The recently concluded primary elections in the two dominant political parties have raised an interesting debate on the influence of certain geopolitical zones in a presidential election. Before now, the dominant narrative was that the North, Southwest, and Southeast were the most significant geopolitical blocs in determining the outcome of any presidential election. However, with the political leaders from the South-South (Nyesome Wike and Rotimi Ameachi) coming second at the primaries of the PDP and APC, there is the argument that the Southeast may just be losing its geopolitical relevance to the South-south.
Two things point to these changing dynamics. The first is a curious look at the number of online registered voters as at 6 June 2022, the Southeast had a total of 683,066 new registered voters. Meanwhile, the South-south in that same period had 2,162,398 registered voters, more than 3 times the number of registered voters in the Southeast. Even worse is that the current insecurity in the region is likely to make voter turnout much worse than it has been in previous election cycles.
Hence, if politicians know that there are more votes to play for in the South-south than in the South-east, more attention will be given to the South-south.
Another critical factor is the fact that the Governors in the South-south have access to resources that the South-eastern governors can only dream of. In a political system that is highly monetized, it is politicians with deeper pockets that will ultimately call the shots. This much was obvious at the primaries where the contenders from the South-south wielded unimaginable influence on the voting pattern of delegates, even such that they both (Wike and Ameachi) recorded more votes from the Southeast than aspirants who are from the southeast.
As it currently stands, key political actors have much more to gain from forging an alliance with the South-south than with the Southeast. Predictably, 2023 will see South-south politicians play a more prominent role in national politics than ever.
No thanks to the ambition of the current governor and former governor of Rivers state, the South-south is now transforming from a fringe geopolitical bloc, relevant for just its oil riches to a prominent player in Nigeria’s political game of thrones.