The US-based political and economic risk assessment and research company, Fitch Ratings, has tipped the presidential candidate of Nigeria’s ruling party, APC, Alhaji Bola Tinubu as the winner of next year’s presidential election.
The prediction appears to contradict earlier projections by The Economist and Bloomberg which both favoured a rival Labour Party and its charismatic candidate, Peter Obi as likely winner.
“Indeed, we maintain our view that the ruling party’s Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the candidate most likely to win the presidential election as a split opposition vote will favour the APC“, the Fitch report insisted.
The other opposition contender is Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a northern Muslim whose party, PDP, has its historic stronghold in the southeastern part of the country where Mr Obi – a Christian, hails from and is expected to do well.
Although Alhaji Tinubu is from the southwest of Nigeria, he is a Muslim like the current president Buhari. The country is nearly equally divided between Christians and Muslims and Nigeria’s presidency tended to alternate between these two faiths. Notwithstanding, Fitch predicts that Tinubu’s win “would break with this unwritten tradition” but warned the aftermath could then “fuel sentiment of perceived marginalisation among Christians“.
Fitch faulted earlier pollings made by Bloomberg to have focused mainly on “responses gathered online“. It said, “Since only 36.0% of Nigerians use the Internet (World Bank, 2020), we believe that these results are skewed towards urban, affluent voters who are most likely to support Obi. We also highlight that these polls suggest that a large share of voters remain undecided“.
The report said although Obi’s “frugal reputation and large social media following” could boost his numbers at February’s election, the largely Muslim northern voters tended to vote for fellow Muslims.
“These dynamics are likely to engender political unrest following the February vote“, warns Fitch again and “protests and social discontent” could increase in the aftermath of Tinubu’s win.
The report was silent on a fourth candidate, former defence minister, Rabiu Kwakwanso, a northern Muslim as Abubakar.
Nigeria’s February 25 polls will be Nigeria’s seventh since the return of democracy in 1999 and is considered perhaps the most decisive election for the future of Africa’s most populous country.
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