide, before they can be scored very high.

In what would be the sixth general elections in the nation’s 20 years of uninterrupted democratic dispensation, incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari would be slugging it out with 72 other candidates to retain his seat as Head of State, 1904 candidates will battle for the 109 seats in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly (Senate) and 4680 candidates across different parties will be jostling for the 360 seats in the Lower chamber (The House of Representatives).

Interestingly, according to figures released by INEC on Thursday, of the country’s 84,004,084 million registered voters, an expected 72.8 million voters who were able to pick up their Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) would decide the fate of the President and the other 6,692 candidates running for the three offices.

For the National Assembly polls, a lot of upsets are expected considering the increase in number of political parties in the country, with new entrants such as the Action Alliance (AA), Action Democratic Party (ADP), African Action Congress (AAC), African Democratic Congress (ADC), Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), Allied Peoples Movement (APM), Modern Democratic Party (MDP), United Democratic Party (UDP), Young Progressives Party (YPP), Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), as well as the familiar Accord Party, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Labour Party (LP), People’s Redemption Party (PRP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) expected to win at least one seat in the federal legislature, while the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) which has in the last 6 months lost a huge number of members through defection to the former ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) would jostle for majority of the seats in parliament to produce the presiding and principal officers of both houses in June.

Of the 109 seats up for grabs in the Senate, keen attention will be focused on the 3 senatorial districts in Kwara where there has been a massive campaign against the political influence of Senate President, Bukola Saraki in the state; Kogi West Senatorial district – a race between Senator Dino Melaye and his predecessor, Senator Smart Adeyemi of the APC; Kaduna Central Senatorial district where Senator Shehu Sani, political arch-enemy of incumbent Governor Nasir El-Rufai would be seeking a return to the red chamber under the platform of the relatively unknown PRP as well as in Imo, Ogun, Oyo, Zamfara whose governors will be seeking a seat in the red chambers.

Similarly, while immediate past Ondo Governor, Olusegun Mimiko will be testing his popularity 24 months after leaving office in the race to the National Assembly under newcomer party -ZLP, ‘Wedding Party’s star actor and music artiste, Bankole Wellington under the platform of the MDP will be seeking to dislodge son of former Defence Minister, Musiliu Obanikoro of the APC to get a seat in the green chamber, as well as Oyo-born sports bookmaking entrepreneur, Akin Alabi who is also seeking a seat in the house under the broom party.

Importantly, the 2019 Presidential elections coming four years after Nigeria’s first ever poll which saw an incumbent President lose his seat via the ballot is peculiar in every sense, as it is the first in the country where a generation of voters who didn’t witness the military interregnum in politics would be a part of the voting class and figures released by INEC revealed that these demography constitute over 50% of the country’s 84 million voting population.

Quite differently, the 2019 race to Aso rock although described by majority of Nigerians as another two-horse race like that of 2015 between the PDP and the APC, 72 year-old former vice president Atiku Abubakar leads at least 5 other influential candidates, former Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Kingsley Moghalu of the YPP, Activist and publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore of the AAC, Leadership consultant Olufela Durotoye of the ANN and former Cross River Governor, Donald Duke of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in a daunting bid to unseat the President.

What are their chances?

Kingsley Moghalu

Apparently, the toast of many middle-aged intellectuals and a percentage of millennials, the candidacy of the YPP presidential flagbearer gained huge momentum after his sterling performance at the widely publicized Presidential debate organised by the Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG) and Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) closely followed with an endorsement by Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka.

Adjudged by many in this voting bloc as the most competent of the 73 candidates, the former United Nations official is likely to come 3rd or 4th in the polls with at least 100, 000 votes.

Fela Durotoye 

Having won the mandate of the Presidential Aspirants Coming Together (PACT) sometime in August 2018 to become its consensus candidate, the ANN presidential candidate with a wide network of supporters from the tertiary institutions, young graduates and a few christian leaders, has been able to leverage on the power of social media to boost his chances at the polls.

Equally, surviving a divisive party primary election which polarised his party, Durotoye had a number of successful rallies and is expected to poll at least 50,000 votes.

Omoyele Sowore

Running on the strength of youthfulness and power of social media, the publisher of Sahara Reporters and Presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) has massive support from Nigerians in the Diaspora, a few of whom will be in the country to cast their ballot.

Like Moghalu, the former Student Union leader is tipped to come 3rd or 4th in the polls with at least 100,000 votes to his name.

Donald Duke

The former Cross River Governor has had a tortuous walk to emerge on the ballot, attending to litigations which saw him replaced with another party member while other contestants were deep into their campaigns.

The candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) is however likely to emerge 5th in the race with majority of his votes coming from the South-South geopolitical zone, especially in his home state of Cross River.

Atiku Abubakar

With his emergence as the Presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s candidacy received a huge boost, courting support across various age brackets including young people, having defeated 12 others in the keenly contested party primary held in October and has since ridden on that momentum to become the most likely winner of Saturday’s polls.

Also to Atiku’s advantage is the support of his former boss Olusegun Obasanjo; political heavyweights in Rabiu Kwankwanso of Kano, Sule Lamido of Jigawa, Sokoto Governor Aminu Tambuwal as well as former Sokoto Governor, Attahiru Bafarawa, all in the North West, Governors Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe, Governor Darius Ishaku and UDP Governorship Candidate, Aisha Alhassan in Taraba respectively; Dr. Bukola Saraki and David Mark in the North Central alongside a huge support base in the South-South and South-East zone from where he chose his running mate, Peter Obi.

More so, with the postponement of the elections, the former Vice President appears to have garnered more support and his bold move to visit the United States of America weeks to the election, despite allegations that he was banned from the country over allegations of corruption, makes it is difficult to predict that he would lose the election.

In what seems to be Atiku’s last shot at the presidency 27 years after he first ran for the office, the 72 year-old Adamawa-born politician is expected to win by a landslide in the South-East and South-South zones, by a slim margin in the North Central and make significant inroads in the North East where he hails from, the North-West and the South-West.

Muhammadu Buhari

Despite symptoms of ill-health associated with old age as seen in the campaign videos of the ruling party, Muhammadu Buhari remains a giant in the Nigerian political space with a cult-like followership in the North West and parts of the North East.

With the issues surrounding his tenure in office, ranging from insecurity in the North Central zone reflected in the farmers/herders clash that led to the loss of thousands of persons, internationalisation of the Boko Haram onslaught in the North East and perceived marginalisation of the South East, President Buhari did lose a lot of support across these zones, despite being the incumbent but is expected to win comfortably in the North West and South West where he has the support of the 6 governors in the zone, and as well influence voters here with the choice of Yemi Osinbajo as his running mate and presence of former Lagos Governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu on his team.

In addition, for every interview the President has granted in the last one month, he has insisted that he cannot lose the crucial poll but this confidence may not be enough to see him remain in Aso rock.

On the whole, for the two major contenders (both septuagenarians) in Saturday’s polls, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar running for the 5th time since 1992 and incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari also running for the 5th time since 2003, the Nigerian people would seal their fate in a matter of hours.



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