Nigeria’s South-West is generally considered the country’s most developed and literate region. Lagos was the federal capital for decades and is still the commercial capital. The South-West had perennially been a region in political opposition to the centre, but all that changed in 2015 when its political leader at the time, Bola Ahmed Tinubu took the major South-West political bloc into a partnership with a Northern regional bloc headed by former dictator Muhammadu Buhari in a move that created the All Progressives Congress (APC), aimed at winning the nationwide presidential election which it did. The plan was to have the South-West succeed after the current president’s tenure. Regardless of some hiccups and reluctance from the President, Mr Tinubu emerged as the presidential candidate of the APC as planned.
However, what should have been a straightforward campaign for Bola Tinubu has become rather tortured as he struggles with the unsavoury reputation of the ruling party and the president, coupled with questions about his history and conduct over the years. Mr Tinubu has long been accused of treating the treasuries of Lagos and other South-West states in his control like a private wallet while failing to improve the states concerned.
Investigative journalists have also found it very easy to pick holes in his history, with questions arising on everything from his age, wealth, educational background, and even to his very name. Analyses of his declared records have shown discrepancies related to his birth date, educational background, and forgery of university degree certificates, among others. For years, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate has been accused of being involved in heroin trafficking and money laundering in the US. Even his much-vaunted professional history has wilted under scrutiny. He claimed to have joined the Deloitte consulting firm after graduating from university in 1979, but when asked, Deloitte stated in official communication that it had no record of any Bola Ahmed Tinubu as a staff member.
In ideal circumstances, this would be enough to bury his chances of winning a presidential election, but the circumstances in Nigeria are far from ideal. Bola Tinubu is still a strong presidential candidate and, in our view, the likeliest to win the 2023 presidential elections if it does not go to a run-off. A lot of this stems from the fact that he has, over the years, built deep political relationships across the country, and he is now calling on those allies to deliver and return the favour by getting him the presidency. This is typified in his rallying cry “Emi lo kan” in his native Yoruba, which translates to “It is now my turn”.
However, the reason we think the elections are likely to go to a run-off, which would not be a good outcome for Mr Tinubu is simple: every candidate that has won the Nigerian Presidential elections has had to win four of the six geopolitical zones. While we believe that Mr Tinubu will win in the South West, it is unclear which of the other regions he will win. He almost certainly will not win the South-East or the South-South. He will be dependent on the APC governors in the North-East and North-West to deliver their states for the party. But in the current political climate, it is unlikely that with the significant Christian populations in the North-Central, that a Muslim-Muslim ticket would win that region.