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5 reasons why Buhari will win or 5 reasons why Jonathan won’t lose

Predicting the outcome of an election has never been this difficult. The reason is not too complex though: this is the first time since 1...


Predicting the outcome of an election has never been this difficult. The reason is not too complex though: this is the first time since 1999 that the opposition party has gathered enormous momentum going into an election. What’s more: there seems to be a blossoming coalition between Muhammadu Buhari and the south. All you need do is look at the crowds and supporters at his rallies in the south, compared to the years gone by. However, no one dare rules out an incumbent president in a developing country, so President Goodluck Jonathan should not be considered down and out. But he has had a lot of negative publicity in his first term which puts him at a disadvantage, at least with many people. The election is a referendum on his government, not on Buhari’s regime of three decades ago. There are good reasons for Buhari to be hopeful that he would win. And there are good reasons for Jonathan to believe that he too would win. We try to highlight each candidate’s hopes.

1. Bigger Base In 2003, 2007 and 2011, Buhari was essentially a northern candidate with little support in the south. But he was clearly the darling of the “core north” and not the middle belt. Either as candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) or the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Buhari never had any impact in the south and most of the middle belt. Today, as candidate of the bigger All Progressives Congress (APC) which has swallowed ANPP and CPC, in addition to the south-west party, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Buhari has a bigger and broader base. He never won 25% in any southern state before; this time, expect him to hit that threshold in all southern states, except perhaps Bayelsa.

2. Bigger Purse The formation of APC has not only given Buhari a bigger national platform, his war chest is now heavier. In the past, his finances were highly limited. He could not afford all the necessary logistics, such as buying enough campaign vehicles and maintaining them. He could not afford expensive media advertising. His supporters often taxed themselves to make expenses on his behalf. In 2015, the story has changed. Buhari is all over the newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet. He has a deep pocket courtesy of the support of governors such as Rotimi Amaechi and Aliyu Wamakko as well as wealthy Nigerians like Bola Tinubu and former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar. Buhari, from struggling to fuel his campaign vehicles long ago, now uses chartered flights.

3. Bigger Youth Support Buhari was never the darling of the educated youth population until now. In 2011, Jonathan monopolised the market with his hold on the social media, where the youth are the most active. Buhari never had a Facebook page or Twitter handle. However, since he won the presidential ticket of his party in December, the story has changed completely. Youths who used to criticise Jonathan regularly on the social media simply moved to Buhari’s camp and, at some stage, drowned out pro-Jonathan voices. They have also been creative and proactive, criticising every move of Jonathan swiftly and generating a lot of viral messages against the president.

4. Better Image Buhari used to be seen as a religious fundamentalist who was bent on Islamising Nigeria. He had also been credited with a couple of statements that seemed to paint him in that light. Long ago, he reportedly said Muslims should only vote for Muslims a statement he denied. Last year, he was quoted as blaming Jonathan for the war against Boko Haram, reportedly saying a northerner gave Niger Delta militants but a southerner was instead killing northerners. All these reports painted him as a northern and Islamic champion. These impressions have since vanished, starting possibly from the moment he was attacked in Kaduna last year by suspected Boko Haram militants.

5. Critical Issues For once, the electioneering relegated sectional issues substantially to the background. Gone are the days of “it is our turn” or “Nigeria will be ungovernable if we don’t have it”. Jonathan, as the sitting president, has been confronted with issues of insecurity and corruption which his opponents have highlighted very well. Indeed, the message resonates well with many Nigerians who, despite opposing Buhari in the past, are now saying they would rather have him than four more years of Jonathan. Issues such as the kidnap of Chibok schoolgirls, the alleged $20 billion missing oil money, poor power supply and the menace of Boko Haram are uppermost on their minds. In a sense, the “change” campaign is more of an anti-Jonathan sentiment.

1. Incumbency Factor In African politics, or the politics of underdeveloped countries for that matter, incumbents are hard to unseat. Incumbents have been defeated in some nearby countries such as Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal but these deviations are not the rule. In Nigeria’s history, incumbents have always returned: Tafawa Balewa (1960 and 1964, as prime minister), Shehu Shagari (1979 and 1983) and Olusegun Obasanjo (1999 and 2003). Their returns were always controversial. So either steal, beg or borrow, Jonathan may use the advantage of incumbency to return to power. The postponement of the election, for instance, is seen as a demonstration of incumbency power and it is believed that it has allowed Jonathan to re-strategise for victory.

2. The Nicodemus Factor Although Buhari is dominating the airwaves, it could well be that those who are working for Jonathan are afraid of being “mobbed” and have decided to support him Nicodemusly (that means “secretly”, in case you are not familiar with the Bible story). In some parts of the country, those known to be supporting Jonathan have been attacked in the past. People lost their lives and property in 2011 for supporting Jonathan. There are various reports, mostly unconfirmed, that the northern elite are not well disposed to Buhari because of fear of vengeance. Some traditional rulers are also thought to be apprehensive about a scarcity of goodies under an anti-corruption icon like Buhari.

3. Southern/Middle Belt emotion Although Buhari now has a larger and broader base, there are those who will not vote for him simply because they think the north has a “born to rule” mentality. No matter their misgivings with a Jonathan government, they will be happy not to have another northerner as president “so soon”. Some southerners still refer to the past when the north ruled Nigeria from 1960 to 1999, minus the four combined years of Obasanjo and Ernest Shonekan. This sentiment is still strong in some areas in the south, where some socio-cultural groups and elders are still talking about the “northern oligarchy”. The minorities in the north, meanwhile, seem to identify with the south in this aspect.

4. Stomach Infrastructure There is a language that is often spoken among Nigerians voters: stomach infrastructure. A bag of rice, a bottle of vegetable oil, a bundle of clothing or a few wads of naira could win their votes. It is a common factor in places where they do not have any serious interest in the candidates. When it comes to stomach infrastructure, then, Jonathan has a bigger storehouse than Buhari. Although Buhari has a deeper pocket this time around, his funders also have other battles they are waging. For instance, Tinubu and Amaechi are battling to install their governorship candidates, making the presidential election a bit of a distraction. More so, the postponement of the election appears to have depleted opposition’s resources, while PDP’s pocket seems bottomless.

5. South-west? Which south-west? Buhari’s hope of unseating Jonathan seems to rest so much on the belief that the APC is in control of the south-west. Having scored 10 million votes less than Jonathan in 2011, the Buhari camp seemed to have finally accepted the fact that he needs southern votes to become president.

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