On Saturday, February 16, about 73 candidates would jostle for just one political position of the president in the 36 states of the country.
Unarguably, the battle is clearly defined between two major frontrunners, specifically between the President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The unprecedented number of contestants notwithstanding, practically speaking, the incumbent, President Buhari and his main challenger, Atiku Abubakar, stand out in the pack of the 73 presidential candidates as those to watch out for. This is on account of their visibility all over the country, the national spread and entrenched structure of their political parties, among other factors.
In Lagos State, about 5 million voters would have to choose between the two candidates as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Lagos has announced that over 5.5 million Permanent Voter Cards had been collected out of 6, 566,136 registered voters in the state.
The election would take place in 245 Registration Areas (Wards), 8,462 polling units, and 3,669 voting points across the 20 Local Governments Areas of the state.
All the states in the Southwest are firmly under the grip of the APC and are expected to vote for President Buhari in the February 16 election.
However, votes from Lagos, Osun, Ogun and Ekiti are expected to be closely contested.
There is no doubt that the party controls the states and has great influence of power over the elections. Such was perceived to have been exhibited in Lagos in 2015.
In fact, with the little margin between the votes of the PDP candidate, Jimi Agbaje and those of the APC winner, Akinwunmi Ambode, there were insinuations from some quarters that the outcome of the election was influenced.
THE CHALLENGES OF APC
The cosmopolitan nature of Lagos State and the high number of people from the South-South and Southeast is expected to make the state a battleground for the presidential election. This is even more evident judging by the result of the 2015 presidential election, as the APC could not manage a landslide victory.
For instance, in 2015, some constituencies in Lagos state lost House of Reps and State House of Assembly to PDP due to what was perceived as an internal crisis within the APC. The influence of the South-South people with their number living in Lagos also favoured the PDP.
The perceived bad treatment given the incumbent Governor Akinwunmi Ambode may also add up to deny the APC the needed wide margin of victory in the state.
But the influence of the APC national leader, Bola Tinubu, cannot be underestimated. His grassroots political structure will greatly bolster Buhari’s chances.
THE APC STRATEGIES
Towards the 2019 elections, the APC party has set up reconciliatory committees in the local government across the state, to pacify the aggrieved members.
The party has tried to win the interest of the South-South and Igbo people in the state.
Again, the fierce campaigns being put up by the party may stand as an advantage for its candidate over his counterpart in PDP.
THE PDP CHANCE IN LAGOS
Although some observers believe that the election is majorly between the APC and PDP in Lagos, others believe that the emergence of some other vibrant candidates may affect the chances of the PDP to winning the elections.
With the level of campaigns going on in the state, it appears the PDP’s chances of winning the election for its presidential candidate may be slim.
On Saturday, February 9, President Muhammadu Buhari was in Lagos amid mammoth crowd at the Teslim Balogun stadium to canvass Lagosians for their votes. Although, it was reported that the president was booed by some youths at Surulere area of the state.
The PDP has not staged a rally to pull crowd in Lagos state, even at the state level for the governorship candidate. This, as observed, may still limit the chance of the PDP of winning the election in the state.
However, it is believed that with Peter Obi, a former governor from the South East, most Igbo traders and businessmen in Lagos will have PDP as a better option to the ruling APC. With Obi’s influence, PDP is capable of putting up a fight that can shock the APC.