In a few hours from now, 87,209,007 Nigerians will troop to 176, 606 polling units across 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja to elect a new President in a presidential election that marks 24 years of uninterrupted democratic experience in the country.
As of February 5, being the deadline for the collection of the Permanent Voter Cards nationwide, 6,259,229 registered voters did not turn up to collect theirs to qualify to vote.
Indeed, Nigerians are looking at electing the next president who will take over on May 29, 2023 upon the completion of the two tenures of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).
A breakdown of the total eligible voter figure by states by the Independent National Electoral Commission showed that Lagos State has the highest number of collected PVCs with 6,214,970, followed by Kano State with 5,594,193; Kaduna State, 4,164,473, while Ekiti State has the least with 958,052.
There are 18 candidates from different political parties jostling for the position seat but the top four leading candidates are Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party; Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, Peter Obi of the Labour Party and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party.
In this report, There are five major factors that could decide the outcome of tomorrow’s election:
1. Ethnicity and regionalism
From time past, Nigerians have always played the ethnic and regional cards in elections. In fact, it has always been the case of “the person is our son, let him do it”. Not a few Nigerians believe that electing someone from their region or ethnic group will bring massive development to them.
Since the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1999, there has been an unwritten law that presidential power should rotate every eight years between the North and South, political leaders are agreed that due to the heterogeneous nature of the country, power rotation arrangement had become necessary to address complaints of marginalisation and domination, and to give equal power to ethnic groups.
Zoning has worked well leading to a seamless transfer of power by former president, Olusegun Obasanjo who ruled for eight years, to Musa Yar’ Adua, a Northerner.
This is what brought about the clamour for ‘Emilokan’ (a terminology indicating that it is the time of Yoruba) by the APC’s candidate who publicly said he supported Buhari to emerge as the President.
The South East is not also backing down in their agitation for the presidency because they believe that they have been sidelined well enough since the return of civil rule in 1999.
It is believed this was what led for the call for secession and the call by the apex socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, that endorsed the Labour Party’s candidate.
Religion is also an important factor that will determine the outcome of Saturday’s election. Since 1999, there has always been a balance in the selection of President and Vice President of all the parties in power.
For instance, if the presidential candidate is a Muslim, he will ensure to choose a Christian as his running mate.
While the North is predominantly Muslim, the South is predominantly Christian.
This balance was however upset when Tinubu, a Yoruba Muslim, chose Kashim Shettima, a Kanuri Muslim and former governor of Borno State, as his running mate.
This action led to widespread condemnation from many Nigerians and Christian bodies.
So, as it stands now, many voters may have to pitch their tent with people of their religious inclination.
3. Possible emergence of third force party
Prior to this dispensation, Nigeria’s political space had been dominated by the PDP until February 2013 when the Action Congress of Nigeria, the Congress for Progressive Change, and the All Nigeria Peoples Party along with a breakaway faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance formed a coalition and established the APC.
The newly formed coalition defeated the incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan thus heralding an era of a two-party dominant state. Saturday’s election however could change the narrative with the LP and NNPP looking towards changing the electoral dynamics.
Obi’s supporters popularly called the ‘Obidient’ Movement chiefly constituted by the youths believe that the Labour Party candidate will bring about great change to the country’s political space.
Obi’s candidacy has been endorsed by Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and some influential non-Igbo groups and individuals, including former president Olusegun Obasanjo.
Another candidate is the NNPP’s Kwankwaso, the founder of the Kwankwasiya movement, who is regarded as a grassroots organiser. He is believed to be popular with ordinary people in the North but is thought to lack a strong following in the South.
With the persistent cash crunch experienced currently in the country, vote-buying may mitigate the outcome of Saturday’s presidential election.
Nigeria is not yet ripe for a democratic election uninfluenced by vote-trading as it has become an important factor that reinvigorates voters to come out to their polling units.
Recently, some party chairmen of one of the political parties were reported to be clamouring for mobilisation fees from the presidential candidate or they would truncate the elections.
Despite measures to improve the transparency of the electoral system, it is likely that money will remain a big factor in the 2023 elections.
5. Fear of violence
Nigeria’s political history is replete with accounts of violent election conduct and behaviours by actors at election venues.
The 2023 general election is itself foreshadowed by rising insecurity in many parts of the country. The obvious outcome is that voters could be too scared to come out to exercise their franchise leading to high voter apathy.
In fact, some local governments in Borno and Zamfara states have created super camps for indigenes that have been displaced from their homes in order not to deprive them of their right to vote.
In some other places, some people might not come out because of the fear of being attacked when the result is not going the way of the areas of the dominant party.