5 Reasons Why Buhari May Not Lose Presidential Election In 2019
One issue currently dominating the Nigeria’s political space is the possible outcome of the 2019 presidential election. As expected, it is most likely to be a two-horse race between the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate whoever he may be. As it is today, speculations have become rife as to whether the incumbent will continue on the mantle after the election or whether the nation is set to witness another upstaging of the incumbent by the opposition as seen in 2015 when Jonathan was butted out by APC.
However, the situation is somewhat unique this time given the mood of the nation and the direction of public opinion which has seen President Buhari’s popularity wane considerably. Arguably, Jonathan’s popularity did not suffer this much. The economic recession that has plagued the nation in the last three years, the fuel crisis, the apparent Fulani/Muslim nepotism in key federal appointments, the perceived political cum ethnic bias in the fight against corruption, the incessant killings by the marauding Fulani herdsmen and the general insecurity in the land have all combined to deal a potentially fatal blow to Buhari’s political acceptability, such that many people are already predicting his downfall in the oncoming election. Nevertheless, as the incumbent, he arguably remains a force to reckon with, a candidate to beat. But what are the factors that may play out in his favour at the polls? Some of them are x-rayed below.
- The Ethnic cum Religious Divide
Many people have expressed the belief that current ethnic and religious cleavages in the nation will work against President Buhari’s re-election. The reality of these pervading ethnic and religious tensions cannot be denied. In fact, a particular commentator has noted that Nigerians have not been this divided since after the civil war. However, those who see these tensions as entailing only a disadvantage to Buhari’s re-election are definitely looking at the situation from one side only. A two-sided view of the situation will also reveal that the divisive ethnic and religious narrative that is so loud in the country now also has a way of working in favour of Buhari. When people call the President names as being a Fulani and Islamic bigot, they are inadvertently boosting his image among his people, pushing them to more emotionally support him. Think of what happens with Igbos when other ethnic groups brand Ojukwu an Igbo tribalist, with Ijaws when other Nigerians brand Adaka Boro an ethnic bigot or with Yorubas when other Nigerians call Gani Adams a Yoruba fundamentalist. The truth is that such sectional narrative has a way of crystallising ethnic and religious solidarity, thus strengthening the support based of those being maligned. This is exactly what could work for President Buhari in 2019. Thus, as he endures denigration among the Southerners and Middle Belters he may be conversely just having his acceptance boosted among the core Muslim Hausa-Fulani in the North-East and North-West.
- North-South Voting Culture
While Buhari will definitely have a poor outing in the South, particularly the South-East and the South-South, his fortune may be brighter in the North especially the North-East and the North-West. However, despite his expected many losses down South, his relative popularity up North is still a significant boost considering the much vibrant voting culture that has become a marked character of that region of the country. Down South, while interest in politics is no less impressive, same cannot be said of actual participation in voting on election days. In the North, there appears to be the hunger and fanatical motivation to cast ballots as against in the South where, for instance, despite the strong support for Goodluck Jonathan in the South-East and South-South prior to the 2015 elections, the two zones, while voting overwhelmingly for him, were far from offering their full voting strength. In other words, the differentials between the number of registered voters and the actual votes cast were just high.
In the last presidential election, there were allegations of child voting in the north. This time around, allegations of child voter registration in that region have become again rife. But whether these allegations are true or not does not blur the fact that the North does not only have a higher voting strength in terms of the number officially registered to vote, they equally have a culture of massive voter turnout as against the relative apathy of the South. This may work in favour of Buhari.
- Newfound Allies
In the last election, Buhari and APC were almost totally without presence in the South-East and South-South. However, they have made some progress in that regard between the last election and now. Even though they still remain weak in these enclaves, they can now boast of having gained some improved footing by way of the increasing number of political bigwigs from these regions that have embraced APC. In the South-East, former governors like Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia), Martin Elechi (Ebonyi), and Sullivan Chime (Enugu) as well as former Senate President Ken Nnamani, serving and formers legislators like Andy Uba (Anambra), Chris Ngige (Anambra), Tony Nwoye (Anambra) and Uche Ekwnunife (Anambra) are allies of APC and Buhari. Of course, Imo State is firmly in the hands of the APC. Even the PDP governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. Dave Umahi, appears to have started courting the President including by allegedly endorsing him for second term. In the South-South, Edo State has been an APC state since the days of Governor Adams Oshiomhole while in Rivers, the party has secured a senatorial footing with Magnus Abe now occupying one of the three upper legislative seats of the state.
What the foregoing entails is that if Buhari and APC had experienced a bad fortune in the last outing, they may have some improvement this time around capitalising on the clouts of these bigwigs who to varying extents have their respective support base. Though it will amount to self-deceit to assume that the presence of these figures alone can totally upturn the fortune of APC in the South, it will not be out of place altogether to concede that they are an asset to the party in that particularly “hostile” ground.
- The Incumbency Factor
Of course, the almighty incumbent factor cannot be overruled. It works everywhere in the world but more ruthlessly in developing climes like Africa. The incumbent enjoys financial, logistical and institutional superiority any day any time. And in corrupt societies like ours, it can deploy all sorts of machination (including rigging, intimidation and treachery) to crush or at least damagingly undermine the opponent. The confident belief in some quarters that Buhari will be voted out in 2019 may have been inspired by the “rare twist” in 2015 that saw an incumbent losing at the highest level for the first time in the history of Nigeria. But what many people seem to easily forget is that such is an exception rather than the rule in our history both as Nigerians and as Africans. Can somehow easily forget the 1964 election, the 1983 election, the 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections where the almighty incumbent factor routinely played a decisive role? And who says it will not count again this time?
Predicting the outcome of an election is usually not an easy task. In a complex clime like Nigeria, the uncertainty of the task becomes more sharply defined. Currently, a lot are happening; parties and candidates are strategising and plotting the opponent’s downfall. Obasanjo has come up with his Coalition for National Movement (the “third force”) which actual goal is yet to become really clear, all the more given the ex-president’s reputation for political smartness and eccentricity. APC leaders recently held a closed door meeting with Buhari which many believe is not unconnected with the 2019 polls. All this may be a pointer to the intriguingly terrific contest the presidential poll may turn out to be.
Nonetheless, it may be just too early to make any exact statements now. The 2019 elections are still almost a year away. While one, in trying to predict the outcome, is persuaded to take into consideration the present circumstances, not at all to be ignored are the circumstances – foreseen and unforeseen – that may yet arise between now and the actual election time. Therefore, whether Buhari will succeed for the second time is an outcome which only future will reveal.