The Nigerian Voter is a series that seeks to understand the motivations that drive the voting decisions of Nigerians — why they vote, how they choose their candidates, why some have never voted, and their wildest stories around elections.
This week’s subject of The Nigerian Voter is Yusuf, a 26-year-old postgraduate student at the University of Ibadan. He tells us about his past voter experiences, why he is a big fan of Atiku Abubakar and his reasons for believing that the plans made against Atiku by the G5 don’t hold water.
Have you ever been voted in any election before?
I voted in 2015 and 2019. I also participated in the “Deliver Oyo” campaign group in 2018.
What was the campaign all about?
The campaign was all about the 2019 candidates and what they had to bring to the table. We were at the frontlines, granting interviews and developing goals and strategies that the candidates could possibly use to win the elections. It was around that time that the #NotTooYoungtoRun movement became very popular and soon became an Act. We had very young candidates here in Oyo state. Some of them didn’t win their elections, and others were later made appointees of the government of the day.
That’s dope! Who did you vote for in 2015 and 2019, and why?
In 2015, unfortunately, I voted for Buhari. In 2019, I voted for Atiku. The funny thing with Buhari in 2015 was that I didn’t exactly support him.
What do you mean?
Well, I know his history well enough. People think his political career began when he planned that coup between 1984 and 1985. However, this is not true. Buhari was at the forefront of various coups. Even after he became the Head of State and Petroleum Minister, with the way we handled the government, I knew that he wasn’t the one for us.
However, I decided to vote for him because of one person — Fashola. Most of us who were from the South-West but were not in Lagos admired how he ran Lagos and believed he would be the template for all All Progressive Congress ( APC) governors. We felt that if he is supporting Buhari, and we supported Buhari because of Fashola, then he would make Minister. Also, there would be more chances of his work being replicated in other states too, including the South-West.
Therefore, I voted for Buhari not because of his person, but mostly because of the intelligent people he has had to work with. I felt that even if he couldn’t do his job right, his people would be there to pick up the slack. I guess I was wrong.
Why did you vote for Atiku in 2019?
I believed he was the better candidate. I was part of the election cycle, so I knew a lot about politicking and how these elections are run. With Buhari and Atiku as forerunners, it was a matter of settling for one of the lesser devils. This is because I strongly believed that no party asides from the two major parties can win at the level of the presidency.
Atiku had the qualifications. I feel his allegations of corruption are being over-exaggerated by the media. It’s not as deep as we see it.
Do you still have plans of voting for Atiku in 2023? If yes, why?
I think Atiku is our only chance of booting the APC out of the presidency. People think that there can be no president worse than Buhari, but I disagree. I believe that things can be even worse with an APC candidate taking over from Buhari. Our democracy is very fragile and we cannot allow someone who doesn’t respect the tenets of democracy to get to that office in Aso Rock.
Our presidential system of government is structured in such a way that it gives the president so much power. I think the closest system to ours is the American system, and even then, theirs has a lot of devolution or distribution of power.
Why that statement? What makes you so?
Because it’s in the constitution. Let’s start from 1999 till date. When Obasanjo was president, he was able to control even things that happened in the National Assembly. This is for both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The only person that didn’t mix both arms of government was Yar’Adua, and that was because he passed on shortly after he became president. Even Goodluck Jonathan at one point interfered with the affairs of legislation. The constitution was even written by military personnel, so it has this ‘Decree 36’ sort of vibe with the centralisation of power that Aguiyi Ironsi did in 1966.
That’s why Atiku is campaigning for state autonomy because states in Nigeria do not control their resources. The Federal government controls their resources and gives them derivation at the end of the month.
The point is, we can not allow someone that doesn’t respect the tenets of democracy to be given that level of power. This is also a major reason why I am with Atiku.
But with the decline of Atiku’s popularity over the last months, do you think he still has a chance of winning?
The decline of his popularity is on social media oh, not physically. Let’s do a breakdown. There are 36 states in Nigeria, with 17 in the South and 19 in the North. Atiku’s running mate is someone who has been in government since 1999. He was James Ibori’s commissioner for 8 years. After Ibori left, he was also involved in 2 more tenures. The reason why I am bringing this up is to prove that Okowa is a political heavyweight.
Even when Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike first entered the political sphere, Okowa was already a commissioner of several tenures.
Atiku also has the support of so many people in the South-South. There’s Delta, Okowa’s state. There is Bayelsa, which is a traditional PDP state and currently has a PDP governor. Rivers State is a traditional PDP state too but may be difficult to win because of Wike’s beef with Atiku. There is Akwa Ibom State, where Udom Emmanuel is a PDP governor. There is also Akpabio whom APC did not give his return ticket, but he still has that PDP structure.
This means that there is solid hope of Atiku winning in the South as well as the North. It also means that Southerners, especially the South-South, have a great chance of making it to the presidency in the next couple of years. Obi is gaining ground in the South-East sure, but that doesn’t change the fact that the region is traditionally PDP too. What the PDP needs to get is at least 25% in all the southern states.
Another point is, in all the states in Nigeria, with the way the election is, the state Obi wins, Atiku will come second. The state Tinubu wins, Atiku will come second. And yet, we say he doesn’t have a chance? Here in Oyo state, people would say that Atiku can’t win because Seyi Makinde is a G5 governor. But did they see the massive mobilisation that happened, even before Atiku announced that he was running for the presidency? Atiku has been in the PDP and has held Oyo state down before his campaign started.
Yes, things have boiled down concerning his online campaign, but that doesn’t change the fact that this election is still between the APC and PDP.
You mentioned the G5. Who are they, and what do they represent?
The G5 is a group of five governors on the platform of the PDP. They are saying that they cannot support a transition of an APC Fulani man to a PDP Fulani man. In other words, they do not support a Fulani-Fulani transition for the presidency and feel a Southern president should emerge instead.
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State leads the G5. Other members include Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Ifeanyi Uguwanyi of Enugu State and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State.
Can you say that the G5 still has an impact on the elections and the PDP?
They don’t. As it stands now if they proclaim the candidacy of Atiku, some of them will lose their elections. If you look at the G5 governors, only Nyesom Wike is not returning to power. Samuel Ortom is contesting for the Senate in Benue. Same with Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu and Ikpeazu of Abia state. Seyi Makinde is seeking re-election for governor of Oyo state. So it’s only Wike in this group that has nothing to lose.
At this stage of the election, if my governor in Oyo State starts to campaign against Atiku, he will campaign against aspirants for the Senate and House of Representatives.
In fact, during the Atiku campaign, the three Senate aspirants for Oyo South, Oyo North and Oyo Central and the 14 aspirants for the House of Representatives were all there to welcome Atiku. My point is that their election is tied to Atiku’s victory at the polls. The G5 can work for any candidate they like, but it has to be lowkey. I even feel like the nature of their group is unfounded.
I’ll keep referencing Oyo State because I am from here. So in Oyo State, we have four-axis — Ibadan (state capital), Oke-Ogun, Ibarapa and Ogbomosho. Since 1999, Ibadan has been the one producing the governors. Ibarapa has never made a governor, but they are not complaining or saying that ‘it’s their turn’. For Makinde’s campaign in 2019, he even came out to say that he is not running as an Ibadan man but rather as someone competent.
If he has said that, why can’t he give Atiku the benefit of the doubt?
This dispute’s genesis was that one couldn’t have a Fulani-Fulani transition. Look at Wike now. He succeeded Rotimi Amaechi, both of whom are from Ikwerre local government. Why didn’t he say he would wait for a candidate from another zone to aspire for governorship before he stepped up?
My point is that if one wants to polarise the election along regional lines, Atiku will still win. If he doesn’t win states in the South, he will come second in those states. At this stage of our democracy, it’s not about the region.
If it was the ‘turn of the South’ like they claim, why was Wike lobbying to be Atiku’s running mate at the primaries? These are questions that one should ask. You can’t be the beneficiary of a same-zone transition and still complain. However, the decisions of these governors can affect who citizens would vote for in their various states. For instance, Ortom’s leaning toward Peter Obi of the Labour Party could affect voter decisions on Atiku.
What would you say of Obi, Tinubu and Kwankwaso as candidates?
As I said earlier, the candidate of the APC (Tinubu) does not respect the tenets of democracy. He has had a hand in the affairs of Lagos State from 1999 till date. I also have a personal grudge against anyone (including APC members) that had a hand in October 2020 #EndSARS massacre. They have House of Representative aspirants that I can vote for, but I can’t vote for anyone APC at the central level. I just can’t.
As for Peter Obi, I’m not voting for him right now because I feel his party is not a major party yet. You can’t build structures, campaigns, and everything else you’d need to survive a presidency in five months. If he keeps going this way, though, who knows? He could be our next president in 2027.
For Kwankwaso, his New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) doesn’t have a fanbase outside of Kano state. I believe he is depending on Kano state being a swing state to have an edge, but that’s too much of a stretch.
How are you mobilising people to vote in this election?
To be honest, I don’t see why you are a Nigerian living in Nigeria with the current state of the economy and not vote.
If people no longer believe in the Nigerian project to vote, then honestly they shouldn’t bother.