By Ishaya Ibrahim
The North Central is home to Nigeria’s third largest voting population with 13.4 million registered voters.
It is also a hotbed of herdsmen clashes with local communities, especially in Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa states.
It is hard to determine how the insecurity in the region will influence the votes.
However, with the aid of the data of the two previous elections – 2011 and 2015, TheNiche Data Analysis Unit has predicted how the region will vote for Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Atiku Abubakar, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) flag-bearer.
Buhari has always been the preferred presidential candidate of the majority of Niger state voters. In some cases, they would vote him as their preferred presidential candidate, then choose a different party for the governorship. That was the case in 2011 when he defeated President Goodluck Jonathan in Niger state by clinching 64 per cent of the total votes, but his party lost the state’s governorship poll to the PDP.
In 2015, 77 per cent of those who voted in Niger state chose Buhari. They also chose his party at the governorship election.
In the next election, Buhari is expected to win Niger votes by 70 per cent.
For Kogi voters, they are like the astute investor, John Maynard Keynes whose principle is that ‘when the facts change, I change my mind.’
Since 1999, they have tried different political parties – All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), PDP and now APC, which is more like returning back to the ANPP. The ANPP was part of a coalition that formed APC.
In 2011, 71 per cent of the state’s electorate voted for the PDP presidential candidate, Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari got only 23 per cent.
In 2015, 60 per cent of the voters chose Buhari while Jonathan got 34 per cent.
The dynamism of the voters makes it difficult to make an accurate forecast. However, there is a high chance that Atiku will lead by at least 53 per cent.
Nasarawa is not friendly territory for Buhari. He has never won it.
In the two previous elections, the voters chose his party at the governorship and voted the PDP at the presidential.
Can Buhari reverse the trend? It is unlikely. It was in 2015 that he could have done it when his candidacy enjoyed the greatest momentum across the board, and yet, the state stuck to the PDP. And giving that he is running on his record now, and not promises and programmes, and the record has not been stellar, the chances are even bleaker.
In the 2011 poll, Buhari contested as the candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a party that came into existence less than one year before the election. The Nasarawa electorate chose a CPC governor but voted the PDP presidential candidate by 59 per cent lead. Buhari got 40 per cent.
In 2015, the PDP maintained its lead in the state by 53 per cent. Buhari had 46 per cent.
In the next election, Atiku is expected to win the majority of the votes in Nasarawa state by at least 56 per cent.
Kwara politics is largely personality based. The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has largely determined the voting pattern of the state.
In the 2011 poll, he was in the PDP. The state voted PDP. In 2015, he defected to the APC. And APC got the majority of the votes in the state.
Now that he is back to the PDP, the 2019 election will afford Saraki the opportunity to test his popularity among the people. But this time, the opponent is bigger than it ever was. The APC led-federal government is bent on taking Kwara. Can Saraki survive the gang-up?
Kwara is not one of the states that are rigidly behind Buhari. In the 2011 election, only 20 per cent preferred him. The PDP candidate got 65 per cent of the voters queuing behind him. Saraki then was in the PDP.
After Saraki joined the APC in 2015, Buhari’s electoral fortune in the state rose from 20 per cent in 2011, to 69 per cent, leaving Jonathan with 30 per cent.
Now that Saraki has returned to the PDP, all eyes are on him to see if he can still sway support for his party, especially the presidential candidate, Atiku, whose campaign he is leading as the director general.
Going by the voting behaviour of the people, the PDP is expected to clinch the state by at least 60 per cent lead.
Benue state is likely to be Buhari’s Waterloo in the North Central. For those we interviewed, they say it will be payback time for Buhari whom the people alleged that he has not done enough to protect them from the onslaught of herdsmen.
The governor, Samuel Ortom, left the APC and joined the PDP in a move many believe was aimed at avoiding the backlash that APC may suffer as a result of the herdsmen crisis.
Benue had been a PDP state until 2015 when APC won the majority of the votes at the governorship and presidential election.
When Buhari contested the 2011 election, only 10 per cent of the voters cast their votes for him. The PDP got 66 per cent, while 21 per cent of the voters preferred Nuhu Ribadu of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
In 2015, Buhari’s rating moved up significantly. He won the votes in Benue by 54 per cent.
In 2019, the herdsmen crisis may see Buhari lose significant voters in Benue. The situation in Benue favours Atiku who may clinch 70 per cent of the votes.
Buhari has never won Plateau state. The closest he ever got was in 2015 when his party won the governorship election. Yet, only 42 per cent of the electorate voted for him at the presidential poll. Jonathan led by 55 per cent.
The 2015 election was a major improvement of Buhari’s previous records in Plateau election. In 2011, only 25 per cent of the voters chose him. Jonathan got 73 per cent.
Atiku is expected to win the 2019 election by at least 64 per cent.