The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in its last update on voter registration disclosed that 93,469,008 voters have been registered for the upcoming exercise. These voters are spread across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
While every vote, irrespective of where it’s being cast, is important in winning an election, the candidates and political parties in the 2023 contest will spare no effort to dominate certain states with high voting populations.
Even though the outcomes of recent presidential elections in the country have established the fact that no single state or region can determine who emerges the winner, a convincing win for a candidate in the majority of these states may take them closer to victory.
Therefore, the jostle for dominance in these states with high voting populations is expected to get thicker as we inch closer to the D-Day.
Known as Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos leads the way in terms of voting population in the country. With an estimated population of over 20 million people, the South West state may play a key role in determining the next Nigerian president.
However, candidates would be worried about the state’s notorious history of low voter turnout, especially in presidential elections. In 2019, despite having the highest number of registered voters, states like Kano, Katsina, and Kaduna recorded more votes than Lagos.
An interesting aspect of this is, since 2003, all the candidates that managed to win Lagos have gone on to become president.
With the reputation of being the most politically active state in the country, Kano state has always led the conversation in terms of highest voter turnout in presidential elections.
History has also shown that Kano voters are usually unanimous in their voting pattern. In 1999, the state voted overwhelmingly for the eventual winner, Olusegun Obasanjo. However, voters in the North West state have consistently pledged their allegiance to Muhammadu Buhari since 2003.
It’s interesting to note that no other candidate has won the majority of votes in Kano in the last 20 years. But, with Buhari not on the ballot this time around, it remains to be seen the direction the state will go.
All eyes will also be on Kaduna in the forthcoming election, not only because it’s the state with the third highest number of registered voters, but also for its cosmopolitan nature.
Kaduna is believed to be the melting pot of different tribal and ethnic groups in Nigeria and its heterogeneous nature usually reflects on the voting pattern over the years.
Though Muslims are in the majority in the state, at the return to democracy in 1999 and also in 2003, Kaduna voted massively for Obasanjo, a Southern Christian. However, the state, just like Kano, has since 2011 been voting for Buhari.
Meanwhile, as the state is up for grabs in the coming election, all the frontline candidates have devised strategies to ensure that they win the majority of votes in Kaduna.
Rivers state has proven to be a one-party state since 1999 with PDP dominating especially in the presidential elections.
No other party has been able to record up to 25% of total votes cast in a presidential election in Rivers State in the last six election cycles.
However, history also shows that not every time a candidate takes Rivers that they go on to win the election. This trend actually started in 2015 when President Buhari scored enough winning margin in some northern states to cushion the gap.
Katsina, the state of the outgoing president, has shown loyalty to one of its illustrious sons in the last five election cycles.
The only time another candidate won the state was in 1999 when Buhari was not on the ballot, the same scenario we have on our hands again this time around. While winning Katsina state may not necessarily guarantee victory for any candidate in the upcoming election, it’d be interesting to find out if the Buhari factor will still come into play.
These are the other states with large voting populations ahead of the 2023 election:
6. Oyo — 3,276,675
7. Delta — 3,221,697
8. Plateau — 2,789,528
9. Benue — 2,777,727
10. Bauchi — 2,749,268