LESS than 14 days to the presidential election, a number of states are emerging as votes swinging blocs that will shape the outcome of the polls.
BY CHARLES KUMOLU
WITH just two weeks to the 2015 presidential election, there is no doubt that votes in states with high density registered voters, would most likely determine who wins the contest.
Unlike other states, Lagos, Kano, Rivers, Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Plateau, Delta, Benue and Bauchi are expected to be prioritised by the campaign organisations of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and All Progressives Congress, APC.
An in depth analysis of the emerging electoral map, showed that these states have 30, 015, 291 registered voters, representing nearly 43 percent of the total number of registered voters across the country which the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC pegged at 70,383,427.
In the 2011 presidential elections, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, retd, who was the candidate of the defunct Congress of Progressive Change, CPC, won in five of these states – Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Bauchi, and Niger
President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP also won in five – Lagos, Rivers, Plateau, Benue and Delta.
In spite of the fact that Nigeria’s electoral map is continuously undergoing transmutation, occasioned by the sustained updating of voters register and rate of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) collection, these areas remain pivotal in deciding how far any of the candidates can go.
Since a good number of the states are being controlled by the PDP, it may not be wrong to assume that the party would have an edge over the APC in those areas, but that may not totally be the case as a result of many factors.
Prominent among the reasons are the issues of religion, ethnicity, changing alliances and party loyalty, which are deciding factors in these hotbeds.
The foregoing, analysts argued, highlight the challenges that Jonathan and Buhari may face in framing arguments that would attract votes in these battle grounds.
Further probe into the electoral map showed that much as the states offer reasons for hope, there are so many reasons for the APC and PDP to be apprehensive.
Out of this number about 2,2 67,039 people have collected their PVCs, while about 1.8 million PVCs are yet to be collected.
Vanguard gathered that INEC in the state has so far received about four million PVCs. Though Lagos is the stronghold of the APC, it could as well be described as a swing state given its heterogeneous nature which cuts across party leanings. It is for this reason that pundits are undivided about the likely direction of the pendulum.
To them, it is neither here nor there, hence the circumspection against concluding on the possible winner of the presidential race in the state. Instructively, President Jonathan scored 1,281,688 votes against Buhari’s 189, 983 in 2011.
Whether the 2011 voting pattern would play out in Africa’s most populous city, is likely to be determined by the unusual audacious outing the opposition is having this time.
Kano is officially the most populous state in Nigeria. With a population of about 11 million people, the state has 44 local government areas, LGAs, making it very crucial in political calculations in the country’s multiparty system.
So important is the numerical edge of the state that the fate of presidential aspirants are, to a large extent, often determined by the support of Kano delegates during party primaries.
Like other core northern states, the voting pattern in Kano, usually toe along ethno religious lines.
In 2011, the religious cleavages in the system were prevalent, resulting in the lean number of votes the PDP recorded in the state.
The CPC candidate scored 1,624,543 votes while the PDP had 440, 666. Though the state is currently being governed by the APC, analysts believe that the voting pattern would further influence how far any of the leading presidential candidates can go.
The state has 4,975,701 registered voters, making it the second after Lagos. Unfortunately, over 40 percent of these eligible voters may not vote as a result of the low collection rate of PVCs. As at the time of filing this report, only 2,612,400 PVCs have been distributed across the 44 local councils of the state.
The cruciality of Katsina is pegged on three key factors: it is the home state of Buhari, has many registered voters and 79 per cent of the would-be-voters have collected the PVC These three elements would be so pivotal in the race given that they might shape the voting pattern. Considering the fact that the twin issues of religion and ethnicity, had in the past, played pivotal role in the voting pattern in Katsina, predicting a repeat of history may not be difficult.
It is expected that 2,245, 303 voters representing the number of PVCs collected would vote on the Election Day out of 2,827,943 registered voters.
With latest report ranking Kaduna as the state with the highest rate of PVCs collection, the state is certainly a battle ground. Aside leading in PVCs collection rate, Kaduna is the home state of Vice President Namadi Sambo and also a melting pot with high number of indigenous Christians.
In 2011, Buhari and Jonathan ran a tight race in Kaduna, which Buhari narrowly won. Buhari scored 1,334, 244 votes while Jonathan had 1,190,179 votes, which reconfirmed the unpredictable voting pattern of the state. Out of 3,407,222 registered voters, 2,976,628 people have collected their PVCs, indicating a 62 percent collection rate.
More than half of the entire 3,950,249 population of Niger State were registered during the various voters’ registration exercises in the state.
At the moment, Niger has 2,014,317 registered voters and 62 two percent of this population are in possession of their PVCs. Specifically, 1,250,379 PVCs have been collected.
Incidentally, Niger which is the home state of former heads of state, General Ibrahim Babangida, retd, and Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd), giving it a very crucial space in the country’s electoral map.These leaders are known to have large followership across the country, considering the various roles they had played in the country’s political evolution.
Already, Babangida, in a move seen as having sweeping implications in the race, recently declared his support for Buhari, in the upcoming elections.
The 2011 election results showed that Jonathan had 321,429 votes while Buhari won with 652,574 votes.
Apart from having 2,054,125 registered voters, Bauchi has so far, recorded nearly 85 per cent PVCs distribution rate.
Another feature that stands Bauchi out as a possible battleground is the fact that the PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, hails from there.
Muazu, a former governor of the state, is expected to deliver the state for his party.
Already, the state is already making the headlines for alleged anti-Jonathan activities, occasioned by the stoning of the President’s convoy.
Bauchi is among the states where the PDP had a poor outing in the 2011 presidential election.
President Jonathan had 258,404 votes in that exercise while Buhari won with 1,315, 209 votes.
Barring any downward or upward change in the number of PVCs distributed, about 1, 745, 441 voters would vote in next month’s election.
The violence ravaged state, is among the few places in the North were the President won in 2011 presidential election.
The result of that election, to a large extent, conformed to arguments that the Christian/Muslim dichotomy played a decisive role in the exercise.
Accordingly, Jonathan had 1, 029,865 votes, while Buhari scored 356,551 votes.
The number of registered voters in Plataea is 2, 001,825 while 1,141,260 people have so far collected their PVCs.
Known for its usual block votes for the PDP since 1999 the state would undoubtedly be a battleground considering the gains the APC has made as a result of the defection of Governor Rotimi Amaechi.
The likely voting pattern in the presidential election, will for a long time dominate most post-election discourse. The number of registered voters in Rivers is 2,537,590, but a lower percentage of that figure would vote in the election. The development is not unconnected with the fact that only 1, 253,606 PVCs have been distributed by INEC.
Against that backdrop, the state that gave President Jonathan 1,817,762 votes in 2011, may not record up to 50 percent participation in the race.
With 2, 275,264 registered voters, Delta is the second most numerically strong state in the South-South geo-political zone.
Even though over one million of these voters would not vote in the polls, about 1,422,595 votes are up for grabs.
The state voted massively for President Jonathan in 2011 with 1, 378, 851 votes.
In Benue, 1, 132,187 votes are for up grabs. This figure represents the number of PVCs distributed in the state out the 2,015,452 registered voters.
In 2011, President Jonathan garnered 694, 776 votes while Buhari got 109,680 votes.