On Saturday, voters across Nigeria will go to the poll to elect the president, 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives.
The 2019 general elections are the fifth since that of 1999 gave birth to the Fourth Republic. This is the longest series of regular elections since Nigeria became independent on October 1, 1960.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), slightly over 84 million voters are on the electoral roll. However, not all of them obtained the permanent voters’ cards that they need to present to be allowed to vote.
A breakdown of the voters’ register by regions shows that the North-west tops with 20, 158,100 voters, followed by the South-west with 16,292,212.
The North-central has 13,366,070 voters, followed by the South-south with 12,841,279. The North-east zone has 11,289,293 while the South-east has 10,057,130.
Each of the regions has six states, except the North-west which has seven and the South-east which has five.
Ninety-one parties are participating in the elections, but only 73 are officially fielding presidential candidates. Some of the candidates, like Oby Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, have pulled out or endorsed either of the two leading candidates.
A two-horse race
Like the four others before it since 1999, this is expected to be a two-horse race. Of the past four, only the first in 1999 and the last in 2015 produced keen contests. Observers think this will be another.
In 1999, two of the three parties presented Olu Falae on a joint ticket with the late Umaru Shinkafi as his running mate. But their combined forces could not stop Olusegun Obasanjo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from returning as the first president of the Fourth Republic. His running mate was Atiku Abubakar.
By the next election in 2003, the All Peoples Party (APP) and the Alliance for Democracy (AD) had failed to consolidate their alliance and gone their separate ways. Some other parties had also been registered to crowd the track and further fragment the opposition. It was no surprise, therefore, that the PDP, which had then become a behemoth through the power of incumbency, would make mincemeat of all its challengers in that election.
The PDP went on to produce two other presidents until the opposition realised they would remain fodder for the PDP unless they again merge forces.
That merger was the first feat of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Nigerian political parties since the First Republic had always seen the need to broaden their bases through merger or alliances. But they never succeeded because they often left the construction too close to elections.
The parties that eventually became the APC had their roots in the APP and AD of 1999-2003. They began thinking of getting together again before the third cycle of elections in 2011 but only achieved it in 2014.
The merger, combined with the implosion of the PDP and the absorption of those who found themselves out of the then ruling party and other factors, gave the APC the muscle to truly challenge the lumbering behemoth in the 2015 election.
The election would become the stage for the first defeat of a ruling party at the centre in Nigerian history as Muhammadu Buhari stopped President Goodluck Jonathan’s reelection.
Four years later, the PDP is now determined to serve Mr Buhari a dose of his own medicine. It is a measure of the growing political culture in Nigeria that four years out of power, the party has managed to retain enough strength to prop the same Mr Abubakar, who was Mr Obasanjo’s sidekick in 1999, for a real fight with President Buhari on Saturday.
So how will the battle be fought and won?
Many, especially those observing from outside, have presented a rather simplistic analysis of this contest. It goes like this: Mr Buhari will get most of the votes of Muslim voters in the three northern zones and hitch a ride on the back of his allies for a share of the south-west votes. Mr Abubakar, on the other hand, will sweep the two almost monolithically Christian zones in the south and glean the Christian and ethnic minorities in the North, with the seething North-central forming the nucleus of his support in that hemisphere.
In truth, Mr Buhari, since his first attempt in 2003, has drawn his votes from the deeply Muslim North and needed the hands of new allies, especially Bola Tinubu, to cross the River Niger for the first time in 2015 at the fourth attempt.
Apart from 2007 when his nemesis was the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, a fellow Muslim from the North-west, Mr Buhari had drawn the bulk of his recurrent 12 million votes from his home zone. In 2007, his basket shrank to a mere six million votes, leading to the conclusion by analysts that a northern rival, especially from his home zone, would dilute his support in the North.
The race in the North-west
We predict that on Saturday Mr Buhari will again be a titan in that region. But this is not entirely because his challenger this time is from the North-east.
Of the seven states in the North-west, at least four appear to be safely in his column. These are Katsina his home state, Kebbi, Kano and Zamfara.
Much has been made of the influence of Rabiu Kwankwaso, the former governor of Kano who last year returned from the APC to the PDP over a bitter feud with his former acolyte, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.
But Mr Kwankwaso was never part of a clean sweep of Kano until 2015 when he had Mr Buhari at his side. He won his first election to the House of Representatives in 1992. When he became governor in 1999, it followed a controversial primary which pitted him against Mr Ganduje. The general election too was tight against the candidate of the defunct APP.
The primary election of the PDP was particularly rough. Elders of the then new party had to persuade the two gladiators to run on the same ticket, out of the fear that unless they worked together, the general election might yet again be thrown to the conservative wing of Kano politics.
That fear was grounded in the scenario of 1992 when an acrimonious primary tore the then Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the old Kano State apart and led to the emergence of a dark horse, Kabiru Gaya, as governor on the platform of the little to the right National Republican Convention. Sule Lamido, whose part of the state was later in 1995 excised as Jigawa State, was at the centre of that costly schism in the SDP. Messrs Kwankwaso and Ganduje eventually ran on the same ticket and won a close election.
In 2003, Mr Buhari ran his first electoral race at a time the conservative North was in a rage against President Obasanjo. Many states in the region had adopted the Sharia mainly to spite his leadership.
Coupled with a few other factors, Mr Kwankwaso was trounced in the 2003 governorship poll by Ibrahim Shekarau, whom he had removed as permanent secretary and sent into the classroom as a teacher. Mr Buhari swept Kano that year, and many attributed him as the factor in the comfortable election of Mr Shekarau. But Mr Kwankwaso’s alienation of his allies through his abrasive leadership was also undoubtedly a factor.
Mr Kwankwaso did not run again until the end of Mr Shekarau’s second term in 2011. That year, he returned as governor but won with only a plurality of about 63, 000 votes. That margin was thin in a state of close to two million voters.
But Mr Kwankwaso’s cause was even further helped by the fallout of the presidential election of that year. After the announcement of Mr Jonathan as the winner, supporters of Mr Buhari, especially in Kano, broke out in violent protests. The security crackdown that followed chased many of them underground and ended their interest in the remaining elections of that cycle.
If Mr Kwankwaso has gained the clout to challenge Buhari in Kano, he has yet to prove it. The APC won big with him in 2015 but that was because Kano was also caught in the Buhari hurricane of that year that swept the entire North and threw Mr Jonathan off the saddle. This state will, therefore, go to Mr Buhari again, although Mr Kwankwaso will give Mr Abubakar a foothold.
The three other states in the zone; Kaduna, Jigawa and Sokoto, will feature varying degrees of contest. Kaduna is polarised mainly along religious lines with the Christian southern part the base of the PDP in the state. But voters in the area are well outnumbered by those in the other parts. Mr Buhari will draw the bulk of the votes in those parts to give him the state.
In Sokoto, Governor Aminu Tambuwal and former governor Attahiru Bafarawa have a considerable following. In 2015 when Mr Bafarawa was the lone general in the PDP, he gave a good fight although the Buhari factor bolstered Aliyu Wamakko and Mr Tambuwal to firmly push the state into the APC column with 671,926 votes to PDP’s 152,199 in the presidential election. When Mr Buhari visited for his campaign this year, the turnout indicated the people are still enamoured with him. But Mr Abubakar also pulled a large crowd to his rally. We will give the state to Mr Buhari, but the margin will be closer this year.
That leaves us with Jigawa in this zone. In 2015, Mr Buhari swept this state even with Mr Lamido as the sitting governor. He garnered 885,988 votes to Mr Jonathan’s 142,904. That situation appears to have altered. But this has more to do with Governor Badaru Abubakar’s stewardship than with Mr Lamido’s resurgence.
Mr Lamido lost two elections in 1999 and 2003 to Saminu Turaki of the APP. He needed the support of the latter to win at the third attempt in 2007. By then, Mr Turaki had become a PDP sympathiser and one of the governors who bankrolled the failed Third Term Agenda of Mr Obasanjo. But now out of power, Mr Lamido has been putting the heat on the sitting governor who he and his supporters have branded as corrupt and underperforming.
The Adamawa-born PDP flag bearer, Mr Abubakar, has traced his ancestral roots to the state and expects to be welcomed back home with votes. These are the reasons why this is considered a battleground state. If it is so, it is leaning towards Mr Buhari more than Mr Abubakar.
This is Mr Abubakar’s zone. In the parlance of Nigerian politics, he is supposed to be at home with the voters here. But that does not appear to be the case. Two of the six states in this zone can be written off for him. These are Borno and Yobe which Mr Buhari won handily in 2015. He appears set to repeat the feat on Saturday.
Mr Buhari won two of the other states here, Bauchi and Gombe. Governor Ibrahim Dankwabo sneaked into reelection in Gombe even after Mr Buhari had beaten Mr Jonathan decisively with 361,245 to 96,873 votes. It was considered a measure of the voters’ love for their governor. The president is expected to retain the state, more so that a lot of the political figures, including some officials of Mr Dankwambo’s government, have crossed the bridge into the APC.
Bauchi’s scenario is slightly different. Mr Buhari mauled Mr Jonathan here in 2015 with 931,598 votes to the latter’s paltry 86,085. And he again pulled a large crowd this year when he campaigned there. Last year, the APC won all the bye-elections held in the state. But local politics surrounding Governor Mohammed Abubakar appears to have helped the PDP back into reckoning in the state.
The governor has alienated many of the political and traditional rulers in the state, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara. It was this local issue that finally pushed a hesitant Mr Dogara back to the PDP last year. A former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed, is the PDP governorship candidate and he is using his deep pocket to run a serious campaign. On the positive side for the APC, many bigwigs, including two former governors of the state, Adamu Muazu (he was the PDP national chairman at the time of the last election) and Isa Yuguda have moved over to the APC. Mr Buhari looks set to win the state. But Mr Abubakar will fare better here than Mr Jonathan did the last time around. Governor Abubakar on his part may need to hang on to the hems of Mr Buhari’s flowing gown to stay afloat on March 2.
Adamawa promises the most exciting spectacle on Saturday. This is the home state of Mr Abubakar. He is married to the family of the paramount traditional ruler in the state, the Lamido of Adamawa. He also holds one of the most prestigious traditional titles in the emirate, the Waziri. He has so much business investment here, including the prestigious ABTI American University in Yola, that he is said to be the biggest employer of labour in Adamawa after the state government.
Mr Abubakar started his political career in 1989 and made a beeline for the governorship seat. He finally got it at the third attempt in 1999 only to be drafted to Abuja as running mate to Mr Obasanjo. But Adamawa is one of the states in the North with a broad elite base, most of them the lords of their manors.
In 2015, Mr Buhari edged Mr Jonathan 374,701 votes to 251,664. It was the first time a presidential candidate not running on the PDP ticket would pick the state. Local opinions suggest Mr Buhari maintains the lead here. But it will be dicey, especially given also the storm surrounding Governor Jibrilla Bindow. From a minority ethnic group, the governor is at odds with his old allies. Adamawa is a battleground state if there is one in this zone.
That leaves us with Taraba. The home state of Theophilus Danjuma, former defence minister. It has the only other PDP governor in the zone. And like his Gombe counterpart, Governor Darius Ishaku had a close shave with defeat in 2015 even though Mr Jonathan won here emphatically with 310,800 votes to Mr Buhari’s 261,326. The courts eventually gave him reprieve from the stiff challenge of the woman they call Mama Taraba, Aisha Alhassan then of the APC.
Incessant violent crises have left the state further divided along religious and ethnic lines on Mr Ishaku’s watch. He is a Christian, and the composition of ethnic forces favour him and may translate again to a PDP upper hand in the state. Good for Mr Abubakar’s cause too that Mama Taraba removed herself from the APC after the party ruled her out of the governorship primary. Her defection to the United People’s Party where is running for governor will affect the APC. She was the rallying force of the party until she left. And now that she is out of the party, she is free to demonstrate her loyalty to Mr Abubakar.
Last year, Mrs Alhassan caused a storm when she was overheard in a leaked video saying she would support Mr Abubakar should he be running for president. Now is the time to put her word into action.
Her dilemma, however, will be the fact that the victory of Mr Abubakar in the state will boost the reelection prospects of Mr Ishaku, which may sound the death knell for her governorship ambition.
All these mean Mr Danjuma’s usual scowl may soften to a rare smile after the votes are counted in this state.
Regardless of what you may have read elsewhere, this zone has something for the two presidential candidates. Against the popular perception, only Benue and Plateau of the six states in the zone have a Christian majority population. Kogi is probably evenly split between Christians and Muslims; Nasarawa and Kwara have sizeable Christian minority groups. But Niger has a large Muslim majority. In 2015, Mr Buhari had a good showing in this zone, losing only in Nasarawa with 236,838 votes to Mr Jonathan’s 273,460 and Plateau with 429,140 to 549,615.
All the six states in the zone also elected APC governors. But Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara and Samuel Ortom of Benue returned to the PDP last year in the exodus orchestrated by Senate President Bukola Saraki who is Mr Ahmed’s political godfather in Kwara.
As things stand, four of the six states are firm battlegrounds. Niger is in the APC column just as Benue appears to be fully under the PDP umbrella.
Nasarawa has an APC governor, but the state always gives the plurality of its votes to PDP presidential candidates. In 2015, Mr Buhari had 236,838 to Mr Jonathan’s 273,460 even though the state reelected Governor Umaru Al-Makura on the APC platform.
The death of its 2015 governorship candidate, Abubakar Audu, which threw up the then bystander Yahaya Bello as governor, has muddled the water in Kogi for the APC. The party wrested the state from the PDP in the off-season governorship election of 2015 through Mr Audu. But he died while the results were being announced. The immediate implication was that for the first time, the state has a governor who is not from the majority Igala ethnic group. Mr Bello’s abrasiveness and policy choices have broadened and hardened the hostility against him in large parts of the state. This has given the PDP reasons to be upbeat ahead of Saturday.
In Kwara, however, we may have a situation close to that of 1983. That year, the kingmaker of the state, the late Olusola Saraki, who was a chieftain of the then ruling National Party of Nigeria and Senate Leader, had fallen out with the governor he helped into office, the late Adamu Attah. After the NPN ignored his protest and renominated Mr Attah, Mr Saraki hooked up a curious alliance with the opposition Unity Party of Nigeria. The UPN candidate, Cornelius Adebayo, defeated Mr Attah in the governorship election of 1983.
This time, a Saraki is again at the centre of the drama in the state. But he appears to be the one feeling the heat now. The Senate President’s 16-year hold on the state is facing its biggest threat yet from a resurgent opposition gathered in the APC and rousing the streets with the battle cry, Oto Ge! Enough is enough in Yoruba, the slogan is resonating across the state. This is a battleground state. It appears too close to call.
With over 16 million registered voters, this zone is always going to have a say in who emerges president on Saturday. The two candidates are expecting an open game in all the six states here because of the open-mindedness of the largely Yoruba voters. In 2015, Mr Buhari edged Mr Jonathan in the zone and he appears poised to do the same to Mr Abubakar on Saturday.
In the last cycle of the general election, the PDP had two governors in Ekiti and Ondo states. But APC has since annexed those seats in the offseason governorship elections and now makes the South-west the only zone in Nigeria under a single party flag.
However, this constitutes both advantages and disadvantages for Mr Buhari’s party. It means this election is a referendum on the stewardship of the party in the zone.
Last year, it took both luck and shenanigans to keep Osun in the party’s column as what was a straightforward contest in 2014 controversially went into a supplementary poll. Governor Gboyega Oyetola eventually emerged in a photo finish with about five hundred votes superiority to Ademola Adeleke of the PDP.
But that election was determined by local factors, especially a labour backlash against former governor Rauf Aregbesola. Although he started well, changed the physical landscape of the urban side of the state and introduced many bold policies in the education sector that will long impact the state, the difficulty he had in paying workers became his albatross. It eroded his popularity and unfairly caricatured him as a ghastly leadership accident.
But the APC can expect a more decent victory this time, mainly because of the alliance it forged with Iyiola Omisore in the heat of that supplementary governorship poll. The Ife prince started the Fourth Republic in the same company as deputy to Governor Bisi Akande.
But he swiftly fell out with his boss and was peremptorily impeached and driven into the waiting hands of the PDP. That time, President Obasanjo was plotting a brutal takeover of his home region from the AD. Mr Omisore’s ordeal in the AD solidified his base in Ife around him. That electoral asset earned him the warm embrace of the same people who long and stridently accused him of every crime in the book, including murder, when they were adversaries. He again will be instrumental.
Of the remaining states in the zone, Ogun seems the most fluid. This is due primarily to the crisis Governor Ibikunle Amosun has foisted on the APC through his strange power transition designs. The party split down the middle after a section rebelled against him. It managed to get the backing of the national leadership of the party. But a stubborn Mr Amosun would not yield and has herded his loyalists into the Allied Peoples Movement for the state elections while he remains a senatorial candidate of the APC. If its messy civil war does not draw the APC the whirlwind in the presidential poll, it is sure to take a heavy toll on it in the state elections.
In spite of all the usual excitement, the votes-rich Lagos will rest firmly in the APC column. The opposition PDP is weak as many of the leaders have exchanged their umbrellas for brooms. Those who remain are bickering as usual and critically do not have the war chest, structure or strategy to take the battle to Mr Tinubu who at some point appeared vulnerable after his men picked a curious fight with Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. But the governor seems to have taken his harsh chastisement on the chin and, at least overtly, is placidly tagging along with his estranged friends rather than dash to the other side.
In Ondo, there is also infighting in the APC. Here too, all the factions seem to have a common ground in Mr Buhari and will work for him. The PDP in 2015 had a sitting governor working for it, but Mr Jonathan still lost the state 251,368 to 299,889 votes to Mr Buhari.
Now, the former governor, Olusegun Mimiko, has left the PDP and is fending for himself in the Zenith Labour Party where he is running for the Senate on Saturday.
In Ekiti, Ayo Fayose has served his term as governor. He painfully failed to install a PDP successor and now contends with a civil war in the state chapter of the party where, until recently, he was he who must be obeyed.
In contrast, Governor Kayode Fayemi is still enjoying a honeymoon and drawing new adherents into the APC from the PDP. This state is notorious for flipping and is poised to flip once again. Mr Buhari lost here 120,331 to 176,466 the last time around.
In summary, the APC remains the top dog in this region and will again offer Mr Buhari a significant help on Saturday. It is a bonus that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is from the zone. No wonder the whisper that APC may back the South-west for the presidency in 2023.
This is assumed a PDP territory, even though the party has only three of its five state governors. Since 1999 when the presidential bid of Alex Ekwueme attracted the zone into the PDP, the mainstream Igbo political leaders have made themselves at home in the party.
In 2015, Mr Buhari harvested a paltry 198,000 votes from the five states in the region. That tally pales against the 323,653 that Mr Jonathan drew from Ebonyi, his least from a state in the zone. The streets of the South-east remain hostile to Mr Buhari. But the political elite seems to be less so now.
Ebonyi’s Governor David Umahi is unabashed in praising and welcoming and fawning over the president publicly. When Mr Buhari stopped over for his campaign, the governor hosted him at Government House. The state’s traditional rulers also endorsed the visitor’s ambition. A few days later, the governor turned up to receive Mr Abubakar but offered no apologies for his strange cavorting with the “enemy.” Mr Umahi is not alone in the zone in this ambivalence to the PDP.
Governor Willie Obiano is in the All Progressives Grand Alliance. In 2015, he worked furiously for Mr Jonathan who showed Mr Buhari a clean pair of his heels by trouncing him 660,762 to a ridiculous 17,926 votes in the state. Now, Mr Obiano’s vigorous campaign is for Mr Buhari. It is not entirely out of love for the president. It has also to do with his dislike for Peter Obi, Mr Obiano’s predecessor and estranged friend who is now running on the PDP presidential ticket with Mr Abubakar.
Mr Obi installed Mr Obiano in 2014. But the pair quickly quarrelled and has refused to make up. When the governor ran for reelection in 2018, Mr Obi had crossed over to the PDP and vowed to throw his successor out of office. He tried but failed. Now, Mr Obiano wants to return the favour. He will do all he can to embarrass Mr Abubakar in the home state of his running mate.
Although the PDP South-east heartily welcomed Mr Obi into its fold from APGA, the leaders seem to think his nomination by Mr Abubakar was a gift too generous and too early. They have no choice but to work for the PDP since they are all seeking reelection. But the passion of 2015 is now flickering and may affect the quantum of votes for the PDP on Saturday.
Add to that the continued insurgency of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The group wants to disrupt elections in this zone if they cannot persuade the people to stay at home on election days. Strangely, everything it is doing of late seems to be in favour of Mr Buhari, the man they had called the Nigerian reincarnation of Adolf Hitler. IPOB cannot stop the elections but two in every three voters they keep at home on that day will count as Mr Abubakar’s loss. IPOB on Friday said it is calling off the boycott.
Imo State gave Mr Buhari 133,253 votes in 2015, about a third of his tally in the entire zone. This is the result of Governor Rochas Okorocha’s valiant efforts. He remains the only APC governor in the South-east. He took a wing of APGA into the merger that became the party. But like Mr Amosun of Ogun in the South-west, his insistence on choosing who would be what has shaken the house that he built to its foundation.
Mr Okorocha is running for the Senate as an APC candidate but has sent his in-law to another party to run for governor after the APC declined to issue him its ticket. The factions may all work for Mr Buhari on Saturday. But their disunity may cost them direly on March 2. This, however, is not to say Mr Buhari will win the state. But as in elsewhere in the zone, he is entitled to expect an improvement in his harvest from this state.
Figures like former Abia State Governor Orji Kalu, former Enugu State Governor Sullivan Chime and former Senate President Ken Nnamani are in the APC and will help Mr Buhari draw more votes than ever before.
All the ministers from the zone too will also like to demonstrate their political clouts. All of these will help the president avoid the embarrassment he was subjected to at the poll in the zone in 2015.
Mr Abubakar will win this zone but not with the margin with which Mr Jonathan did in 2015.
This is another PDP territory. Every projection of a Mr Abubakar victory rests on the foundation that he will pick almost every vote in this zone and in the South-east. PDP runs every state in the zone apart from Edo, which Adams Oshiomhole snatched from the party in 2008 and kept in the APC at the end of his governorship tenure.
This zone has 12, 841,279 registered voters. Most of them will look for the umbrella symbol when handed their ballot papers. In 2015, homeboy Mr Jonathan won all the six states decisively, garnering a few votes short of five million. He did to Mr Buhari what the latter did to him in the North-west as the APC candidate tallied only about 400,000 votes.
This time, the PDP will not have it that easy. There has been a massive incursion of the APC into states such as Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Rivers and Delta that the party can reasonably fancy its chances to pick at least one of these states.
The defection last year of former Akwa Ibom Governor Godswill Akpabio to the APC may be a game-changer. The development was a morale booster for the APC in the region. He has vowed to win the state for his new party. Even before the election, the APC is looking more like the ruling party as it harasses the PDP and its state government and draws a stream of defectors.
In Rivers, an internal crisis in the APC has dealt the party a big blow. The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the party will not be fielding candidates in the state for defying a court order barring it from conducting its congresses and primaries in the state while a matter was still pending before the court. But the party still managed to mobilise a large crowd to Mr Buhari’s rally in Port Harcourt. Nevertheless the setback to the APC in the state, the Minister of Transportation will like to prove his political relevance in his state during the presidential election.
Whatever, Mr Buhari will draw far more votes here than he did in 2015 while Mr Abubakar will fall far short of the numbers of Mr Jonathan.
Because the PDP cannot add the power of incumbency to the factor of its dominance in the region, some observers have predicted that the votes will generally shrink in this zone. This prediction is based on the contention that the Nigerian malaise of blatant allocation of electoral figures by those with the power to do so was most prevalent in this zone of many rivers and creeks.
Aside from the fact that incumbency is now in APC hands, both parties now have strong enough representation on the ground to thwart the shenanigans of the other. What should be the most concern is keeping the combatants from deploying violence in their desperation or frustration.
Mr Abubakar will count on every vote he can get in the South-south, and he will get most of the votes. But the battle on this turf will be less lopsided than it has been since 2003 when the PDP started its bullying of the opposition on the Niger Delta electoral canvass.
In conclusion, this has been an unusual electoral season in Nigeria. Mr Saraki complained that the APC federal government closed the space for campaigns. There have been no fundraisers.
This time in 2015, the big boys were announcing donations in billions. Now, everyone seems to be looking over their shoulders and trying to avoid the attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The close monitoring of campaign finances by the anti-graft agency has also deprived the season of the carnivals of street parades and media blitz by support groups.
It has to be said, however, that many expect the polls to be clean, at least by continental standards. Due to the increasing deployment of technology by INEC since 2011, no one expects to see much ballot stuffing, ballot snatching and all the usual brigandage.
All eyes are on Nigeria too. So the gladiators are constrained to put up their best behaviour under the circumstances. So who between Messrs Buhari and Abubakar will win on Saturday? You can do the maths.
This analysis is published with the express permission of Premium Times.