The first 2023 election survey conducted by SBM Intelligence was published in July 2022 and showed that only 41% of registered voters had collected their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs). This assumption of low turnout fed into our December 2022 projections, based on a 7,000-respondent survey. The assumption of low turnout changed when, in January 2023, our 6,500-respondent survey on PVC collection showed a remarkable increase in PVC collection – 97%.
We believe that the surge in voter awareness created by Short Message Service (SMS), radio, television, digital and social media channels, together with the information provided by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s portal and the work of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) like Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria’s #RSVP Campaign, have driven voter interest and bucked the low turnout trend in Nigerian elections.
It is noteworthy that for the first time since the era of parliamentary democracy in the 1960s, there are three competitive political blocs distributed along the old eastern, northern and western regional divides with a couple of swing states where the presidential candidates must compete for absolute votes and vote share. Hence the latest survey, conducted by EiE Nigeria in partnership with SBM Intelligence, did not provide us with a clear frontrunner.
Many respondents were clear about whom they felt would win the presidential contest in their state but were not straightforward about their candidate preferences. Furthermore, many registered voters told us that ethnicity and religion would play an important part in their choice of candidate. This runs contrary to recent commentary, which suggests that this will be Nigeria’s first post-modern election, where substantial issues will determine voter choice.
The respondents also said that they expect vote buying despite recent technological and legislative changes to curb that. While an overwhelming majority of respondents claim that they won’t sell their vote, more than a third have experienced vote buying in the past.
The data suggest that the Labour Party (LP)’s Peter Obi and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s Atiku Abubakar could garner enough votes over a sufficient number of states across four of the country’s six geopolitical zones to meet the constitutional requirement of scoring 25% in at least 24 states. This outcome, however, is complicated by the fact that the All Progressives Congress (APC)’s Bola Ahmed Tinubu is likely to do well in two of the country’s biggest voting states—Kano and Lagos—and the heavily populated south-west and north-west states, thereby winning the popular vote, although reaching the 50%+1 bar may be a stretch too far. We, however, do not think he can reach the finish line in the race to 24.
The New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP)’s Rabiu Kwankwaso may garner sufficient votes in Kano and some states in the north-central and north-west geopolitical zones to complicate the political math for other candidates on both the popular vote and the “Road to 24” measures. For all of the reasons enumerated above, we maintain our initial assessment from our two previous forecasts: Nigerians will need a second round to decide their next President definitively.
Another observation is about Nigeria’s waning confidence in INEC’s ability to deliver a free, fair and credible election. The relationship between the electorate and the electoral body appears to be influenced by the possible impact of insecurity on Election Day; the public’s awareness of a new electoral law and the voters’ biometric accreditation process. Only 60% of our respondents say they trust INEC to conduct a credible exercise. Younger respondents were slightly less likely to trust the umpire than other demographic groups. Only 66% of respondents say they know the Electoral Act 2022. Critically, wealthier and older respondents broadly report higher levels of electoral law awareness than younger voters and students, who comprise most voters. Of concern is the fact that only 4 in 10 respondents say the new law will have a positive impact on the elections. The recent judicial pronouncement surrounding the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) appears to have sullied voter enthusiasm.
Another salient point is the declining interest in down-ballot elections. Most citizens are focused on the presidential election, owing to the power arrogated to the centre by the 1999 Constitution. While all respondents answered questions about the presidential elections, only 35% responded to questions about the governorship elections, while the interest in state legislature elections was 14%. Despite this, we modelled for the National Assembly elections, which points to a Senate dominated by the APC and a House of Representatives with the PDP in the majority, leading to potential legislative gridlock in a divided 10th National Assembly.
The survey has accounted for voting numbers in each zone and their possible turnout to keep the citizenry aware of the issues pertinent to the coming 2023 elections. It is hoped that this information will help people as well as enable institutional, civic and media stakeholders to make informed decisions that will benefit the future of Nigeria. EiE Nigeria and SBM Intelligence will publish a similar report on the governorship elections in the 28 Nigerian states that select their leaders along with the presidency in the lead up to those elections in mid-March 2023.
Download report (33 pages)
We will publish a similar report on the governorship elections in the 28 Nigerian states that select their leaders along with the presidency in the lead-up to those elections in mid-March 2023.
For data wonks, download the working document here.