The presidential election is tomorrow. After months of campaigning, the voters finally get to give their verdict. The race is between the incumbent Muhammadu Buhari of the APC and Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, and for the first time in Nigeria’s new democracy, there is not only a political divide, but also an ideological divide between the candidates.
Buhari is a socialist who believes in government control of many facets of the economy, while Atiku is a pro-business capitalist who believes that the way to achieve growth is through private sector innovation and investments. It’s worth noting that the leaning of the average Nigerian politician and voter is Socialist, so calling Atiku a Capitalist is grading on a curve.
Below are my state by state prediction of how this tightly contested election will play out based on my research, analysis of historical trends and my reading of the political tea leaves. Many of you might disagree with these predictions, that’s okay, feel free to leave your predictions in the comment.
South East: This is a PDP stronghold, but the worry here for Atiku is voter turnout. It’s been rumored that some of the governors are covertly working for Buhari and that could make some of the states interesting.
Ebonyi: Atiku — This is a state to watch. It’ll be interesting to see if Buhari can hit 30% here. If he does, that’s a sign that Atiku is on his way to a loss.
Akwa Ibom: In my opinion, If Buhari hits 40% in this state, the election is over and the final margin won’t be close.
South South: This is another PDP stronghold, and I don’t see that changing this cycle. However, once again the worry for Atiku is turnout and Margin of victory. During the 2015 elections, this zone had unusually high turnout, and Jonathan won every state by a landslide. For Atiku to have a chance, he needs to match the level of turnout and margin of victory; that will be very hard to do. In 2015 the region was motivated to vote for one of their own, but in 2019 they have no such motivation
Akwa Ibom: Atiku — This is the one state where Buhari has a chance to make it uncomfortably close or pull an upset. This is not due to his popularity, but due to the Akpabio factor. Akpabio is the former governor of the state who is now in APC. He is very influential and has the ability to mobilize votes. He is also on the ballot, so he will be highly motivated. In my opinion, If Buhari hits 40% in this state, the election is over and the final margin won’t be close.
Cross Rivers: Atiku
South West: This is one of the swing zones in Nigeria. The region voted for Jonathan in 2011, Buhari in 2015, and in 2019 it’s going to be tightly contested once again. For Atiku to have a chance, he needs to make it very close and win one or two states.
Ekiti: Buhari — This state will be close, but not as close as it would have been a few years ago when Fayose was governor.
Lagos: Buhari — The election in Lagos won’t be as close as it was in 2015. The political Godfather of Lagos, Tinubu, will be very motivated to make a statement with the results in order to reassert his political relevance and advance his 2023 agenda.
Ogun: Buhari — The APC is in disarray in Ogun state, but all the warring parties seem to be united behind Buhari. It’ll be close but Buhari should win it.
Osun: Atiku — The governorship election held last year was very close, and some say the PDP actually won. Atiku should be able to eke out a narrow victory here.
North Central: This is the ultimate battleground zone. The elections here will be very close and it’s hard to predict how they will go. This Zone went for APC in 2015, but it was very close. The political; equations have changed since then in favor of the PDP.
Benue: Atiku — Anything less than a landslide for Atiku is a sign of trouble for him. Buhari is very unpopular here.
Kwara: Atiku — Saraki won’t lose in Kwara (See Lagos)
Kogi: Buhari — It’ll be very close but Buhari should win barely
Nasarawa: Atiku — Buhari has never won Nasarawa state, not even at the height of his popularity in 2015. He won’t win it this time
Niger: Buhari — He won here in 2011 and 2015, he will win the state again.
Plateau: Atiku — It’ll be close but Atiku should win
North East: This is one of Buhari’s traditional stronghold and is integral to his 12 core Northern states plus the SW strategy.
Adamawa: Atiku — Atiku is from this state, and that should play a role in helping him win it. A loss here will be embarrassing for him.
Taraba: Atiku — This is another state that has proven elusive to Buhari in all his runs. He didn’t win it in 2015, and I don’t see him winning it now.
North West: Every single state in this zone voted for Buhari in 2011 and 2015. This is his ultimate stronghold and should remain so in 2019.
Kaduna: Buhari — Atiku has a chance to keep it close here if the Christians in southern Kaduna turnout enmasse. He will be hoping to get at least 30%
Kano: Buhari — This state could be very interesting due to the popularity of former governor Kwankaso who is supporting Atiku. However, Buhari’s popularity will prove insurmountable. A victory for Atiku here will be getting above 30%.
Sokoto: Buhari — I went back and forth on this a few times. On one hand Buhari has always won this state, but on the other hand Tambuwal is governor here and he’s also very popular. That being said, I think Buhari will win but it will be close.
Zamfara: Buhari — APC is in disarray here, but Buhari is too popular to lose this state.
FCT: Atiku — Buhari has never won the capital.
Atiku — 16 states and FCT
Buhari — 20 states
Overall winner — Buhari
This is not my preferred result, but it is hard to see how Atiku wins the election. Buhari has too many structural advantages, and those structures will ensure his victory come Saturday. It’s also worth noting that 85% of incumbent head of states in Africa are reelected, so the smart money is on Buhari.