Voting in the five states governed by members of the Integrity Group (G5 governors) will not follow the same pattern tomorrow.
The G5 governors, who are Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members, opted out of the party’s presidential campaign, insisting that the national chairman Sen. Iyorchia Ayu, must step down as a condition to support the candidate, Atiku Abubakar, tomorrow’s election. They have insisted on a power shift to the South or a southerner should be the national chairman.
The governors are Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Okezie Ipkeazu (Abia), Ifeanyi Ugwuayi (Enugu) and Samuel Ortom (Benue).
Their decision not to campaign for Atiku left the five states up for grab by other candidates.
In Oyo State, Makinde’s refusal to campaign for Atiku will most likely tilt the outcome of the election more in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Other leading presidential candidates are Atiku (PDP), Peter Obi (LP) and Rabiu Kwankwanso (NNPP).
As residents cast their ballot in the presidential election, the following factors will most likely shape voting patterns.
The APC is still strong in Oyo State. The structure is still intact despite the aggrieved members that defected to Accord after controversial primaries. The new leader and governorship candidate, Sen. Teslim Folarin, has succeeded in bringing many back into the fold.
The party has been using the structure to campaign for the presidential candidate across the nooks and crannies of the state. This factor will surely earn Tinubu a lot of votes across the state.
Since the formation of the APC in 2014, Tinubu has been leading the party in Southwest Nigeria. Now that he emerged the presidential candidate, even the aggrieved members who defected to Accord have vowed to vote for him as they believe in his leadership and ability to turn Nigeria around.
Makinde’s open arms to Tinubu
While Makinde did not officially receive Atiku in Ibadan during his campaign, he received Tinubu and extolled his virtues, saying he has demonstrated capacity and paid his dues in Nigerian politics. The warm reception has been interpreted by his followers as being positive to his aspiration. He has always been saying at campaign grounds: “Vote for all our Senate and House of Representatives candidates. But for the presidency, vote for unity, equity and inclusiveness.” Hence, most of Makinde’s supporters will vote for the APC candidate.
The fact that Tinubu is the only Yoruba among the top four candidates is a factor that will fetch him thousands of votes in Oyo State. A lot of Nigerians see his emergence as aligning with power rotation between the Northern and South. Many believe that the presidency should come to the South for the purpose of unity and equity.
However, a PDP chieftain and one of the coordinators of the Atiku-for-president campaign, Hazeem Gbolarumi, assured that Atiku will win. He said the level of work undertaken by the campaign team was such that no other candidate can defeat Atiku in Oyo State.
The crowd that received Tinubu in Ibadan for his campaign last Thursday gave a good signal for victory. The crowd endured eight hours of scorching sun to catch a glimpse of the APC candidate.
Atiku will likely come second because of the factor of power rotation and division in the PDP. While Atiku has only few vote canvassers, Tinubu has them in large numbers, in Oyo State. The above factors will most likely weaken Atiku’s chances despite the fact that PDP is well-rooted in the state.
Sen. Soji Akanbi, who is a major campaigner for Tinubu, said: “We have done our best. We have educated our people on the fact that Tinubu is the best candidate in terms of capacity, ability and courage. He is also the most experienced. He is the round peg in round hole, sentiment apart. He is the only candidate that can take Nigeria out of the woods.”
Obi will likely come third because of millennials who see him as the symbol of the kind of new generation politicians needed to rebuild Nigeria.
The NNPP candidate Rabiu Kwankwanso is expected to come fourth in the election.
In Benue State, Ortom did not only refuse to campaign for Atiku, but has reportedly declared support for Obi. His choice was interpreted to be in furtherance of the campaign for a power shift to the South.
With his endorsement for the LP candidate, Benue has become a battleground for the APC, PDP and LP candidates, given the strength of both APC and PDP in the state. Obi is now the third force that can not be wished away in the state.
The PDP is still very popular in Abia, despite Ikpeazu’s position. The party has governed the state from 1999. The first governor, Sen. Orji Uzo Kalu, who defected to the APC and won his senatorial seat. He has been pulling a lot of strings for the party in the state.
Considering ethnic loyalty, LP’s Obi is expected to pull weight while core PDP members and supporters will stick with Atiku as a matter of party loyalty.
Besides, the governor has not campaigned against Atiku.
The same factors that play out in Abia will also determine voting patterns in Enugu State. Both Atiku and Obi are expected to take the lead given the factors highlighted above. But the influence of a former governor Sen. Chimaroke Nnamani, and others who have declared support for Tinubu can not be wished away.
Voting patterns in Rivers may surprise many Nigerians. Wike, who is leading the G5, has reportedly directed his supporters to vote for Tinubu of APC. Though observers hold that his directive will not bring a substantial change to the vote patterns, Nigerians are likely to see Atiku, Tinubu and Obi share the votes. In fact, APC is expected to poll higher number of votes this time unlike in 2019.
Wike opened his door to the three presidential candidates that went to campaign in the state. Atiku never went to Rivers for the campaign.
The G5 position is sure to mar Atiku’s chances of clear victory in the five states, thereby threatening his overall victory in the election. After Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Kastina, and Rivers, Oyo State ranks next in voting strength. In fact, both Rivers and Oyo states recorded between 700,000 and 800,000 votes for both APC and PDP candidates in the 2019 election.
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