Sunday, 05 March 2023 06:05

Bola Tinubu is Nigeria’s most unpopular president-elect since 1999, voting data show

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Nigerians have elected a new leader to assume the office of the president on May 29. Bola Tinubu, candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), was declared winner of the presidential election Wednesday, extending the APC’s rule in Africa’s largest democracy.

As he thanked his supporters, Tinubu appealed for reconciliation with his rivals, who are already demanding a cancellation of the poll which they said was marred by voter suppression and the failure of INEC to upload polling unit results from the over 176,000 polling stations to a web portal as stipulated in its guideline.

In the election held on Saturday, Tinubu, 70, scored 8,794,726 votes, the highest of all the candidates, finally achieving a goal he called lifelong ambition in January 2022.

He also scored over 25 per cent of the votes cast in 29 states, more than the 24 states constitutionally required.

His closest rival, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), scored 6,984,520 votes to emerge second in the election. Labour Party’s Peter Obi got a total of 6,101,533 votes while Rabiu Kwankwaso of the NNPP came fourth with 1,496,687 votes.

Outgoing president Muhammadu Buhari said the results reflected a major shift in Nigeria’s electoral map. “The results reveal democracy’s ripening in our country. Never has the electoral map shifted so drastically in one cycle,” he wrote on Twitter.

While Tinubu did better than his opponents in the 2023 election, official data suggest that based on election results, he is the most unpopular president-elect since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999 after several years of military rule.

Lowest percentage of total votes

Tinubu’s win in Saturday’s election marks one of the lowest thresholds secured by an elected president in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, which began in 1999. The former Lagos governor secured 37 per cent of the total votes cast in the election. No other president-elect scored less than 50 per cent of the votes cast.

Buhari got 55.6 per of the votes in the 2019 election which gave birth to his second and final term in office. More than 15 million Nigerians voted for Buhari in the election that saw PDP’s Atiku also finish second.

Buhari scored 53.9 per cent to defeat a sitting president Goodluck Jonathan in the election that brought him to office in 2015i. His predecessor, Jonathan, got 56 per cent of the votes in 2011.

Meanwhile, in the first election that led to the first handover of power from one civilian leader to another, President Umaru Yar’Adua secured a record 69.8 per cent of total votes cast in 2007.

President Olusegun Obasanjo got 61.8 per cent and 62.8 per cent of votes cast in 2003 and 1999 elections respectively.

Lowest number of total votes

Unlike his predecessors, Tinubu also won the presidential election with the least number of votes (8.7 million). Between 1999 and 2023, Nigeria held seven election circles. All former presidents won their elections with at least 15 million votes in the last six election cycles.

The 2023 election was seen as Nigeria’s most technologically advanced, with INEC deploying an electronic voter accreditation system and results-viewing portal that enhanced transparency and accessibility.

In 1999, the first election after military rule, Obasanjo won with a landslide 18.7 million votes, defeating his kinsman Olu Falae who scored 11.1 million votes.

By 2003 when Obasanjo sought re-election, he won the polls with 24.1 million votes to defeat current President, Buhari, who contested on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) at the time. Buhari only managed to secure 12.9 million votes.

Then in 2007, Obasanjo’s handpicked candidate, Yar’Adua, won his election with 24.6 million votes. The April 2007 election was judged by most observers to fall a long way short of the standards for credible, free and fair elections and to be the worst in Nigeria’s post-independence, electoral history.

“Thus far, elections have served the interests mainly of the powerful elite and have had little, if any, significant impact on deepening representative democracy, let alone transforming people’s socio-economic livelihoods in a positive manner. The reports of domestic and international observers provide confirmation that all stages of the elections were fundamentally flawed,” said the Department for International Development in a post-election report.

The final results of the 2011 election gave 22.4 million votes to former President Jonathan, a former governor of south-south Bayelsa state. His nearest rival in the polls, Buhari, got 12.2 million votes.

Then in 2015, the results changed when Buhari defeated Jonathan by more than 2.5 million votes to take his seat. The former military ruler got 15.4 million votes in the 2015 election while Jonathan gained 12.8 million votes.

By 2019, Buhari was re-elected for a second term defeating former vice president Atiku. He got 15.2 million votes while the PDP received 11.3 million.

Lowest number of states won

The 2023 election is considered the most wide-open presidential election Nigeria has seen since 1979. In addition, the election was the most competitive and held at a time there is rising tension in the country.

Tinubu won 12 states of the federation. His two closest opponents, Abubakar and Obi also won 12 states each.

The dynamics of this election and voting patterns proved to be the most unique once INEC announced the results. For instance, Tinubu’s APC became the first opposition party to win in oil-rich Rivers State since 1999. Kwara State got a boost once more to say nobody became a president without winning the north-central state.

Labour Party’s flag-bearer, Obi, won in Tinubu’s Lagos State, along with Nasarawa and Plateau states, the home states of the APC’s chairman Abdullahi Adamu, and the Director-General of APC’s Presidential Campaign Council, Governor Simon Lalong, respectively.

Overall, the 12 states Tinubu won are Benue, Borno, Ekiti, Jigawa, Kwara, Kogi, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Rivers, and Zamfara states.

The 12 states Tinubu won is the lowest number of states won by a president-elect.

For his second term election in 2019, Buhari won in 19 states to defeat his closest challenger, Abubakar who won in 18 states. Buhari gained in Bauchi, Borno, Ekiti, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Osun, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara states.

Similarly, in 2015, Buhari won 21 states including Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Niger, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara state.

In 2011, Jonathan won in 23 states: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, FCT, Imo, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, and Rivers states.

For 2003, Obasanjo won 27 states: Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, FCT, Imo, Kaduna, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, and Taraba states.

In 1999, Mr Obasanjo won in Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Rivers, and Taraba states.

Lowest in 25 per cent threshold

To win a presidential election, the Nigerian constitution requires candidates to win 25 per cent of votes in at least 24 states and the FCT.

In the just-concluded election, Tinubu won 25 per cent of the votes in 29 states of the federation. Outgoing President Buhari got 25 per cent in 33 states in the 2019 elections and 25 per cent in 27 states in 2015.

In 2011, Jonathan, Buhari’s predecessor, got the 25 percent threshold in 34 states. Former president Obasanjo won 25 per cent of votes cast in 33 states in 1999 and 2003 respectively.

Continued trend of low voter turnout

One factor that may have worked against Tinubu in terms of total votes scored (although not in the other criteria) is the low turnout in this election.

At 27 per cent, the 2023 elections have the lowest recorded turnout of any presidential election since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, despite being the most expensive. Ahead of the election, INEC data shows that 87.2 million Nigerians collected their PVCs and were eligible to vote and only 24.2 million people cast their votes.  In effect, this means, for every ten eligible voters, less than 3 people determined who won the 2023 election, the lowest presidential election turnout Nigeria has recorded since independence.

Commenting on the development, Carlos Lopes, an honorary professor at the Mandela School of Public Governance at the University of Cape Town, described the low participation as “astonishing and problematic.”

“Nigeria has a population of 220 million, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data,” he wrote on Twitter, adding, “Bola Tinubu will govern 211.3 people that have not chosen him, including obviously those who did not qualify.”

There has been a consecutive decline in election turnout since 1999, although turnout increased from 52 per cent to 69 per cent between the 1999 and 2003 elections, data from the Dataphyte showed. But after the 2003 presidential election, participation in subsequent elections has continued to decline, first to 57 per cent in 2007, then to 54 per cent in 2011, before dropping to 44 per cent in 2015.

This would further plummet in the 2019 presidential election as only 35 per cent of registered voters actually voted, data from INEC showed.



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