Journalism of Courage

Nigeria’s 2023 three-horse presidential poll: Run-off likely, says Fitch Solutions

 … may heighten political instability in the country

 …Tinubu tipped to win but cautions factions within the APC could weigh on his popularity in Northern states

Nigeria’s 2023 polls might be inconclusive as the three-way race may not produce a clear winner in the first ballot, says Fitch Solutions Country Risk & Industry Research.

“There remains a possibility that a three-way race results in no candidate passing the electoral threshold.

“This would prompt a second round for the first time in Nigerian history, likely heightening political instability,’’ it said in a commentary titled, “Political Risk, Nigeria Political Risk Analysis: Fitch Solutions obtained by Persecondnews.

It warned: “A Tinubu Presidency would increase social instability in Nigeria.’’

The report from Fitch Solutions Country Risk & Industry Research is a product of Fitch Solutions Group Ltd, UK, and NOT a comment on Fitch Ratings’ Credit Ratings.

According to Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, a presidential candidate can only be elected if he or she receives the majority of overall votes and over 25 % of votes in at least 24 of the 36 states.

Although the survey suggests that the APC Presidential Candidate, Bola Tinubu, is best placed to win the election, it, however, predicted a run-off after the first ballot.

The report also pointed out risks to the outlook for Tinubu, saying “factions within the APC could weigh on Tinubu’s popularity in Northern states.

“In addition, should public concerns about Tinubu’s health become more pronounced in the run-up to the election, we would expect his chances of winning to become smaller.

“We expect that the party, which has nominated a Muslim-Muslim ticket, will repeat its strong performance in the North . Given that Tinubu is a former governor of Lagos, the party is also likely to improve on its performance in the South West.

“Furthermore, we expect Tinubu to benefit from incumbency advantages, with the APC having been in power since 2015. Tinubu win would break with tradition of presidential rotation — Presidents & Vice Presidents by religion

“Protests and social discontent are likely to increase in the aftermath of a Tinubu win. Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, there has been an informal agreement that resulted in the presidency alternating between Northern and Southern states as well as between Christians and Muslims.

“A win for Tinubu would break with this unwritten tradition and likely fuel sentiment of perceived marginalization among Christians. ’’

On the likely showing of PDP’s Atiku Abubakar and Labour Party’s Peter Obi, the report states: “At Fitch Solutions, we believe that recent polls are significantly overstating support for Peter Obi, the Labour Party candidate running in Nigeria’s February 2023 presidential election.

“Indeed, we maintain our view that the ruling party’s Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the candidate most likely to win the presidential election as a split opposition vote will favour the All Progressives Congress.

“Protests and social discontent are likely to ramp up in the aftermath of a Tinubu win since this would end the recent trend of the presidency alternating between Muslims and Christians.

“We believe that these results are skewed towards urban, affluent voters who are most likely to support Obi. We also highlight that these polls suggest that a large share of voters remain undecided.

“Even if these surveys were accurate at a national level, Obi’s lack of support in Nigeria’s Muslim-majority North would make it difficult for him to win next year’s election. Indeed, the North is home to the majority of all voters and turnout in this part of the country tends to be relatively high, underscoring the importance of the Northern electorate.

“Given that Obi’s Labour Party has limited infrastructure in the North, he will struggle to meet this second voting requirement. Indeed, the Labour Party is not even running candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives in many northern constituencies.

“Furthermore, the northern electorate historically tends to vote for presidential candidates from their region. With Obi being a Christian from the South (Anambra State), increasing his voter share in the North will prove challenging.

“While we believe Obi is unlikely to win the election, he will probably do well for a third- party candidate. Indeed, a third-party candidate has never reached more than 7.5% of votes in Nigeria.

“However, due to his frugal reputation and large social media following we expect Obi to get a higher share of the vote than previous third-party candidates.

“As such, we believe that Obi’s popularity will most likely split the opposition vote, at the expense of the PDP. The PDP’s candidate (Atiku Abubakar) is a Northerner and we believe that the party’s only route to victory is expanding its vote in the South West and North Central states, while retaining large majorities in the South South and South East (see chart above).

“However, given Obi’s popularity in the south – especially the South South and South East – we believe it is unlikely the main opposition party will be able to gain more votes in these parts of the country.

“In addition, Obi’s supporters – mostly young, urban voters – are likely to question the fairness of the electoral process, especially after recent polls have predicted a win for Obi.

“These dynamics are likely to engender political unrest following the February vote. As a result, we have revised down the Social Stability component of our proprietary Short-Term Political Risk Index (STPRI) from 30.0 to 25.0 previously (scores out of 100; lower score implies higher risk). This brings Nigeria’s overall STPRI score from 46.3 to 45.0.’’

On social stability, the report said it remains a weak spot, while maintaining that they do not expect significant policy changes under a Tinubu presidency.

“While Tinubu has stated that he would phase out Nigeria’s costly fuel subsidy, we are sceptical this will happen in the short term. There appears to be limited appetite within the APC to remove the subsidy, and with inflation remaining elevated in 2023 – due to high food prices – the cancellation of the subsidy would negatively affect the new president’s popularity.

“Indeed, the PDP tried to remove the subsidy in 2012, but had to back down after large-scale protests. In addition, we believe that Tinubu’s aim to raise oil production is unfeasible in the short term.

“Crude production has declined significantly to 1.1mn barrels per day in September – a multi-decade low – due to rising oil theft and previous underinvestment.

“Given the country’s weak fiscal position, we believe that there will be limited room for more security and social spending to combat oil theft and attract more investment,’’ the report further stated.



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