This is the third edition of a series that first began with an analysis of the prospects for different candidates on the cusp of the presidential primaries conducted by the APC and the PDP. In the second part of this election series, we analyzed the frontrunners vis-à-vis their background, political philosophy, prospects of winning, and obstacles. 

For this part of the series, we maintain the same outlook in our analysis of the underdogs.

The classification as underdogs is based on a few factors, such as political party, political structure, national reach, support base, network, and popularity.

Peter Obi

An ex-governor of Anambra State and a frugal yet wealthy businessman, Mr. Peter Obi has emerged as a “third force” in the build-up to the 2023 election. His simplistic aura, prudence, and accessibility continue to endear him to many Nigerians desirous of a change in the status quo. 

Obi’s fame continues to gain wide traction across the country, having defied earlier speculations by some that it was a social media fad. Many perceive Mr. Obi as an anti-establishment candidate amongst the major contenders; his candidacy has generated the most buzz on social media, and it’s essentially the rave of the moment, serving as an outlet for many Nigerians to reject the status quo.

Political philosophy

Consumption to Production

Mr. Production, Obi, has a “consumption to production” mantra, and he constantly harps on the need for Nigeria to transform from a consuming to a producing nation, believing this transformation would create jobs, incentivize production, and spur economic growth.

The Labour Party presidential candidate believes the vast arable land the country has lying fallow should be harnessed and the manufacturing sector improved upon. He has frequently explained that reliance on oil is drawing Nigeria back. Juxtaposing Nigeria with Vietnam and the Netherlands—countries much smaller but earning more from agriculture—helps buttress his point. 

Production Sharing Formula

Peter Obi has said he will stop the monthly revenue allocation sharing formula and replace it with a production formula. He believes this would be a catalyst for growth and development, citing examples of countries busy producing while Nigeria is caught in the loop of sharing and consuming.

Reduce cost of governance

At numerous forums, Mr. Obi has not only bemoaned the cost of governance and corruption but also posited that the cost of governance is one of the factors stunting the growth of the country. His assertion being that the quantity of wastage in the public service is a stumbling block to Nigeria’s progress.

Prospects of Winning

Christian votes

Nigeria is almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians, but this semblance of parity in demography has been unable to curb perennially heightened tension between adherents of either faith, leading to frequent showdowns manifesting in forms of violent crisis, virulent rhetoric, and competition for power. 

History has shown that religious sentiments strongly influence voter choice.

Among the quartet of major candidates, Obi is the only Christian, and in a polity sullied by mutual mistrust and serenaded by condemnations of Tinubu’s same-faith ticket, Obi could potentially benefit from protest and sympathy Christian votes for the reasons below.

  • He’s the only Christian among the four major candidates. Two of the candidates are Muslims from the North, and the third is a Muslim from the South with a Muslim running mate. 
  • Based on observation, the most visible outpour of support he’s received emanates from the southern states (some of which have a strong Christian majority). His candidacy resonates more with the southern middle class, and his popularity amongst this demographic bears a strong resemblance to Buhari’s popularity with the northern masses pre-2015. 
  • In parts of the North where Obi has support, like Bauchi, Kaduna, and the Plateau, it’s centered amongst Northern Christians, whom perceive Tinubu’s same faith ticket as an affront to their sensibilities. Peter Obi is a potential beneficiary of votes from the Bible Belt states across the country

South East

Amidst the loud cries of political marginalization, secession and an Igbo presidency in the south-east. Mr. Obi’s candidature has gained massive support in the region and triggered enthusiasm in the youth. The surge in PVC registration and collection is novel in the South-East and perhaps a testament to waning apathy.

Since the dawn of the fourth republic, the southeast has sought the presidency vociferously, but this pursuit has been a failure due to a lot of factors. Many residents of the South-East see Obi’s candidacy as a pathway for an Igbo presidency. As a result, the question on many lips is: Is Obi’s candidacy the counter to the history of apathy and poor turnout in the South-East?

Dissatisfied Nigerians

As earlier alluded, there’s no doubt that part of Obi’s quantum of support is fueled by dissatisfaction i.e cost of living crisis, insecurity, unemployment and weak purchasing power of naira are drawbacks which many have tied to the failed promises of APC and PDP. Many have pitched their tent with Mr Obi believing his candidacy promises a break from the corruption and insensitivity of the past. 

Having experienced leadership from the APC and PDP, not a few Nigerians are sold on the idea of trying something new; a candidate on a different platform. 

Youths

Obi is enjoying tremendous support among a subset of the youth. Their palpable angst and frustration against the status quo has translated into support for him. Insecurity, perennial ASUU strike, unemployment, police brutality, harsh business conditions and a tanking economy are factors that have informed their backing of Obi as a protest to the status quo. From being disinterested and cynical to an remarkable enthusiasm, Obi’s candidature has inspired hope amongst this demography of youth. 

A large percentage of the youth whom were supporters of the EndSARS protest support Obi and they are passionate about the election. Their enthusiasm could be an advantage for Obi if it translates to voter turnout.

Obstacles

The Labour Party, the platform on which Mr. Peter Obi is contesting, is deficient in terms of reach to the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. Despite being in existence for almost two decades, the party’s rise to fame is largely due to the frenzy that Peter Obi’s candidacy has generated. The membership strength of the party when juxtaposed with the boots on the ground needed for a presidential election leaves much to be desired. 

Support for Mr. Peter Obi is deficient in terms of an appreciable national spread and penetration. Nothing underscores this like the appointment of an Igbo man as Sokoto State coordinator of the Labour Party Presidential Campaign Council.

Despite being a national candidate, the bulk of his support comes from the South East, which suffers from political apathy and has a history poor voter turnout. The region is also beset with a secessionist insurgency that exacerbates the aforementioned peculiarities. These factors are cumulatively a drawback for Mr. Obi’s candidacy. 

Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso

Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso is the presidential candidate of the NNPP. For the Kano strongman, his political career spans more than three decades, occupying positions such as deputy speaker of the house of representatives, governor, and most recently, Senator. The charismatic populist is a force to reckon with in the politics of Kano and leader of the Kwankwasiyya movement.

Political philosophy

The Kwankwasiyya ideology is deeply rooted in an egalitarian philosophy that perceives politics and power as means to serve the common man. It dates back to the early 1980s, when its founder, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, first ventured into student union politics. It has over time evolved into a solid political structure with a uniform appearance for members (a red cap) with a strong foothold in Kano. The Kwankwasiyya ideology bears a heavy resemblance, both in form and essence, to Mallam Aminu Kano’s egalitarian philosophy; even the red cap donned by Kwankwasiyya adherents is an Aminu Kano emulation. 

The late Mallam Aminu Kano was particularly focused on education for all, irrespective of status. And Kwankwaso’s achievements in education as Governor of Kano is primarily his selling point. During his second term (2011–2015), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso not only built hundreds of schools and declared free and compulsory basic education, but also sponsored over 2,500 indigent students abroad to pursue studies. These remarkable initiatives stems from his belief in education as a means of social mobility and human capital development.

Prospects of Winning

Despite being a “mushroom party,”  the NNPP has a solid foothold in Kano because of Kwankwaso and his grass-roots entrenched Kwankwasiyya movement. NNPP is the major opposition party in the Kano state House of Assembly with 15 state legislators, while PDP has one. The party also has a handful of National Assembly members and other former lawmakers from other parts of the country. 

President Buhari’s absence from the ballot for the first time in 19 years is an upside for Kwankwaso, as Northern votes are up for grabs. His charisma and pro-masses rhetoric are increasingly popular among the masses, and his candidacy is a spoiler for the APC and PDP.

The NNPP has a solid foothold in Kano due to the Kwankwasiyya movement and a presence in other states like Bauchi, Nassarawa, Jigawa, Borno, and the Plateau. The party could win state and national legislative seats due to the calibre of grassroots mobilizers it has inside its fold. 

Obstacles

The obstacles on Kwankwaso’s path to the presidency are similar to his fellow underdog(Obi)

They include:  

  • Kwankwaso’s popularity is deficient in terms of national reach. Outside of the North, he has little support. Despite his choice of running mate being a pastor from Edo State, his popularity outside the North is unmatched.
  • The New Nigeria People’s Party, though having been in existence for close to two decades, is recently being reinvigorated by Kwankwaso’s presence in the party. The party structure of the NNPP pales in comparison to the PDP and APC because it lacks strong national clout.

Interestingly, parallels can also be drawn between Kwankwaso’s candidacy currently and Buhari’s candidacy in 2011. Both men were perceived as regional political heavyweights and deficient in terms of national reach, and both men settled for pastors as running mates as a strategy to bag votes. Just like Buhari didn’t win, the same fate is likely to befall Kwankwaso. 

Despite these parallels, their candidacies aren’t wholly similar. Even in the North, Kwankwaso lacks the depth of support Buhari had in his heydays. And his choice of running mate also doesn’t bring any political capital to the table. That a victory isn’t in sight for him doesn’t mean he’s of no importance. Should he step down for either of the frontrunners before the election, that candidate stands a better chance of becoming the next President. 

Possibility of a run-off

Every election comes with its peculiarities, and for the 2023 election, there have been increasing talks of a never-before-seen disruption in Nigeria’s election history: a run-off. 

A run-off should not be confused with a rerun; despite sounding similar, the two are different. A rerun takes place when an election is conducted and it is marred by malpractices or a lack of adherence to correct procedures, such as declaring the election inconclusive because of the number of polling units where the votes were cancelled. A rerun election can be declared if the margin of victory in an election is lower than the number of invalid votes.

On the other hand, a run-off is an election conducted when the first fails to produce a clear winner for the position of president or governor.This can happen when the candidate with the most votes does not receive the required number of votes spread across the affected states or federation; thus, a second election will involve just the two leading contenders.

Speculations about a run-off emerge from the strength and diversity of the major candidates, who emanate from strong geopolitical zones and represent competing interests, hopes, and aspirations. 

The four major candidates are all witnessing sizable support across the country, and this is evident in the frenzy about their candidatures, but a run-off remains a speculation, not a certainty, until the election is conducted. The probability of a run-off rests heavily on voter turnout and the performance of the four major candidates.

Where the underdogs would align in a run-off and why?

In a recent Arise TV interview, presidential candidate of the NNPP, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, when asked what he thought about Bola Tinubu, said,

I know Bola Tinubu is a strategist; he is a good man.” I have had reasons to sit with him several times, from 1990 till date. The only thing I don’t know is what he will tell Nigerians he will do differently from what President Muhammadu Buhari is doing. Ordinarily, if I cannot get it, I can recommend Tinubu.

From his statement, we can deduce a bias for Tinubu and a probability to support him should a run-off election be conducted. 

In 2019, Peter Obi was running mate to Atiku under the platform of the PDP. Up until three months ago, he was a member of the PDP and sought to contest the presidential primaries of the party, only to decamp to the Labour Party to actualize his presidential ambition. 

Despite being rivals with Atiku in this dog-eat-dog race for the presidency, Peter Obi has never shied away from showing obeisance to the PDP candidate, always fondly describing Atiku as my “leader and friend.” Based on the chummy relationship between the duo, Peter Obi is likely to support Atiku in the eventuality of a run-off election. 

Bandwagon Effect

The underdogs also suffer inversely from what in psychology is termed the “bandwagon effect,” which is applicable to politics. The bandwagon effect is a psychological phenomenon that makes people act or think in a certain way if they believe others are doing the same. This cognitive bias influences the political choices of people such that the prevailing perception that certain candidates can emerge victorious would make people inclined to vote for them. Inversely, as more people come to believe candidates who are underdogs are unlikely to win, others join the bandwagon and are unlikely to vote for them for fear of “wasting their votes,”  notwithstanding a preference for these candidates.

The campaign period comes with lots of twists and turns, thereby fluctuating fortunes. Not enough to make an underdog a frontrunner, but enough to affect the chances of either of the frontrunners. It’s also not impossible that either of the underdogs steps aside for any of the frontrunners.

However, intangible issues such as religion, region, ethnicity, personality, etc., rather than competence, capacity, and antecedents of the candidate, would affect the election the most. It’s worthy of note that Nigeria has been presented with a dynamic range of candidates, all with extensive experience and accomplishments outside of politics and no military background.

 


Yusuf Gupa

Political Analyst at Bulwark Intelligence, focused on monitoring and analysing the political system, government policies, social factors (cultural and religious aspects) and other related issues. He holds a Bachelor of Science: Political Science from University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria.

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