ABUJA – Fifteen days to Nigeria’s presidential election, businessman and ex-governor of Anambra State Peter Obi remains the top choice to become the nation’s next president.This is the outcome of a new poll conducted for Bloomberg, the New York based global television and media giant.
Two-thirds of respondents said in the polls published Friday they intend to vote for Obi, a third-party candidate, in elections scheduled for February 25, 2023.
The results of the survey conducted for Bloomberg News by Premise Data Corp. a San Francisco based data company, were published on Friday – 15 days before the vote to choose President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor. Premise Data Corp has so far conducted six polls for Bloomberg, and in all Obi has maintained an unassailable lead.
Of the 93% of participants who said they’ve decided how to vote, 66% named Obi as their preferred choice. Obi scored a slightly higher 72% among decided respondents in an earlier Premise poll that was released by Bloomberg in September as the official election campaign kicked off.
While Obi’s campaign has generated a momentum that the two established forces in Nigerian politics were not expecting, the ruling All Progressives Congress and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party insist that he cannot triumph on Feb. 25. They say his appeal is too thinly spread across the country’s states and have derided polling that has almost universally put the candidate of the much smaller Labour Party in first place.
Still, Obi has emerged as the most popular candidate in six polls including the two surveys conducted by Premise for Bloomberg. Another poll released this week by Lagos-based media and data company Stears predicted that Obi will win in the event of high turnout, but lose to Bola Tinubu of the APC if participation is weak.
Dismissed by his opponents as a “social media candidate,” Obi’s rise has been fueled by disenchantment with the status quo. His campaign has attracted an enthusiastic following known as “Obidients” — initially online but increasingly at rallies and marches — even if the man they wish to help to Nigeria’s biggest ever electoral upset hardly has an anti-establishment background.
Pollsters say they account for Nigeria’s electoral makeup when designing their surveys.
San Francisco-based Premise polled 2,384 Nigerians from Jan. 26 to Feb. 4 via a smartphone app. Submissions were selected from quotas developed by age, gender and location across the country’s six geopolitical zones, the company said. Results were then weighted against the original quotas to ensure national representation.
About 44% of Nigerians own smartphones, according to the Alliance for Affordable Internet. Premise estimates that the access rate rises to 74% among the voting age population.
The candidates of the two parties that have ruled Nigeria since the restoration of democracy in 1999 finished in a distant second and third. Tinubu obtained 18% of decided voters and the PDP’s Atiku Abubakar tallied 10%.
A former governor of the southeastern Anambra State and ex-chairman of Lagos-listed Fidelity Bank Plc, Obi is running on the ticket of the Labour Party, whose presidential candidate garnered only 0.02% of votes in the last election four years ago. The APC and PDP dominate both chambers of parliament, and 35 of the country’s 36 governors come from their ranks.
While widespread frustration with worsening economic hardship and growing insecurity has propelled Obi’s campaign further than many initially felt possible, his party lacks the nationwide organisational capabilities of the APC and PDP — which are experienced at mobilising voters across the West African country of approximately 200 million people. Vote buying is also common in Nigerian elections which provides an advantage to better resourced parties.
The constitution also dictates that a candidate acquiring the most votes in the election can only win the presidency in the first round if they secure over 25% in more than two-thirds of the states. If no one crosses that threshold, Nigeria will have its first runoff between whoever polled best overall and the remaining contender who scored majorities in the higher number of states.
The APC insists the rules make a Labour Party victory impossible as its Christian candidate will not be able to accumulate a quarter of the votes in states across the predominantly Muslim north or Tinubu’s southwestern stronghold that includes the commercial hub of Lagos.
“Peter Obi cannot win the election,” Nasir el-Rufai, the APC governor of the northern Kaduna state, said in a television interview this month. “He doesn’t have the number of states.” Out of Nigeria’s six so-called geopolitical zones, 43% of the country’s 93.5 million registered voters are located in the northwest and southwest.
Another factor that will have a significant impact on the result is the level of participation — turnout in 2019 was the lowest ever at only 35%.