The first stage in interrogating any research is to examine the methodology, especially the sampling of the population because if you go to an area where the people are supporting a particular candidate, your opinion poll will most likely confirm that they will vote for the candidate. But let us give the Foundation that conducted the research (ANAP) the benefit of the doubt. At least, the Chairman of the Foundation, Mr Atedo Peterside, obtained his first and second degrees in Economics from a United Kingdom university, therefore, he is most likely conversant with the basic requirements of a reliable research. Also, he is an accomplished banker who has a reputation to protect.
Many people missed the most important message of the research, which is that many Nigerians have not decided on who to vote for in the forthcoming 2023 presidential election. This is good because it means that all the presidential candidates have a chance. For example, Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party is leading with 21 per cent but, according to the research, 32 per cent are undecided and 15 per cent refused to respond. This means that any of the presidential candidates can win based on the 47 per cent who are sitting on the fence or did not respond to the questions. The research said so: “In summary, our September 2022 polls are inconclusive in terms of establishing a clear winner, as the undecided voters are large enough to turn the tables”.
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What is the Problem? None at all. If somebody who is at the venue of an athletic competition calls you and says that in a race of 12 rounds, your athlete is now leading in the first round, will you celebrate that he will win the race? Well, you can, if you are uninformed about marathon races!
Equally important, the research did not address the second of the two requirements for winning the presidential election in Nigeria. Apart from scoring the highest votes, a candidate must also score a minimum of 25 per cent in 2/3 of the 36 states of the Federation, which is 25 states. Assuming that Peter Obi emerged with the highest votes in Nigeria, who will secure 25 per cent for him in Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Kano, Bauchi, Borno, Zamfara, Yobe, Jigawa, Niger, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo and Osun State where his highly overrated candidate in the 2022 gubernatorial election scored less than 3,000 votes? Be that as it may, I will not advise him to adopt the slogan of the Mongols wrestlers: If you cannot win, cheat!
Also, Peter Obi led with 68 per cent in the South East and 46 per cent in the South South. But the total registered voters of the North West alone is 24,099,310 while South East has 10,626,240 and South South has 14,450,271. Thus, the total number of registered voters of South South and South East, which is 25,076,510, is a little above the North West registered voters. Can you guess what will happen in the three other zones: North East, North Central and South West?
For us, students of voting behaviour, we are more interested in other issues in the research, especially the interest of youth, women and the general political permutations going on in the country. It is more useful, for example, to debate the possibility of change in the North West where Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), according to the research, is leading the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu by 20 per cent to 15 per cent at a time when six out of the seven states in the region are under APC governors, especially the determinants of the presidential election in Nigeria: Kano, Kaduna and Katsina. Only time will tell. It is not over until the referee blows the final whistle.
There is nothing wrong with opinion polls contradicting popular assumptions. In fact, people should be more excited when it predicts the victory of an underdog. This reminds me of a professor at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) who revealed that when they were raising money for the construction of the UNN mosque, a white American gave them a substantial amount and when they asked him why he donated money for the project when he was not a Muslim, his answer shocked them: “It is my policy to always support the underdogs”. Who knows, he may have taught many Nigerians how to support underdogs.
Isyaku Dikko wrote from Abuja