- Inside drama that trailed postponement
- Polls said to be ‘biggest-ever’ in Africa
- Analysts: Kano, Lagos, Kaduna, Katsina, Rivers will play vital roles
Nigerians will today, after one week of uncertainty following last-minute postponement, throng various centres to elect one out of the 73 presidential candidates. Daily Trust Saturday takes you through the long, winding road to today’s polls.
Elections had been postponed in Nigeria in 2011, by the then National Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, over logistics issues at a time when some prospective voters were at polling centres but almost everyone did not suspect foul play. In 2015, dates for the general elections were extended by six weeks after military authorities said they needed time to clear Boko Haram elements in parts of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. But last week, Feb. 16, will remain indelible in Nigeria’s political history, following the postponement of polls by INEC chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, roughly six hours to commencement of voting.
It appears nobody saw it coming, including President Muhammadu Buhari and PDP candidate Atiku Abubakar, and leaders of the two major parties – Adams Oshiomhole (APC) and Uche Secondus (PDP), including those of the remaining 81 political parties, and the electorate at large. Until two hours after the announcement of the shift by INEC, President Buhari was not aware that the Feb. 16 D-day was no longer feasible.
The announcement of the polls shift was made by the INEC boss around 2:40am, and reached the president by 4.35am, less than four hours to the time he was expected to cast his vote at the Sarkin Yara Ward 1 area of Daura LGA of Katsina State. Buhari had arrived Daura around 7:00pm on Thursday, Feb. 14 after conducting the grand finale of his campaign rally at the Muhammadu Dikko stadium, Katsina, with his family. Around 8:00pm on Friday, Feb. 15, presidential aides said he told them that he would be casting his vote by 8:00am.
Speaking at an emergency national caucus meeting of the APC on Monday, Feb. 18, in Abuja, Buhari while expressing disappointment, said: “I had to leave my immediate constituency (Daura) and come back to Abuja immediately because I was told of the decision of INEC in the morning.”
Atiku, who was also in Adamawa State with a view to cast his vote in Jada, expressed shock over the development. At a time, the APC and PDP leaders hauled accusations at each other, of influencing the shift to perfect rigging. Stories were also rife that the INEC chairman would resign, amidst speculation that some of his National Commissioners were summoned by the EFCC. There also were allegations of fake ballot papers found in some states, even as Buhari and Atiku, as well as their running mates – Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and Mr. Peter Obi – did not relent in their campaigns.
Dramatically, it was less than 48 hours to the elections when some 12 presidential candidates led by Shittu Mohammed of APDA declared their support for Buhari. This was after Atiku’s endorsement by some 50 political parties under the auspices of CUPP.
Though many voters who travelled home had gone back to their places of work, the Federal Government declared yesterday, Friday, a work-free day. Transporters in some places have reduced fares, oil marketers have discounted petroleum products by N5, and some individuals and state governments have provided free buses for voters to go back home once again to vote. With this in view, the stage is set for Buhari and Atiku to slug it out today.
Biggest poll in Africa
This is the first time in Nigeria’s history that the logo of 73 political parties will appear on the ballot paper of the presidential election. Though some of the candidates, and political parties, have either withdrawn or endorsed other candidates, INEC said all the parties cleared for the contest will be on the ballot. However, attention is more on Buhari and Atiku.
Nigerians will also decide the fate of 1,800 senatorial candidates and 2,600 House of Reps candidates vying to represent the 109 senatorial districts and 360 federal constituencies, respectively. It is the biggest election yet in the whole of Africa, going by the massive number of people cleared to be part of the exercise.
Yakubu, had at the end of continuous voter registration disclosed that the final register for the 2019 general elections stands at 84,004,084 voters. However, he said on Thursday that the total number of collected Permanent Voters Card (PVCs) across Nigeria is 72,775,585. He said the number of uncollected voter’s cards is 11,228,582.
The Northwest currently has the highest number of registered voters at 20,158,100, giving it 24% of the registered vote total. The Southwest region comes second with 16,292,212 registered voters (19.39%), while the north-central has 13,366,070 registered voters (15.91%), and the south-south has 12,841,279 registered voters (15.29%). The northeast region and the southeast region come last with the total number of registered voters with 11,289,293 (13.44%) and 10,057,130 voters (11.97%) respectively.
Of the total, there are more registered male voters (44,405,439) than female voters (39,598,645). The male population of registered voters make up 52.86% of the total voter register with registered female voters making up the remaining 47.14%.
Analysts believe the most attention will be on the presidential elections, and since there is a kind of ‘consensus’ that it will either be Buhari of the APC or Atiku of the PDP, the pattern of choosing any of them would in many instances determine the fortunes of National Assembly candidates, unless where there are protest votes.
States to watch
In today’s polls and in terms of the presidential election, there are five key states to watch because of voter population. It is believed that any of the two major candidates who is able to garner majority of votes in the five states may carry the day. Thus, both APC and PDP will strive to win in each of the five states, namely Kano, Lagos, Kaduna, Katsina, and Rivers.
Based on the total number of registered voters for this year’s elections, Lagos has 6,570,291; Kano, 5,457,747; Kaduna, 3,932,492; Katsina, 3,230,230; and Rivers, 3,215,273. The five states combined have a total of 22,406,033 out of the 84,004,084. This represents 26.6 percent of the total registered voters. The total number of the registered voters in the five states is about 7 million less than the 29,432,083 total votes cast during the 2015 presidential election.
A factor that may work in favour of the APC, analysts say, is the fact that it has governors in four of the states, namely Lagos, Kano, Kaduna and Katsina, with PDP having one in Rivers.
The APC candidate, President Buhari, is believed to be enjoying cult-like support in almost all the four APC states, particularly in Kano, Kaduna and Katsina, while PDP is believed to have made tremendous inroads in Lagos this time around though not strong enough to take everything.
During the 2015 presidential, the APC won in the four states with wide margin with the exception of Lagos, where it had about 160,000 votes more than that of the PDP. However, analysts say the results may not be the same this time around, although the APC is still stronger in the four states but that with Atiku as the PDP candidate, the margin may not be as wide as obtained in 2015.
The question is, can the APC with Buhari as its presidential candidate still win those states with wide margins the way he did in 2015? The results of today’s poll will provide an answer.
Other states that have over two million votes each, where the two leading parties will try to win include Oyo, 2,934,107; Delta, 2,845,274; Plateau, 2,480,455; Benue, 2,480,131; Bauchi, 2,462,843; Anambra, 2,447,996; Niger, 2,390,035; Ogun, 2,375,003; Borno, 2,315,956; Imo, 2,272,293; Edo, 2,210,534; Akwa Ibom, 2,119,727, and Jigawa, 2,111,106.
How comfortable are Buhari, Atiku ‘at home’?
All eyes are on the ‘territories’ of main contenders Buhari and Atiku. President Buhari’s territory begins from his country home, Daura, to Katsina North Senatorial district, Katsina State and the entire North West geopolitical zone. How many votes will Atiku get from Buhari’s zone? This is being decided today by voters, spread across seven states of the geopolitical zone.
The territory of Atiku, Buhari’s main challenger, starts from Jada, his Local Government Area, to Adamawa South Senatorial district, Adamawa State and the entire North-East geopolitical zone.
However, like in the North-West, many of the registered voters were unable to collect their PVCs before INEC’s deadline elapsed. Will Buhari coast to victory in Atiku’s territory? The answer to this is being provided at the polling units in the six states that make up the zone.
Buhari’s campaign director for the North-East geopolitical zone, Senator Ali Ndume, said the president will get 10m votes in the zone. “It is an obligation for us in the North East to vote for Buhari. He has done well in tackling insurgency, and he’s doing well in rebuilding the region,” he said.
In his projection, the North-West Coordinator of the Atiku team, Alhaji Aliyu Bello, said Buhari will be defeated in the zone, citing rampant banditry and kidnapping bedevilling the geopolitical zone.
Bello, also the youth leader of PDP in Kaduna State, projected that Atiku will poll 65 percent of the votes cast today. “Northwest used to be Buhari’s stronghold in Nigeria and that was why he polled 80 per cent of the votes cast in the zone in 2015. But 2019 won’t be like 2015. I’m 100 percent sure we’re going to win the zone by 65 percent. Our rally in Kano is an indication of our victory,” he added.
Who will win the Villa?
Another area regarded as President Buhari’s territory is the Aso Rock Presidential Villa polling unit. Buhari, as incumbent president, occupies the Presidential Villa. Though the total number of registered voters at the polling units is insignificant, what comes out from there is symbolic. Recall that ex-president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was defeated at those same polling units in the 2015 general elections.
Osinbajo went all-out penultimate Wednesday to win the hearts of those who registered at the Aso Villa polling units. He spent about five hours engaging voters. First, he met with all staff of the Presidential Villa at the Banquet Hall and held a mini-rally at the field beside NBC inside the Villa. Most of those who registered at the Aso Villa polling units were staff of the president villa, residents around the villa, security personnel and their families, and others.
Last-minute panic mode
Both the APC and the PDP went into panic mode, as they increased their accusations and counter-accusations. Following the sudden reports of fire that destroyed INEC offices in Anambra, Plateau and Abia states, the PDP accused the APC of responsibility in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan on Tuesday. He said the PDP already has the details of how the APC mobilized misguided elements in its fold to burn INEC offices and destroy electoral materials and equipment in the states.
Reacting to the allegations on Wednesday, APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole said the claim did not make any sense. He said the APC should have been the party to suspect foul play, since the fire incidents did not happen in APC-controlled states.
Same Wednesday, the PDP set up Parallel Voting Tabulation (PVT) system, saying they want to hold INEC accountable. One of the PDP campaign spokespersons, Osita Chidoka, said “The PVT is a reporting system from the wards, to the district headquarters, to the states to the national tally centre, and the system has redundancies built at all levels, in the event of internet or command shutdown or failure or any other eventualities.”
“The PVT is a scientifically-proven, best practice technique, to hold election authorities accountable, particularly when there is lack of trust, and results are highly-contested,” Chidoka said. PDP National Publicity Secretary and Director Media and Publicity, Kola Ologbondiyan, also said that the party had mobilised 40 million Nigerians for the victory of its candidate.
But in a swift reaction yesterday, the Federal Government alleged that the PDP wanted to set up a parallel electoral body for the coming elections. Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the PDP planned to create anarchy in the country by resorting to this tactic having realized that it cannot win a free, fair and peaceful election.
The two leading political parties continue to raise frightening issues despite the commitment of the presidential candidates of the APC and the PDP to peace, at the signing of a second accord in Abuja, Wednesday. Both Buhari, Atiku and other presidential candidates not only agreed to accept the outcome of free, fair and credible elections but also pledged to ensure that the polls were conducted peacefully.
INEC, security assure readiness
The INEC is deploying 825,543 staff for today’s presidential and National Assembly elections and 814,992 for the March 2 governorship and states house of assembly elections. Professor Yakubu and the INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, in separate interviews assured that the commission is ready.
Okoye told Daily Trust Saturday on the uncertainty of voting in Anambra where the card readers were gutted by fire, he said the REC has reconfigured the SCR in 14 local governments and others would be completed yesterday.
Also, over 300,000 policemen will be deployed nationwide, with nearly every officer out of the over 350,000 in the country actively involved. Already, the acting Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has deployed six DIGs to supervise the six geo-political regions.
Also, the Police Service Commission will deploy 400 of its personnel to the 36 states of the federation and the FCT, to monitor the conduct of policemen during the Saturday elections, according to its Head, Press and Public Relations, Ikechukwu Ani. He said monitors would be armed with the commission’s guidelines for the conduct of officers on electoral duty and during the elections.
A buffet of presidential candidates
Other presidential candidates are Donald Duke – Social Democratic Party (SDP), Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili – Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), who had shelved her ambition but INEC insists the logo of her party will appear; Prof. Kingsley Moghalu – Young Progressive Party (YPP); Omoyele Steven Sowore – African Action Congress (AAC); Hon. Edozie Madu – Independent Democratic Party (IDP); Prof. Peter Nwangwu – We the People of Nigeria Party (WPNP); Mr. Ahmad Bee Buhari – Sustainable National Party (SNP); Tope Fasua – Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP); Mr. Ade Fagbenro Bryon- Kowa Party; Miss Eunice Atuejide – National Interest Party (NIP); Alister Soyode- Yes Party; Dr. Davidson Akhimien – Grassroots Development Party of Nigeria (GDPN); Mr. Moses Shipi – All Blending Party (ABP); Alhaji Yahya Ndu – African Renaissance Party (ARP); Mr. Sunday Chukwu-Eguzolugo – Justice Must Prevail Party (JMPP); Mr. Hamisu Santuraki – Mega Party of Nigeria (MPN); Mr. Fidelis Akhahomen – Young Democratic Party (YDP); Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim – Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN); Dr. Olusegun Mimiko- Zenith Labour Party (ZLP); Major Hamza Al-Mustapha – Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN) and Dr. Obadiah Mailafia – African Democratic Congress (ADC), among others.