Nigeria is bracing for one of the toughest presidential elections in its recent history as, since the country returned to democratic rule in 1999, it has contested the presidency between two major political parties. For the 2023 presidential elections of February 25th, there are at least three leading presidential candidates, namely Peter Obi of the Labour Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All-Progressive Congress (APC). These big guns are setting aside their past collaboration to win the ultimate national seat. 

Why it matters

In terms of voting strength, the southwest region of Nigeria comprising six states including Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo states, holds a strong pull as according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the region has 17.93 million voters, second, to the northwest’s 22.27 million registered voters.

  • Furthermore, the south west region of Nigeria, home to an ethnic group called the Yoruba, have an indigenous presidential candidate who is additionally the flag bearer of Nigeria ruling party in Bola Ahmed Tinubu. 

State of play 

Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party and two-term governor of Anambra state is relatively a newcomer to the country’s national political space; although he served as a running mate to Alhaji Atiku of PDP in 2019; a leading candidate in the 2023 presidential race. The presidential candidate, an indigenous southeastern, with running mate Senator Yusuf Datti Ahmed, a northerner, is looking to break the dominance of the PDP and APC who have jointly led the country for 24 years. 

Peter Obi is contesting under the Labour Party, which has no presence in either governorships or state houses of assembly, two seats out of the 360 available in the House and just one out of the 109 available in the senate. Therefore, comparing Peter Obi’s Labour Party to his counterparts (Atiku of PDP and Tinubu of APC) on the basis of party popularity and influence, the former falls short.

However, Peter Obi’s chances of victory are much higher in reality, having reportedly won the hearts of many Nigerians, especially the youths, following his continuous charming display of eloquence, insight and enthusiasm. Analysts even believe that the former governor would largely challenge the southwest region with Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The region seems to be open to change following a public endorsement of Peter Obi over Tinubu by Afenifere, a socio-cultural organization for the Yoruba people of Nigeria. 

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