On 25 February 2023, voters in Nigeria will go to the polls to determine their country’s next President, who will replace term-limited incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, the retired major general and former military head of state.
Since the beginning of Nigeria’s current democratic regime in the 1990s, the presidency has been held by only two political parties: the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) followed by the All Progressives Congress (APC). This duopoly appears set to be broken in the upcoming election contest by outsider candidate Peter Obi, of the Labour Party.
We at Redfield & Wilton Strategies have polled 3,351 Nigerians in order to understand the dynamics of what will be a transformative election.
Altogether, we find Peter Obi leading Bola Tinubu by 40%. The full results are as follows:
Peter Obi (Labour Party) 62%
Bola Tinubu (All Progressives Congress) 22%
Atiku Abubakar (Peoples Democratic Party) 12%
Rubi’u Musa Kwankwaso (New Nigeria People’s Party) 3%
Another candidate 1%
70% of those who voted for PDP candidate Atiku Abubakar in 2019 say they intend to vote this time for Peter Obi, who himself used to be part of the PDP and was even Abubakar’s running mate in 2019. 20%, meanwhile, say they will again vote for Abubakar.
Likewise, 40% of those who voted for Muhammadu Buhari in 2019, a plurality, say they will vote for Peter Obi. 38% of Buhari’s 2019 voters say they intend to vote for his party’s 2023 nominee, Bola Tinubu.
While enthusiasm for Obi is said to be driven by younger voters, majorities of voters across all age groups say they intend to vote for Obi.
In addition to leading in voting intention, Peter Obi is the only major candidate in the upcoming election who is viewed favourably by a majority of Nigerian voters. His net favourability stands at +65%, far above that of Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar, who have net favourability ratings of -38% and -22%, respectively.
Nigerians overwhelmingly believe Obi has the leadership qualities for a President. For instance, 82% of Nigerians think Obi is charismatic. 73% believe that he can bring Nigerians together (compared to 23% for Tinubu and 20% for Abubakar), and 79% that he understands the problems facing Nigeria (compared to 28% for Tinubu and 29% for Abubakar).
Amidst this significant polling lead and widespread favourability, 57% of Nigerians believe that Obi will win the election later this month—a result that would be met with much enthusiasm.
Altogether, 70% say they would be excited and optimistic if Peter Obi were to win the upcoming election. Just 9% say they would feel dismayed and pessimistic with this result. By contrast, majorities of voters say they would feel dismayed and pessimistic if either Tinubu (56%) or Abubakar (51%) were to become President.
Clearly, Obi has captivated the country.
In part, his success owes itself to his campaign’s use of social media. A majority (52%) of Nigerians say they use social media as their primary source of news, far above television news (15%) and online newspapers and magazines (14%). Of these, around 40% use Facebook to get the latest news, and 30% use Twitter. Whereas Obi’s main opponent, Bola Tinubu, claims to no longer read social media, Peter Obi’s fans are reportedly active in expressing their support on social media networks.
By and large, however, widespread dissatisfaction with the current Government and a yearning desire for change appear to be the critical drivers of support for Peter Obi. Economic development (67%), corruption (65%), and education (57%) are the top three issues voters say will determine how they vote in the upcoming election. On all three counts and more, the current Government has a woeful net approval rating.
55% do not have confidence in the current government, outweighing the 38% who do.
Above all, Nigerians are most critical of the government’s handling of the economy. With inflation in Nigeria running above 20%, following the introduction of a redesigned currency, an overwhelming 75% disapprove of the government’s actions on inflation. 76% of Nigerians believe that the government is currently not taking the right measures to deal with the rising cost of living, whilst only 14% say it is.
On the heels of a decade of stagnant growth, 69% disapprove of the government’s performance on economic development, and 67% disapprove of the government’s handling of employment and wages.
79% overall assess the economic situation in Nigeria to be bad, while only 19% say okay or good. Among Peter Obi voters, 87% believe that the economic situation is bad, and only 7% believe that it is good.
55% of Nigerians say their financial situation has changed for the worse in the last year, whilst 26% say it has improved, and 19% say it has stayed the same. Peter Obi voters are slightly more likely to say their financial situation has worsened (61%) and less likely to say it has improved (19%).
In addition to feeling economic insecure, voters also feel physically insecure. 72% disapprove of the government’s performance dealing with crime, while 79% identify the crime situation in Nigeria as ‘bad’ or ‘very bad.’ More granularly, 59% disapprove of the government’s performance dealing with ethnic and religious conflict, and another 46% disapprove of its performance against counterinsurgency and counterterrorism.
A decade of violence in Nigeria has displaced 2.2 million people. By some reports, 10,000 Nigerians were killed in armed conflict and 5,000 kidnapped in 2022. Increasing violence across the country has thus left many dissatisfied with the current Government.
Finally, Nigeria has a longstanding corruption problem. Corrupt practices, in particular bribery, continue to be prevalent throughout all ranks of the Nigerian public sector. When President Buhari was first elected in 2015, he promised to deal with corruption in the country. Yet, 80% of Nigerians at this moment rate corruption an extreme problem.
As a result, Peter Obi will not only be competing with his rivals. He will also be contending with voters’ (lack of) trust in the voting process. A third of Nigerians (33%) disagree that they have trust in the electoral process. Among likely Peter Obi supports, this number rises to 41%, compared to 26% who do have faith in the electoral process.
To be sure, such a question can merely indicate disappointment with a previous election result. As a counterpoint, 78% of Nigerian voters agree that their votes can make a difference, including 81% of likely Obi voters. Moreover, 63% believe the election will be determined by voters, rather than by bribery and cheating, an option selected by 25% of respondents.
Critically, in a country plagued by violence, 71% say they are very concerned about their safety during the upcoming Presidential election, compared to only 4% who say they are not at all concerned—though, again, 82% are confident that they will be able to vote if they want to do so.
As such, on the current polling, Peter Obi is set to win the upcoming Presidential Election in Nigeria decisively.