BY ROTIMI DUROJAIYE
The presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has been aspiring to govern Nigeria since 1992 when he contested in the Social Democratic Party presidential primary election and came third behind Babagana Kingibe and late Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, the eventual winner of the election held in Jos, the capital of Plateau State.
On May 28, 2022, Atiku was pronounced the presidential candidate of the PDP in 2023 general election after defeating his close rivals like Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, former Senate President, Bukola Saraki among others in a stiff-contested primary.
The Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal who was also eyeing the top seat stepped down for Atiku barely hours before the commencement of the voting exercise by party delegates.
A check by The Point revealed that Atiku has been eyeing the presidency seat since 1993 and till date, he has not achieved the feat.
Atiku has contested under four different political parties namely; Social Democratic Party, Action Congress, All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic Party. He lost three party primaries and two presidential elections respectively.
Atiku in 1993 contested the Social Democratic Party presidential primaries and lost to Moshood Kasimawo Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe.
He also contested the presidential primaries of the People’s Democratic Party during the 2011 presidential election losing out to incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.
Atiku in 2014 dumped the PDP and defected to the APC ahead of the 2015 presidential election and contested the presidential primaries losing to Muhammadu Buhari.
Atiku was a presidential candidate of the Action Congress in the 2007 presidential election coming in the third position to Umaru Yar’Adua of the PDP and Muhammadu Buhari of the ANPP.
Atiku in 2017 returned to the PDP and was the party’s presidential candidate during the 2019 presidential election, again losing to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
Despite his efforts and consistent struggle to be President, Atiku was only on the ballot papers two times. The first was in 2007 when he contested on the platform of the Action Congress and in 2019 when he contested on the platform of the PDP, a platform he is using now to fulfill his political ambition in 2023.
One thing that political observers and critics have noticed in the country is that Atiku has not been able to win convincingly in the North, despite the fact that he is a northerner and has been in politics for a long time.
Atiku hails from Jada in Adamawa State, but in fact, the two times he contested, he lost the northern votes to the eventual winners.
In the 2007 presidential election, three northerners were candidates of the three major political parties. They were the late Umaru Yar’Adua of the PDP, Muhammadu Buhari of the All Nigeria Peoples Party and Atiku Abubakar of the AC.
The Independent National Electoral Commission refused to release the breakdown of the official results of 2007 presidential election states by state. It only announced the final scores by candidates. But unofficial results across the states showed that Atiku performed woefully in the North behind Yar’Adua and Buhari. Yar’Adua had the highest votes in the northern region in the election, followed by Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku.
The final results released by INEC for the 2007 presidential election showed that Yar’Adua was the winner and he received 70 per cent of the total number of votes (24,638,063 votes). Buhari was in second place with 18 percent of the votes (6,605,299 votes), while Atiku was placed third with about 7 per cent (2,637,848 votes).
“An analysis of the past presidential election results has shown that Atiku is a bit stronger in the North-Central and was not strong but very weak even in his North- East region and the North West”
In 2019, Atiku was the presidential candidate of the PDP and he contested against President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC, among other contestants.
The final results also showed that Atiku lost the election in the North to Buhari.
The breakdown of the results showed that Buhari scored 612,371 votes in Niger State to Atiku’s 218,052 votes. In Sokoto, Buhari got 490,333 votes as against Atiku who scored 36,604 votes.
Others were Yobe: Buhari 497,914; Atiku , 50,763; Zamfara: Buhari, 438682, Atiku, 125,423; Nasarawa: Buhari 289,903 as against Atiku, 283,847; Kwara: Buhari 308,984, Atiku 138,184; Kogi: Buhari, 285,894, Atiku ,218,207; Kebbi: Buhari, 58,552, Atiku, 154,282; Katsina: Buhari 1,232,133, Atiku, 308,056; Kano: Buhari, 1,464,768, Atiku, 391,593; Kaduna: Buhari, 993,445, Atiku, 649,612; Jigawa: Buhari 794,738, Atiku,289,895; Gombe: Buhari,402,961, Atiku 138,484; FCT: Buhari,152,224, Atiku,259,997; Borno: Buhari,836,496, Atiku, 71788; Benue: Buhari 347,668, Atiku,356,817; Bauchi: Buhari798,428, Atiku 209,313; Adamawa: Buhari,378,076, Atiku, 410,266; Plateau: Buhari,468,555, Atiku,548,665; Taraba: Buhari,324,906, Atiku 374,743.
The results given by the INEC in 2019 showed that in the 19 states in the North and the FCT, Buhari won in 15 states, while Atiku won in four states and the FCT.
In the 2019 presidential election, Atiku lost in the North-East to Buhari in Bauchi, Yobe, Borno and Gombe States, but won only in his home state of Adamawa and Taraba. In the North West, he lost all the seven states of Kaduna, Kano, Zamfara, Kebbi, Jigawa, Sokoto and Katsina. In the North Central, Atiku won in the Federal Capital Territory, Plateau and Benue.
An analysis of the past presidential election results has shown that Atiku is a bit stronger in the North-Central and was not strong but very weak even in his North-East region and the North West.
Also, the result of the SDP primary in 1993 showed that Atiku came second behind Babagana Kingibe in the pursuit of northern delegates ‘votes. In 2007, he lost the northern votes to Yar’Adua and in the 2019 presidential election; he lost the northern votes to Buhari.
The final figure of the Permanent Voters Card registrants recently updated by INEC for the 2023 general elections shows Lagos, Kano, Kaduna and Rivers States among the states with the most number of Nigerians eligible to vote, while Yobe, Gombe and Ekiti States, together with the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, making up the rear.
After an uncertain registration period that was greeted by court cases over the non-extension of the registration deadline, INEC has said that a final figure of about 96.2 million Nigerians are currently registered to participate in the general elections.
A close look at the data released by INEC shows that Lagos has 7,155,920 million registrants closely followed by Kano State with 6,026,850 million PVC registrants. Kaduna, Rivers, Delta and Katsina States follow with 4,411,723 million, 3,689,197 million, 3,386,791 million and 3,570,740 million, respectively.
Other states are Oyo (3,330,336 million), Plateau (2,840,094 million), Bauchi (2,801,512 million), Anambra (2,761,467 million), Nasarawa (2,759,943 million), Ogun (2,720,422 million), Benue (2,667,902 million), Edo (2,576,474 million), Borno (2,564,197 million), Akwa Ibom (2,447,438 million), Adamawa (2,234,550 million), Imo (2,272,293 million) and Jigawa (2,272,293 million)
Making up the numbers are: Sokoto (2,233,575 million), Abia (2,202,242 million), Taraba (2,088,260 million), Ondo (2,047,598 million), Osun (2,043,107 million), Kebbi (2,076,798 million), Kogi (2,009,229 million), Zamfara (1,955,777 million), Enugu (1,944,016 million), Bayelsa (1,367,834 million), Cross River (1,894,640 million), Ebonyi (1,861,443 million), Kwara (1,736,858 million), Yobe (1,518,327 million), Gombe (1,394,393 million), FCT (1,344,856 million) and Ekiti (1,034,811 million).
By regions, the North West, made up of Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara have the highest total number registrants with about 22.67 million registered eligible voters.
The South West, which comprises Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo states recorded about 18.3 million would-be voters while the South-South with Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers States have about 15.2 million.
The North Central region, composed of Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau and the FCT recorded about 14.1 million of eligible voters, while the North East (Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, Yobe) and South East (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo) have 12.8 million and 11.5 million eligible voters, respectively.
Adamawa State, home to Atiku has about 2.2 million eligible voters. The state which falls into the North East recorded about 12 million voters in the region. And though the region used to be a PDP stronghold, the APC has, nonetheless, continued to make headway into the region.
A political analyst, Udume Emevo, who spoke to The Point, said it would likely not be business as usual during the election. Emevo said political parties who were relying on “old glory” would be disappointed during the election because, according to him, people wanted positive change.
Emevo stated that the total number of 96.2 million PVC registrants released by INEC was not necessarily all those who had their PVCs in their possession.
Furthermore, he cautioned Atiku and Tinubu to “work harder” in their stronghold states, as nothing would be guaranteed during the election.
“I don’t think it (elections) will be business as usual. I think that this time around, Nigerians will no longer be influenced by regional politics or loyalty. Therefore, nobody should rely on old glory. Nigerians want change, and I mean positive change.
“The big politicians…I mean Atiku and Tinubu, should work harder in those states that are usually considered as either PDP or APC strongholds. Nothing will be guaranteed this time around,” he said.
The question on the lips of political analysts is whether now that Atiku is the only leading northern presidential candidate of the major political parties in the country, he can conveniently win the northern votes for himself and the PDP.
Before the APC presidential primary, there was agitation among its members and leaders that with the emergence of the former Vice President as the candidate of the PDP, there was a need for them to also pick a northerner in order to secure the north votes.
This has spurred arguments and many have expressed the opinion that the APC has no other choice but to pick a northern candidate if it wishes to win the 2023 presidential election.
But the party found itself in a dicey situation as it could not find a northern candidate that could compete favourably with Atiku, hence its decision to vote Tinubu from the South-West.
The argument is on the assumption that the votes in the North are region-based and Atiku will overrun the North if APC fields a candidate from the South.
A public affairs commentator and analyst, John Bassey, said that with Atiku Abubakar as the candidate of the PDP and with an APC presidential candidate coming from the South, Atiku would receive the majority of northerners’ votes in the 2023 presidential election.
“What you are asking me is not difficult at all. Atiku Abubakar will win the northern votes. The northerners in their pattern of votes have always favoured one of their own. Luckily for Atiku this time around, he has no strong opponent in the North. Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso would have given him strong opposition, but he is in a minor party, the New Nigeria Peoples Party. So Atiku will break the jinx. He will win in the North overwhelmingly.”
Bassey’s position also tallies with that of Lee Maeba, the spokesperson of the National Mandate Group.
He said,” Atiku is set to take over Nigeria. There is nothing stopping him. He will win in the North and South.”
Also a group known as Plateau for Atiku Organisation said Abubakar would win the 2023 presidential election in Plateau State.
The spokesman of the group, Shedrach Best, said that Plateau and indeed, the entire North would remain the home of the PDP.
Best pointed out that the PDP gladiators in Plateau have resolved to deliver the state for Atiku, having taken cognisance of his wealth of experience in politics and governance.
He added that the presidential candidate understood the terrain of governance more than other presidential candidates.
An APC stalwart said, on the condition of anonymity, that the presidential candidate of the party, Bola Tinubu alongside the vice presidential candidate, Kashim Shettima, would defeat Atiku Abubakar and the PDP in the North.
Will Atiku break the jinx and win the northern votes in 2023? That is a question that will surely be answered in February 2023.