Eight weeks to the February 25, 2023 presidential election, the candidates of the four major political parties have intensified efforts to outsmart each other in a presidential race that THISDAY Election Centre says is too close to call.
As the presidential race tightens, the North-west zone has become the new battleground for the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar; that of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, and their counterparts in the Labour Party (LP) and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Peter Obi and Rabiu Kwankwaso, respectively.
With eight weeks to the poll, the political scene is already charged.
Excitement is also very high as more choices will be available to Nigerians than there were in 2019.
Unlike in 2019 when the race was between President Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku, the battle in 2023 will be between the four strong candidates.
With over 22 million registered voters, being the highest among the six geopolitical zones, the North-west states of Kaduna, Sokoto, Katsina, Kano, Kebbi, Zamfara and Jigawa have become the beautiful pride because the issue of king and kingmakers has become relevant as many see a possible run-off in which case all the four candidates will be relevant in the trade-off that will follow the first round as one of them will be the king and others the kingmakers.
The seven states, except Zamfara, have second-term governors who have nothing at stake in the presidential race though Governors Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State (APC) and Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State (PDP) are running for the Senate.
The most vigorous among these governors, it was learnt, is Bello Matawalle of Zamafara State who is battling for his political life in a second term bid.
It is also believed that some of the governors, who will not be on the ballot in 2023, are not as vigorous as those who are running for the Senate.
This development has pressure on Atiku, Tinubu and Kwankwaso especially to do more work in the North-west to secure their votes.
The zone is also suffering from a high level of insecurity which can become a good campaign factor for the candidates.
At the end of the day, it is who wins this critical zone that may win the election.
“North-west zone is the most critical and each of the four candidates is all-out to win the highest number of votes in the zone. It is believed that whoever wins in the zone may become the next president,” a source close to one of the leading presidential candidates told THISDAY last night.
Atiku, Tinubu, Obi and Kwankwaso all don’t have the same chances but all of them can influence who wins especially if they go to the second round which analysts now see as possible instead of probable.
According to THISDAY Election Centre, as of today, eight weeks to the election, Jigawa, Katsina, Sokoto and Kebbi states are trending PDP, while Zamfara and Kaduna states are trending APC.
Kano with the highest number of registered voters in the zone, is too close to call between Tinubu’s APC and Kwankwaso’s NNPP.
Last week, Tinubu had to rush to President Buhari at the Presidential Villa to get the president to campaign for him in Katsina and Kano in the coming weeks to re-establish the lead.
Sokoto State governor, Tambuwal had described the North-west geopolitical zone as the real battleground for the 2023 presidential election.
Apparently underestimating Kwankwaso, who hails from Kano, the Sokoto State governor had declared that since no “serious” presidential candidate emerged from the North-west region, the major parties would vigorously campaign in the region.
The governor stated that the region would be a battleground for the leading parties due to the highest number of registered voters, saying the zone could determine the outcome of the next year’s presidential election.