Can President Buhari’s 12 Million Votes Be Transferable In The 2023 Elections?
As the clock winds down on President Buhari’s tenure, one of the underlying questions and expectations is what will happen to the 12 million guaranteed votes that the president has consistently garnered in all his election outings from 2011 up to 2019.
To put it in proper perspective President Muhammadu Buhari’s ability to secure that considerable number of votes even when he was in opposition has been the most significant factor responsible for his political standing in the country today. It was this factor that made him such a formidable opposition figure against whom the various administrations of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) from Presidents Obasanjo to Goodluck Jonathan lived in constant dread.
It was the bankability of the 12 million (some call it Buhari’s safe deposit) that formed the raison d’etre for some of the grandees of Nigerian politics to push through a merger of political parties which eventually led to the formation of the now ruling All Progressive Party (APC). I daresay if there was no Muhammadu Buhari and his 12 million votes the impetus for a grand merger of political parties in 2014 by political personalities in the country with the overriding desire to oust the then ruling PDP of Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 would not have been there. And in the 2019 elections yet again the 12-million man, Buhari, kicked in and affirmed his political standing by winning the elections against Atiku Abubakar of the PDP.
The subject of how President Buhari came to have such a solid, formidable and consistent political following over the years is a matter for another day. But the trending issue now is that as President Buhari is set to leave next year, what will happen to these votes that he packs; will he transfer them to a favoured candidate amongst aspirants now hotly jostling to get the APC’s presidential ticket? Are the votes even transferable? In other words are the votes only for Buhari alone or can he hope to ask his 12 million voters to transfer their support to his chosen candidate and get their compliance in the 2023 elections?
Most if not all of the presidential aspirants in the APC in one way or the other entertain the hope and in some cases expect that President Buhari will mobilise the apparatus of government as well as his votes behind them to get the nomination and win the 2023 elections.
But while it is a genuine expectation of APC presidential aspirants of President Buhari, realistically the aspirants must, however, brace themselves up for the unexpected.
Yes, President Buhari, even with his not too sterling performances, can still count on the massive support he had enjoyed up till now. But in the waning months of his presidency, that massive support has noticeably been eroding. And that is down to the fact that many of the supporters, having been disappointed by his failure to live up to their expectation of him, have somewhat drawn by him. Secondly the support he has been consistently enjoying is largely due to the unique character and personality traits they perceived in him and him alone and not anyone else.
In this regard, any APC presidential aspirant who expects that President Buhari will instruct his 12 million voters and have such complied with in the 2023 election race should think again. The truth is that objectively President Buhari by character, disposition and circumstances may not be inclined to do so and in the unlikely event of his doing that, it may likely not be complied with by most of the 12 millions.
Most of President Buhari’s supporters will feel that having supported him on their own assessment and volition, they should equally be allowed to form their own views and exercise their own choice in supporting any of the aspirants they so wished. Apart from his disinclination to support any political aspirant based on his past negative experience with such moves, President Buhari discerns that overtly showing support to any of the aspirants in an election that is not restricted to his party alone may not strike the right note with his supporters and may even result in an avoidably embarrassing blow-back to his political standing.
It is also important to note that the circumstances that first led to President Buhari getting and enjoying the support he basks in has drastically changed. In the run up to the 2011 elections, when he first emerged, he was the rallying political figure of the northern masses disillusioned and chafing at the perceived anti-northern policies of President Obasanjo. In 2015 he was still the candidate of the northern masses but in addition and more significantly he was the candidate of a formidable coalition of political grandees who wanted him to lead the charge for a new political direction in the country.
Presently of course the Nigerian political firmament is beset by new conditions which have drastically changed the circumstances that threw up the massive support Buhari has come to garner. The core base of President Buhari’s 12 million voters in the north is now in a state of bewildered disillusionment following the state of insecurity and debilitating poverty they least expected to experience under him. So while they may still have some love and support for him as a person, President Buhari’s 12 million voters will not, however, solidly transfer their support to whoever he may eventually endorse and present to the party and Nigerians as his successor.
•Written By Iliyasu Gadu