I have identified 5 salient factors. First, is the elite consensus. By elite consensus, we mean what the Nigerian power elite agreed to be best for the country not necessarily what the masses might want
The Fourth Republic so far is Nigeria’s longest democratic experiment since the attainment of independence. It has achieved a single alternation of power in 2015 when the People’s Democratic Party lost power at the center. The All Progressives Congress took over power with Buhari’s Presidency. This development marks a watershed in Nigeria’s political history.
The 2023 election is coming with a character of its own. The actors, issues, and political calculations are unfolding by the day. Many pundits have aired their views on the likely outcome and problems of the election. Prominent among them are; Kperogi, Momodu, Tilde, FFK, Kolawale, etc.
However, there are many serious issues left in their opinions and analysis. This short piece seeks to look at what will determine the possible outcome of the 2023 Presidential election in Nigeria and why?
Factors that will determine the 2023 Elections
I have identified 5 salient factors. First, is the elite consensus. By elite consensus, we mean what the Nigerian power elite agreed to be best for the country not necessarily what the masses might want. Many critical situations in Nigeria had been solved through elite consensus during either military regimes or civilian governments.
For instance, the foundation of the Fourth Republic was built on elite consensus and power shift with Obasanjo/Yoruba as beneficiaries due to the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election. The work of elite consensus was demonstrated by military elites who are mostly PDP members; OBJ, IBB, Abdulsalami, T.Y Danjuma, and Gusau, among others.
The problem of PDP today’s division is the lack of unity among the generals. They were united for PDP in power and more divided in PDP outside power. In Nigeria, the Governor’s Forum, Traditional Rulers’ Council, and Academic elites are appendages of the military elites.
In this case, OBJ has endorsed Peter Gregory Obi as his candidate without any fear of contradiction. To him, this is what is good for Nigeria. The letterman speaks directly to the Nigerian youths. The implication for this is that OBJ has passed a vote of no confidence on APC and PDP candidates. Mark you, the elites have a circulation strategy and political formula for power which Obasanjo violated. Obasanjo has been silent on his Third Force for Nigeria since 2019.
Second, is the power shift factor. This is one of the strong issues in Nigerian politics. The zoning arrangement was clearly spelt out in the PDP constitution but it has been violated or become controversial since the death of the late President Yar’adua in 2010. There are two arguments for zoning in PDP. The first is that, the Northern turn or quota was not completed by Yar’adua, and then secondly where does the PDP has the largest support base? Is it in the North or the South? The Southerners believed that they are the ones having more PDP Governors, Senators, Reps and supporters, etc. Hence, they can claim the presidential ticket, not Northerners. There is also the claim that PDP Governor’s Forum should produce the Presidential candidate.
In the APC, the zoning is not in the constitution but the APC Northern Governor’s Forum with the support of the PMB did wonderful calculations by not allowing anyone of them to contest but shifted the Presidential candidature to the South/South West. What they termed reciprocating was the zonal mutual agreement and consensus. This singular political act solved many problems in APC. The rest is history. It is a political strategy for 2023. In this case, the APC has won the battle of zoning controversy on power shift.
Thirdly, it is the negative selection theory. In Nigerian politics, this theory has been very popular in analyzing why people get elected or appointed into government. Mostly, politicians are comfortable with those they can control or manipulate. It is sometimes called godfather politics. Instead of the law of legacy, it is the law of selfish interest. The negative selection is in the civil service, military, and politics. The candidacy of Tinubu and Atiku fit into this analysis. It is not that they are not qualified. Constitutionally they are qualified. In negative selection, when one is not qualified he is qualified by political interests and contingency plans.
For politicians, Tinubu and Atiku are more qualified than Obi and Kwankwanso. Hence, age, intelligence, record, integrity, manifesto, and health status are not good qualities or barriers to contesting elections in Nigeria.
Fourthly, the weight of history. By this we mean what does the history of elections in Nigeria teach us? How can we explain the political behavior and voting behavior of Nigerians? It has shown that there are 3 contending issues in Nigerian elections; tribalism, religiosity, and regionalism. These issues played out in the national elections in 1960, 1979, 1983, 2011 & 2015 respectively.
In 2023, the 3 major ethnic groups in Nigeria have put forward candidates not of their tribe but of their identities reflecting the diversities and issues. We expect that APC has the upper hand with the power shift to the South. Tribalism and zoning will help them. While the PDP and NNPP zoning are disadvantaged due to PMB’s being from the North. In the aspect of religion, any candidate has an advantage.
I read many analyses that religion will favor a Muslim-Muslim or Muslim-Christian ticket. It is not true that religion makes one president in Nigeria. It is the permutations. No one religion can rule the country without the other in voting analysis. In 1993, the Muslim-Muslim ticket was supported by both Christians and Muslims. This is not to justify same faith ticket but to show that religion is important cannot be a yardstick of winning a presidential election.
Christianity and Islam are evenly divided and their followers don’t follow one pattern due to schisms, sects, and interests. However, Obi can only be elected by many supporters, not religion. Therefore, a revolution not religion will make Obi win the elections or not. The reason is Obi has won many online surveys. Even though, Nigeria Pollsters are known for the fabrication of data to suit their interests. Most if not all Nigeria’s empirical surveys are questionable and cannot be relied upon. Indeed, with few exceptions like JP Morgan.
Another reason is that our politicians prefer to go to soothsayers, Babalawos, Bokas, ‘Yan bori, and political touts than to approach experts on how to win elections.
Fifthly, money politics. The use of money in 2023 will be very rampant. Whether it is vote buying, delegate buying, security buying, media buying, and INEC officials buying, etc. We expect to see huge money playing role in the 2023 elections.
The Challenges of 2023 Elections.
INEC offices are under attack especially in Southeastern part of Nigeria. The precarious situation pose greater threat to peaceful conduct and integrity of the elections.
Drawing from the above, the challenges of the elections are two. Insecurity and the Introduction of Bio Modal Voting System (BVAS). INEC has introduced new concepts in our electoral lexicon. Nigeria will not accept shifting of the election. The inconclusive election. Nigerians will not accept an inconclusive presidential election.
Many have predicted a second round. However, if you’re very much aware of the political permutations you will know the direction. INEC should know that shifting elections from some days or hours to the election is tantamount to cheating the opposition parties or political opponents. The opponent will be affected in many ways like; time, expenses, risk, and political strategy. It will also affect the voter turnout and the integrity of the election.
The rerun argument spearheaded by INEC implies the commission’s readiness. It is indicating tight contest for 2023. In previous elections INEC usually did not have plan for rerun even though is a constitutional matter.
I could remember in 2019, a politician said “the shifting of the elections was a conspiracy theory”. I asked him what is a conspiracy theory, and he said he didn’t know.
As it stands, APC has the upper hand in winning the elections for another 3 reasons. No united opposition. The PDP is divided into three; PDP, NNPP & LP. While the remaining parties lack structures in 36 states and 774 LGAs. The incumbency factor, give the ruling party more leverage to win in terms of control of the national security, money, and other resources of the country.
The greater insecurity will be shifting the election and a likely post-election violence. The postponement in 2015 backfired for PDP and 2019 it succeeded for APC. These two affected voter turnout in national elections. The Federal Government and INEC must avoid any scenario that would jeopardize the outcome of the 2023 elections.
The Four Major Presidential Contenders
The position of the four major contenders stands as follows.
Tinubu enjoys zoning factor, the ruling party’s support, he is Yoruba from the Southwest, highly politically strategic, and resourceful. I heard NLC Lagos had endorsed Tinubu.
Atiku is the most powerful candidate contesting for the 4th time but Tinubu with Federal Government support is more powerful than him. The G-5 rebellion, zoning, and the masses perception affect his chances.
Kwankwanso is a mobilizer but largely in the Northwest. He is more popular in Kano, Jigawa, and Kaduna. The 25 percent and 2/3 of the states requirement affect his chances.
Obi is very popular on social media than on the ground. He has won most of the social media polls. Over 60 percent of Nigerian voters are not using social media. The Igbo elites are against his candidature Prof. Soludo, Sen. Kalu, Sen. Nnamani, and Sen. Ikweremadu. The IPOB has been bad public relations for him. The 25 percent and 2/3 of the states of the federation affect his chances as well.
The outcome of the 2023 presidential election is likely an APC victory not because of the ruling party’s performance, Muslim-Muslim ticket but due to power shift factor and the failure of the opposition parties to organize and strategize on wrestling power from the APC at the center. In 2015, merger and zoning principally assisted APC to clinched victory. In all elections, there is the law of contingent consent and bounded uncertainty.
God bless Nigeria!
19th January, 2023.
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