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Borders Closed, Movement Restricted as 87.2 Million Nigerians Decide Presidential Race

Senate President Lawan drummed up support for Tinubu while Sheik Dahiru Bauchi endorsed Atiku.

As Nigerians prepare to go to the polls on Saturday to elect a new president in an election that is too close to call with four leading candidates, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has revealed that 87,209,007 voters out of the 93,469,008 registered voters have collected their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) and would be expected to vote.

The commission revealed this in a document made available to journalists. On same day, Nigerians would also elect members of the 10th National Assembly.
The four leading presidential candidates are Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC); Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Peter Obi of Labour Party, and New Nigeria Peoples Party’s (NNPP), Rabiu Kwankwaso.

THISDAY projects that the race is too close to call with Obi gaining momentum  in Lagos and Ogun States, while Tinubu and Atiku are slugging it out  for the soul of Northern Nigeria whose votes are likely to decide the winner.
Atiku’s chances  got a major boost yesterday, with Sheik Dahiru Bauchi, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Sufi group endorsing his candidature. The prominent Islamic scholar endorsed Atiku in a message to his followers.

“You can’t bite true believer twice, some people were saying vote for who will continue from where they stop, we didn’t enjoy where they stopped.
“Majority of my People told me that they will vote for Atiku, and I will not leave my people, I will be with my people  to see what almighty Allah will do. We are praying to Allah to give Nigeria the best leader who will ease the sufferings of Nigeria and bring rapid development,” the Islamic cleric said
According to THISDAY findings, among those who vote based on religious sentiments, Obi will take up to 75% of Christian votes while Atiku, Tinubu and Kwankwaso will share the Muslim votes. But Thursday’s endorsement of Atiku by influential Muslim clerics  could make a difference for the former Vice President just as he will also benefit from voters who vote regionally with Northern voters going mainly for him while Tinubu and Obi will share Southern voters. The road to the Presidency for Tinubu remains with the South West/North West combo, but he has to get Buhari’s voters on his side – which is proving challenging.
With a race so tight a run off is a possibility and will pitch the man with the highest votes against the man with most geographical spread.

 Based on the above, here is THISDAY PROJECTIONS:

Obi leads in most of South East and South South states with a strong showing in Lagos, Benue and a possible win in Plateau State.
Tinubu on his part, leads in the South West, Borno and Yobe States, with a strong showing in North West.
Atiku has a strong showing in most of the North, while leading in Adamawa, Bauchi, Jigawa, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Delta, Akwa Ibom and Taraba States, with a very strong showing in Zamfara, Niger, Kwara, Nasarawa and Osun States.
Kwankwaso is leading in Kano with a strong showing in Jigawa, Katsina and Taraba States.
 As the world’s attention remains razor focused on tomorrow’s election,  the United States President Joe Biden, on Thursday, restated his country’s commitment to free and fair polls in Nigeria.

Similarly, the diplomatic missions of the United States, Australia, Japan, Norway, Canada, and the United Kingdom in Nigeria lauded the signing of a second peace accord by the candidates competing in the upcoming presidential election.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, urged Nigerians to conduct themselves peacefully during the period of the elections. Lawan also asked voters to choose the presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in a statement on Thursday which he personally signed.

Based on the disclosure by INEC, 87.2 million voters would determine the fates of Tinubu, Atiku, Obi, Kwankwaso and other presidential candidates.
The commission, in a document made available to journalists, also revealed that 6,259,229 million PVCs were uncollected.
A breakdown of the PVCs collected per state showed that Lagos State topped the list with 6,214,970, followed by Kano State with 5,594,193, Kaduna State with 4,164,473, Katsina State with 3,459,945, and Rivers State with 3,285,789.

Further breakdown of PVCs collected showed that Delta State had 2,989,514; Oyo State 2,761,421; Niger State 2,633,726; Anambra State 2,624,764; Benue State 2,607,141; Imo State 2,280,339; Borno State 2,447,209; and Ogun State 2,278,063.
Ekiti State was the least, in terms of PVCs collected, with 958,052, with Bayelsa State slightly ahead with 1,009,895.
The regional breakdown of PVCs collected showed that North-west led with 21,445,000, followed by South-west with 15,536,213, North-central with 14, 603,62, South-south with 13,284,920, North-east 11,937,769, and South-east with 10,401,484.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja, Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, reiterated that the procedure for voting, as provided in the Electoral Act 2022, made the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) mandatory. Yakubu stressed that no voter would be allowed to vote without the PVC, insisting that the “no PVC, no voting” rule subsists.
The INEC chairman stressed that vote-buying remained a major threat to the country’s democracy, adding that the commission has worked closely with the law enforcement agencies to ensure that this is eliminated from the electoral process.
Yakubu added, “We are convinced that our joint operations before and on election day will vastly reduce the prospect of voter inducement, which is not only illegal but immoral.

“The ban on the use of mobile phones and photographic devices at the voting cubicles, is still in place. Some voters have used these devices in previous elections to snap their marked ballot papers for vote transaction.
“However, citizens are permitted to come to the polling units with these devices, as long as they do not take them to the voting cubicles.
“Our arrangement of placing the ballot box near the voting cubicle and away from party agents remains. Our staff have been trained in the administration of the polling units and their attention should be drawn to any deviation from that training.”

Yakubu said in the build-up to the general election, several of the commission’s facilities were attacked by unknown assailants in various parts of the country.
However, he stated, “I am pleased that we have fully recovered from those attacks, and we have been further assured that our facilities, staff, voters, observers, and citizens will be safe during the election.”
The INEC chairman also said, “The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has assured us that it will provide us with the small amount of cash we require from our budget to cash payment to some critical service providers for the election. I must reiterate that the bulk of payment for works goods and services are still paid for by electronic transfer.”

He reiterated that the commission was adequately prepared for the election and remained committed to a free, fair and credible process.
Meanwhile, Community Life Project (CLP) donated Information Technology facilities to the INEC Citizen Contact Centre (ICCC) for the use of the commission in the 2023 general election.
Programme Manager of CLP, Francis Onahor, said the facilities were provided with the support of Ford Foundation. He explained that the ICCC facilities offered citizens and the public the opportunity to get real-time responses to inquiries, incident reports, and queries about any aspect of the electoral process.
The items supplied were 15 all-in-one desktop computers, two laptops for the supervisors, and 15 Universal Power Storage (UPS).

Onahor added, “Thus, CLP considers an efficient and effective ICCC as a critical element in making citizens’ voices heard by the commission.
“We have no doubt that these facilities will contribute significantly to boosting INEC’s capacity to resolve electoral incidents and offer citizens better opportunities to exercise their franchise.
“We commend the commission for its commitment to using ICT to improve our electoral system and for facilitating citizens’ active participation in election day management.”
Onahor said CLP had been engaged for over a decade in promoting inclusion and popular participation towards electoral integrity.

Biden: US Stands with Nigeria as it Charts New Path to Secure Future

Biden, in a statement, urged all eligible Nigerians, irrespective of religious, regional or ethnic persuasions, to come out en masse to exercise their civic responsibility. He lauded the political parties for agreeing in principle to abide by the rules and ensure a peaceful election, particularly expressing delight at the peace pact signed on Wednesday by the politicians.

Biden stated, “I commend yesterday’s peace accord in Nigeria, signed by the political parties and candidates running in Nigeria’s presidential election on February 25.  By signing this pledge, the parties and candidates have committed to accept the results of the election, as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and to support a peaceful transition of power.”
The US president said elections remained a fundamental part of a functioning democracy, and stressed that all Nigerians deserved the chance to choose their future — freely and fairly.

The United States, Biden reiterated, did not support any single candidate or party, but strongly supported a peaceful and transparent process that reflected the will of the people of Nigeria.
He stated, “On election day, I encourage all Nigerians — no matter their religion, region, or ethnicity —to exercise this fundamental freedom and make their voices heard — including young voters, many of whom may be heading to the ballot box for the first time.
“The United States stands with the Nigerian people as they chart a path toward a more democratic, prosperous, and secure future.  I appreciate President (Muhammadu) Buhari’s firm commitment that the will of the people will be respected.”
The US president encouraged voters to remain peaceful and patient after voting, as their ballots are tallied, and urged the political parties and candidates to live up to their pledge.
The diplomatic missions of the United States, Australia, Japan, Norway, Canada and the United Kingdom in Nigeria equally lauded the signing of the second peace accord by the candidates competing in the upcoming presidential election.
The countries expressed commitment to support all efforts that would ensure that Nigerians decide who wins the election.
In a joint statement made available to THISDAY, the countries noted that the signing of the agreement was vital to Nigeria’s stability and democratic consolidation. They called for a safe, fair and credible poll.
They encouraged all actors to intervene proactively to calm any tensions and avoid any violence in the periods before, during and after the elections.
The countries appealed to all officials at federal and local levels in Nigeria to respect the human and democratic rights of the citizens, while condemning any actions that undermine the peaceful and transparent conduct of the electoral process.
All the signatories to the statement appealed to political parties to respect electoral laws and institutions and take a firm stand against violence and hate speech by their supporters. They urged the security services to do their best to protect the process and prevent as well as deter attacks against INEC facilities, materials and personnel.

The countries said in the statement, “We call on all officials, including the law enforcement authorities, to ensure a safe and conducive environment for the exercise of public freedoms – including the freedom of opinion and expression, the freedom of peaceful assembly and the freedom of association – all of which are essential in democratic societies, in particular in the context of elections.
“Law enforcement authorities should remain visibly neutral and respond in a proportionate manner to any election-related incidents. We further urge all presidential candidates and political parties to live up to their commitments under the second peace accord to accept the results of the election as announced by INEC and to pursue any challenge of the results through the appropriate legal channels.
“We, the diplomatic missions of the United States, Australia, Japan, Norway, Canada and the United Kingdom in Nigeria, would like to congratulate Nigeria on its 24 years of democratic progress since 1999, during which it has been a symbol to others of the value of exercising democratic rights for the betterment of society.  We hope that this year’s elections further build Nigeria’s democratic tradition.”

Lawan Preaches Peaceful Polls, Canvases Support for Tinubu

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, urged Nigerians to conduct themselves peacefully during Saturday’s elections.
Lawan advised eligible voters to turn up at their polling units on the appointed days to responsibly exercise their civic responsibility and democratic right to elect their governments and representatives in legislature at the state and federal levels.
The senate president, in a statement he personally signed, appealed to the people to eschew violence and, instead, make these elections a celebration of democracy in the country. He cautioned them to always be mindful of the fact that Nigeria remained their only country and they had a part to play in sustaining its peace, unity and progress at all times.

The statement read, “Nigerians are on the march again to another cycle of general election, the seventh since 1999, when the Fourth Republic began.
“As we go to our respective polling units to participate in the election of a new president and members of the 10th National Assembly on Saturday, February 25, 2023, to be followed by the elections of state governors and members of state Houses of Assembly on Saturday, March 11, 2023, I urge us all to be of good conduct and make the exercise peaceful.

“I call on all Nigerians, who have registered and collected their Permanent Voters Cards (PVC), to go to their polling units on the appointed days to responsibly exercise their civic responsibility and democratic right to elect their governments and representatives in parliament at the state and federal levels.
“We should always be proud of our right and duty under our hard-won democracy to elect our leaders. So let’s make this a celebration of democracy in our beloved country.”
The senate president added, “And as we discharge this responsibility, we should always be mindful that Nigeria is the only country that we have. We should, therefore, play our parts in sustaining its peace, unity and progress at all times.
“I sincerely empathise with fellow Nigerians the (on) hardship being experienced across our land in the implementation of the currency redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“Even though we all agree on the merits of the policy, its implementation gap unfortunately brought enormous hardship upon citizens across the country.
“However, I wish to assure us that with appropriate intervention by government and the collaborations of all stakeholders, this hardship will soon fade away and normalcy restored to our daily livelihoods.
“The All Progressives Congress (APC) has vigorously campaigned in all the states of the federation and Abuja to explain why Nigerians should again vote for our party and candidates.”

According to Lawan, in the years since 2015, “Our government has recorded some gains in the face of enormous challenges. Nigerians are witnesses to these achievements across the sectors in all the six geopolitical zones of our country.
“Our presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima, are tested in government and will surely Renew our Hope in a brighter future through their carefully thought-out agenda.

“Therefore, I earnestly urge you all to cast your votes for the APC and all its candidates again from top down to bottom.
“The ninth National Assembly has done much to strengthen our electoral system by enacting the Electoral Act 2022 that has empowered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to better manage the electoral process.
“The Act has many innovations designed to make your votes count. This has given Nigerians and our friends in the international community a great confidence that the 2023 polls will be the best that we have seen under our growing democracy.”

Emmanuel Addeh, Sunday Aborisade, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja, Emma Okonji and Ugo Aliogo in Lagos

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