Osun Defender’s resident Data Analyst, DAMILOLA OJENIKE begins a series on the factors that could affect the electoral calculations in next year’s general elections.
Towards 2018: State Of Play
Will the herdsmen crisis currently ravaging the land upset the apple cart of the electoral calculus in 2018? Osun Defender will be using psephological (The statistical study of elections and trends in voting.) analysis in the weeks ahead to forecast and project the emerging trend.
Coincidentally the crisis has been most pronounced in the zone where the 2015 presidential election between incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan and his challenger APC candidate Muhammadu Buhari was most competitive.
The rest of the zones, the South West was an exception, were not really competitive.
The electoral calculus shows that unlike elsewhere, the marginal percentage difference between the two candidates in the ‘’ Middle-Belt” ranged from 8% to 28%. If there is a backlash against the government with the perception, erroneous or otherwise, that they have been tardy or even conniving in the crisis, then there could be swings against the APC in the decisive middle-belt which could throw the election wide-open.
Benue state which is a hotbed of the herdsmen/farmers conundrum is clearly in play. Hitherto held since the commencement of the third republic continuously by the PDP, it swung to Buhari in 2015 by 10%. It ought to be leaning towards an APC victory. However recent events have produced a clearly disgruntled state governor and a restive population. Of note is that there always have been religious undercurrents perennially lurking beneath the surface in the electoral nomenclature of the state. This state could therefore swing into an electoral background. It will, with what is on ground, require some tactical maneuvering and great political management to contain a possible backlash against the APC here.
Plateau State is another hitherto held PDP stronghold although going to the APC by a bigger margin (16%) than Benue’s 10% in 2015. The state could also prove dicey for the APC in the event of a backlash. The incumbent governor for example took only 51% of the vote in the governorship election. This indicates that the then candidate Buhari was running well ahead of his party in the popular votes. Indeed it is plausible to argue that the coattails of Buhari might have clinched the governorship for the APC.
It is looking unlikely for example, that the crises will help the APC candidate in Taraba which they lost to Jonathan and the PDP by 80% in 2015.
Crisis management of the public perception will be key in this region in order to forestall a backlash. The presidency is embarking on a sensible containment strategy. This week’s letter from the president to the Senate is a much desired step. Unfortunately, the incoherent response of the president’s own “communications team” has clearly not helped matters. For a start, the state governments are clearly culprit, in some cases in dereliction of duties. This has shifted all the blame rather unfairly to the central authorities.
The President’s communications team should have used the State of Osun as a positive example. In that state as we have pointed out in our editorial this week on page 4, the pro-active, well thought out containment strategy of the government shielded the state from the herdsmen/farmers clashes, even as they became more pronounced across the country. Osun State showed that even with a state government having tenuous control over the national internal security mechanism, containment pro-active crisis management can still be creatively deployed to avert the bloodshed witnessed elsewhere.
For its own good and for the sake of the electoral calculus, the communications team must be braced up and continue to explore this theme and get the message across. It’s looking dicey in the middle-belt but the personal authority of the President should take the ruling APC out of its pickle. The clear absence of a credible alternative opposition figure in Nigeria like Raila Odinga represents in Kenya or like candidate Muhammadu Buhari was pre-2015, is very much in favour of the electoral prospects of the APC.
In the weeks ahead; we will continue our surveys on the calculus both nationwide and in the toss-up states.