By Ike Abonyi

…Published in the New Telegraph of Thursday November 3, 2022

NEWSDAILYNIGERIA: “If you are stupid enough not to know the difference between the devil and the angel, you quickly find the devil! This is what happens to most people in democracies just after elections!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

In the forthcoming presidential election, northern votes will be shared willy-nilly by the leading candidates in the race, including Peter Obi, [yes, Peter Obi] of the Labour Party. Others are Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party, and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party.

The proportion and quantum of ballots that each candidate and party will poll will depend largely on variables to be unveiled in the following analysis. Is it then arithmetically safe to say that whoever the North votes for wins the presidency? This week’s Political Musings will attempt to answer the above poser.

The old Northern Region has always been a critical player in the nation’s electioneering since its independence in 1960. This is understandable, it has been a huge beneficiary of the incongruous structural arrangement left by the colonial masters. The region is Nigeria’s largest geo-political area with 19 of the 36 states, plus the Federal Capital Territory. It harbours 419 of the nation’s Local Government Areas. The region also enjoys a monolithic political character that has helped it dominate a divisive pluralistic politics.

This is unlike Southern Nigeria which has remained divided into two major political blocs of East and West. The third bloc was added after the establishment of the present six zone arrangement that brought in the South-South. With 17 states and 355 Local Government Areas, the south remains structurally inferior, a disadvantage made more pronounced by the fierce rivalry between Igbo and Yoruba ethnic groups and politics dominating the South.

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Even with the constitutional requirement that makes it impracticable for any region to win the presidency without the other, the North has continually pretended that it holds the proverbial knife and yam and can determine who gets what and when. In reality, it has not been so because for three consecutive times General Muhammadu Buhari enjoyed the support of the majority of the North at three presidential polls but could not make it until he successfully aligned his ambition with a major political bloc in the South.

Ahead of the 2023 presidential election, dicey as it seems, all kinds of permutations are crawling out of earth holes with the North still playing the ostrich as though it is the ace holder. It erroneously believes it will determine who emerges victorious even though its vote alone cannot guarantee any candidate’s victory.

The typical northern arrogance is underscored by the recent unguarded utterance of the PDP flag bearer, Atiku Abubakar, insinuating that the North needed neither Igbo or Yoruba presidential candidates but him from the North. Pundits believe that Abubakar sounded so desperate because he believed he was talking to the deciding bloc and needed to appeal to the northern sentiments.

Added to the pressure on the PDP candidate is the almost over-flogged alienation of the South by the party, his traditional electoral base, hence the desperation to appeal to the kith and kin sentiments. But this 2023 poll has produced some knotty issues that can change the electoral terrain and the behaviour of Nigerian voters. A ready instance is the Muslim-Muslim ticket gamble of the incumbent APC that is coming with sour but expected political consequences. The same-faith ticket has provoked a near-volatile political attitude of Christian voters in the region. They are now mobilising to make an electoral statement unlike in the past when their voting power was subsumed under the northern regional interest.

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Also likely to affect voting behaviour in the forthcoming election is the seemingly violated power rotation arrangement that has become so pronounced despite not being a constitutional requirement. Some northerners who cherish stability deriving from justice and fair play will be uncomfortable keeping the presidency in the North under any guise or excuse after years of a northern president. These zoning and religious considerations are expected to impact the electoral outcome.

Will the North hearken to Abubakar’s crybaby appeal and go for the Northerner? If that is to happen, Abubakar and Kwankwaso will be struggling to take the majority of the region’s votes ahead of their Southern counterparts.

If the big voting influencer is to be on the power rotation issue, Tinubu of APC and Obi of LP will be pushing for a Southerner and they will be appealing to the “South for president” sentiments. When it comes to knowing who the North will vote for, the correct answer will emerge, not only from one dimension, but also from a holistic approach, looking at both sides of the coin.

Interestingly, the four top contenders are divided equally, two from the North and two from the South, but it doesn’t seem plausible that the voting pattern will follow the same path. It may be safe and defendable to say that any of the two candidates from the South, Tinubu, and Obi who gets the majority of the northern votes is most likely to win the overall election; the same thing cannot be said of any of the northern candidates who gets the majority of northern votes. None of the two northern runners can realistically get dominant votes in the South as it is. So the answer to who the North voted for cannot veritably and arithmetically be given because whoever gets the majority of the northern votes can still not be thet eventual winner. Because of the variables listed above, northern votes do not seem likely to be domiciled with one of the two candidates.

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These distinctive characteristics have set the 2023 presidential election apart as a watershed in the history of elections in Nigeria. It may also be the beginning of the end of the indeterminate northern votes. Let us always bear in mind Keith Ellison’s admonition, “Not voting is not a protest but a surrender.” Therefore, by voting we are adding our block to the building and no vote does not matter. And no one who refuses to vote has any right left to grumble.”

Turkish writer Mehmet Murat ildan whose quote opened today’s piece is closing it with this exhortation on why and how we should cast our votes:

“History shows us that people often make mistakes, they give wrong decisions, they vote for the wrong persons! And history also shows us that in the end, they pay a heavy price for it!”


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