Fitch, a global rating company, has said that several polls that have projected Labour Party presidential candidate Peter Obi as the likely winner of the 2023 presidential elections are overstating his support base.
Recall that reports on various ratings agencies including the Anap Foundation, had predicted the former Anambra State governor to win the 2023 election by multiple online polls.
In two of the polls, Obi had a lead of more than 15 percentage points over Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party.
According to ICIR, many analysts believe that if Obi could keep energising young, urban voters across the country’s main divides of religion, geography, and ethnicity, he may well redraw Nigeria’s electoral map.
However, Fitch, in its report published on Friday, said the polls, which were mostly gathered from online respondents, were skewed towards urban, affluent voters who are most likely to support Obi.
The New York-based company said the outcome of its report was based on comments or data that were solely derived from Fitch Solutions Country Risk & Industry Research and independent sources.
“At Fitch Solutions, we believe that recent polls are significantly overstating support for Peter Obi, the Labour Party candidate running in Nigeria’s February 2023 presidential election,” said the report.
“Surveys showing that Obi is ahead of his opponents Bola Tinubu (All Progressives Congress; APC) and Atiku Abubakar (Peoples Democratic Party; PDP) were mostly based on responses gathered online.
“Since only 36.0 per cent of Nigerians use the Internet (World Bank, 2020), we believe that these results are skewed towards urban, affluent voters who are most likely to support Obi. We also highlight that these polls suggest that a large share of voters remain undecided.”
If the surveys were accurate at a national level, Fitch said Obi’s lack of support in Nigeria’s Muslim-majority North would make it difficult for him to win next year’s election.
The report noted that some of the polls that had projected Obi as the winner failed to consider the importance of electorates in the North, which is home to the majority of all voters and turnout in the country.
Citing the requirement of the 1999 Constitution that requires a candidate to receive the majority of overall votes and over 25.0 per cent of votes in at least 24 of the country’s 36 states, the report noted that Obi’s Labour Party with limited infrastructure in the North, would struggle to meet the requirement of winning.
It noted that the northern electorate historically tends to vote for presidential candidates from their region, and with Obi being a Christian from the South, increasing his voter share in the North would prove challenging.
Fitch said that while it believes Obi was unlikely to win the election, he would probably do well for a third-party candidate due to his frugal reputation and large social media following.
It said that Obi’s popularity in the South, especially the South-South and South-East, would most likely split the opposition vote at the expense of the PDP.