President Buhari may be losing votes in the north central States following attacks by killer herdsmen.
Political pundits say the festering herdsmen/farmers clashes in the middle belt States of Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba is capable of costing President Muhammadu Buhari a chunk of votes in the 2019 general election.
On April 9, 2018, Buhari declared he’ll be seeking another term in office ahead of the 2019 vote.
In 2015, Buhari defeated incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan with more than 2.5 million votes to emerge leader of Africa’s most populous nation.
Buhari polled 15,424,921 votes to Jonathan’s 12,853,162.
However, with herdsmen embarking on a killing spree in the north, amid claims that Buhari hasn’t been tough on them because the nomadic herders hail from his Fulani ethnic stock, analysts say the president is gradually losing support in States he comfortably won in 2015.
“It is not what we expected. People are disappointed,” Jecintha Eze, 38, a trader at the Wurukum market, Benue State, told Reuters.
Nigeria’s economy slipped into a recession for the first time in 25 years–on Buhari’s watch–as oil prices in the global market plummeted.
Nigeria emerged out of recession in September of 2017, but double digit inflation persists and jobless numbers are at record highs.
“I’m not going to vote for anybody again because we put hope in people a lot in Nigeria, but in the end we are disappointed,” Ms. Eze added, pointing to high unemployment and galloping food prices.
In January, the Benue State government buried 73 residents killed by herders, in one day.
The violence in the middle belt and in the nation’s food basket has led to disenchantment and disillusionment with the Buhari led administration.
Reuters reports that 109,680 people voted for Buhari in Benue. “But support for Buhari surged in the State in 2015, where he secured a narrow victory with 373,961 votes to Jonathan’s 303,737”.
West Africa analyst at Teneo Intelligence, Malte Liewerscheidt, says the middle belt States could play a key role again in a tight race, but Buhari’s stronghold will remain the north and he is unlikely to make inroads in the South.
“The Southwestern region will again prove crucial in deciding the election,” he says, pointing to the coalition that formed the ruling APC with help from political godfathers in the southwest like former Lagos Governor Bola Tinubu.
“Provided the APC’s constituent parts stay together, the party will be very difficult to beat, even though Buhari’s popularity has certainly suffered,” Liewerscheidt says.
‘Fish him out of office’
Cletus Dzeremo, who buys and sells wholesale goods in Benue told Reuters that he did not vote for Buhari in the last election and nothing would encourage him to support the president for a second term in office.
“The economy is not balanced. People are suffering from left to right … and in terms of security he has not done enough.
“We will look for someone who is fit to protect lives and property in Nigeria,” said Philip Usartse, a farmer who fled with his family when armed herdsmen attacked their village in January, leaving corpses and burnt houses in their wake, Reuters writes.
“We are going to fish him out of that office,” the 42-year-old vowed.
But Buhari continues to enjoy immense support in the core north where crowds have been waiting to greet him at every turn on recent visits.
The 24 Governors elected on the platform of the APC have also thrown their weight behind Buhari’s re-election bid.
State Governors provide the most formidable voter influencer bloc in Nigeria.
Besides the herdsmen-farmers clashes, Buhari is also grappling with the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast and sporadic attacks on oil installations by militants in the oil rich Niger Delta region.
The president recently blamed invaders from Libya after the fall of Gaddafi, for the herdsmen killings.