5 DAYS TO PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: BUHARI ATIKU BATTLE FOR NORTH WEST, SOUTH WEST 36MIL VOTES

The North-West and South-West geopolitical zones have turned to battlegrounds for President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of this weekend’s presidential election. The belief is that whoever among the 73 candidates contesting the election that garners majority of votes in the two zones stands a better chance of winning the election.

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had registered more than 84 million Nigerians to vote in the 2019 general elections. The figure is 15 million more than the figure in 2015, which stood at 68 million. Consequently, the candidates of the two leading political parties are leaving nothing to chance to have a chunk of the 36 million votes in the two zones.

The duo stepped up their quest for North-West votes yesterday. While President Buhari was in Zamfara, his main opponent, Atiku, shutdown Kano, both canvassing votes. Of the 84 million registered voters for the general elections, North-West with seven states – Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara, tops the chart with 20 million voters, constituting 24 per cent of the total votes. Kano leads the other states in the zone with 5.4 million voters, followed by Kaduna with 3.9 million voters. Others are Katsina (3.2 million), Jigawa (2.9 million), Jigawa (2.1 million), Kebbi (1.8 million) and Zamfara (1.7 million).

The South-West, with six states – Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti – follows closely with 16 million voters, constituting 19.39 per cent. Lagos State tops the zone with 6.5 million voters, followed by Oyo State with 2.9 voters. Others are Ogun (2.3 million), Ondo (1.8 million), Osun (1.6 million) and Ekiti (909,677). Other zones are South- South (12 million), South-East (10 million), North-East (11 million) and North-Central (13 million). Interestingly, Lagos (South-West) and Kano (North-West) lead the other 34 states with 6.5 million and 5.4 million registered voters, respectively. In all, both states boast of close to 12 million votes.

The voting strength of the North-West and South-West, which make them battle grounds for votes in the presidential election, explains the scramble for their votes by Buhari and Atiku. So far, both candidates have taken their campaigns to most states in the two zones. Buhari and Atiku have campaigned in all the north western and south western states except Ogun State, where the President’s campaign train is yet to touch.

The President is expected in Ogun State today. While both candidates have made series of promises to the people of the two zones to woo them, their foot soldiers have also been mobilizing the electorate. For the President and his party, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, has been the arrowhead of their campaign in the South-West. The vicepresident has criss-crossed the six states of the zone, where he hails from, canvassing votes through the door-todoor approach.

The vice president was in Lagos yesterday in continuation of his door-to-door campaign. Osinbajo has made several stopovers in the states, particularly Lagos, Ogun and Oyo, where he visited several families and explained to them why they should return the Buhari-led APC administration to power. He is also cashing in on the Tradermoni initiative of the Federal Government to reach so many voters in the zone. Also mobilising for the APC in the South-West is the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who also doubles as the co-chairman of the party’s Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) as well as the six APC governors in the zone.

The governors are Akin-wunmi Ambode (Lagos), Ibikunle Amosu (Ogun), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti). In the North-West, where the President hails from, he is not only banking on the cult-followership he enjoys in the zone, but mobilisation by APC governors in six, out of the seven states of the zone.

The governors are Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Nasiru el- Rufai (Kaduna), Aminu Masari (Katsina), Mohammed Badaru (Jigawa) and Abdu-lazeez Yari (Zamfara). Sokoto is the only state in the zone controlled by the PDP.Besides the governors, there are several political appointees from the zone, who are mobilizing for the President. But, Atiku, who hails from the North-East (Adamawa State) is not giving up on the north western voters. Like Buhari, he equally commands appreciable followership in the zone. He is also banking on the likes of Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal and former Governors Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and Ahmed Makarfi (Kaduna), among others, to sway the zone’s votes in his favour. The PDP candidate also seems to have made an inroad to the South-West, regarded as the stronghold of the APC, with his promised restructuring. Atiku’s wife, Titi, has been touring the South-West states visiting traditional rulers and other stakeholders. Mrs. Atiku is from Osun State.

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