To put it plainly, apart from Taraba, Benue, Plateau & Nassarawa States, President Muhammadu Buhari is poised to sweep the votes of the remaining 15 northern states, for the following reasons:
1. The “Amana” factor.
A lot of southerners often wonder the basis of the cult-like following PMB commands in the North – the reason is not far fetched.
The Hausa-fulani people in particular, place a huge value on the concept of “Amana” (trust/to hold in trust), a value which Buhari’s track record of integrity (whether disputed or not) is clearly aligned with. Despite media propaganda, most of these people who are more politically informed than their average southern counterparts, are aware that not a single charge of corruption has stuck on their revered PMB, amidst corruption allegations among his cronies. Atiku loses massively in this respect because of his track record of corruption (BPE, Haliburton, $16b power scam, unexplained source of wealth etc.) which presents him as an untrustworthy leader to most northerners.
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Furthermore, PMB’s seemingly north-centric agenda regarding appointments, infrastructure projects (roads, rails, ports) and focus on agriculture assures most northerners that their interests would be well protected under his administration, in contrast to Atiku who is perceived to be likely to make concessions and appeasements to the East whose support he is mostly riding on going by recent trends. Atiku also loses big in this regard.
2. The South Eastern VP Factor
If Atiku gives in to the clamor for his running mate to emerge from the East, then he stands to lose massive votes from the core north for obvious reasons. Firstly, the deep political antagonism and anti-north stance from Igbos, which has characterized the national space and been amplified since the defeat of Jonathan and rise of IPOB/Nnamdi Kanu and their hate speech, will deeply hurt Atiku’s chances because not only will it mean the North would be taking the extreme bigotry, insults and political antagonism from the East right on the chin with no consequences.
It would also mean the possibility of an Igbo successor to Atiku – a people known for their contempt for Nigeria’s unity and secessionist aspirations. In addition, a SE VP will also cost Atiku significant SW votes – a sub-region with the second largest number of registered voters (14 million).
3. The Boko Haram Factor
In sharp contrast to the generally held notion among some in the south that Atiku would sweep the NE because it’s his home region, the strides recorded by PMB in the fight against Boko Haram heavily neutralizes that effect. I am not talking about social media noise, but the perceptions of people directly affected by Boko Haram activities and are experiencing a gradual return to normalcy since PMB took office.
Yola (Adamawa) for example, Atiku’s own home capital, has experienced peace since PMB’s onslaught on BH like they never saw since Boko Haram emerged under the past PDP administration – this was formerly a ghost town that used to suffer deadly BH attacks daily with dusk-till-dawn curfews, which has since been lifted and attacks reduced to suicide bombings at soft targets and guerrilla attacks which are reducing on a monthly basis. This was a state that had several LGA’s under Boko Haram’s rule during PDP’s administration and the people aren’t quick to forget the corruption that marred the fight against BH in Dasuki fashion.
Maiduguri is back to it’s bustling state with people now free to watch El-Kanem FC matches in the township stadium, and trans-border economic trade (mostly fish) is gradually being restored. The return of the Chibok and Dapchi girls also adds points to PMB’s profile in the sub-region. If by God’s grace the FG is able to secure the release of Leah Sharibu then that would be a hat-trick. I personally spoke to a “Kube” (traditional hausa cap) dealer from Borno recently and these were the exact sentiments he expressed as he professed support for Buhari’s candidacy.
It is very valid to permute that the votes from the 4 excluded northern states (Benue, Plateau, Nassarawa, Taraba) will be shared by both candidates as federal might will play out (both parties will rig anyway). With 19 million registered voters in the North West and 10 million in the North East which are largely homogenic, it is safe to say anyone who loses these key regions has lost the 2019 elections. With another 14 million registered voters in the SW which is APC’s stronghold and Atiku’s slant towards choosing a SE VP, his campaign team should be very worried.
Note that this is not to say Atiku will not record a sizable number of votes from the Northern States, but the ratio will pale in significance to Buhari’s potential landslide victory in the region. – Q.S