To drive home the impact and import of an election polling exercise in our local Nigerian environment, l would like to implore readers to allow me to use the allegory in the famous English literature book: ‘Macbeth’, written by William Shakespeare, which is a fable set in Elizabethan Age England (about 4 centuries ago) to illustrate the mindset of a cross-section of Nigerians about the controversial ANAP/Nol December 2022 pre-election polls result, recently released with a tsunami type effect on the polity.
And to give it a local texture, l would also like to rely on the anecdote of the three predictions of the witches in the famous Shakespeare play for illustration.
That is because, in the manner that the ANAP/Nol election opinion polls result is predicting victory for Mr Peter Obi, the presidential standard bearer of the Labor party, LP, and he is basking in the glory, the three witches had also made predictions that the hero of the play, ‘Macbeth’ would become king, which he believed and it led to his doom.
It is worth recalling that the three (3) witches made the following predictions: (1) Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor, (2) Macbeth will become king thereafter, and (3) though Banquo would never be king, his descendants will become kings.
To put things in context, at this juncture, l would like to crave the indulgence of readers to allow Carroll Khan, a CERTIFIED E-NOTE EDUCATOR takes us down memory lane through her review of the iconoclastic book: Macbeth, published in enotes.com (an educational website) to see how the effect of the witchcraft predictions may be analogous to the result of the Nigerian pre-elections polls conducted by ANAP/NOI.
And it goes thus: “The first three predictions of the witches can be found in act 1, scene 3 of the play when Macbeth and Banquo are travelling across the heath. The three witches suddenly appear and offer Macbeth and Banquo seemingly favourable prophecies.
She narrates further that “The witches give Macbeth two predictions by addressing him as the Thane of Cawdor and future King of Scotland. The witches then address Banquo and offer him a prophecy that says his descendants will be kings, even though he will never attain the throne. At the moment, Macbeth is only the Thane of Glamis and wonders how he will become the Thane of Cawdor and future king. Shortly after the witches disappear, King Duncan’s messengers arrive and confirm one of the witches’ prophecies by informing Macbeth that he has been given the title Thane of Cawdor.
Continuing with the narrative, she noted that “Later in the play, Macbeth visits the witches in act 4, scene 1, and they proceed to give him three more prophecies. The first witch tells Macbeth to “Beware of Macduff.” The second witch tells Macbeth to be bold and resolute because nobody born from a woman will harm him. The third witch encourages Macbeth to be “lion-mettled” because he will never be vanquished until “Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill Shall come against him.” Two of the three prophecies manipulate Macbeth into acting rashly and overconfident.
And she concluded by pointing out that “The witches play on Macbeth’s pride and he becomes a victim of his own hubris. Macbeth eventually discovers that he was fooled by the prophecies when Macduff says that he was “Untimely ripped” from his mother’s womb and thus defeats Macbeth.”
It is amazing how art can mimic life as l am having a premonition that a similar scenario to the one in the Macbeth play may be unfolding in a real-life situation in Nigeria.
With the latest pre-election opinion polls released last December ascribing a whopping 23% of the number of people polled to Obi, compared to the 13% awarded Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinunu, BAT, and 10% allotted Wazirin Atiku Abubakar, AA, and 2% assigned Dr Musa Kwakwanso, Mr Obi must have, by now, acquiesced with the notion that he is head and shoulder ahead of all the other candidates.
But is the integrity of the pre-opinion poll unassailable? The straight answer is no.
And that is simply because a plethora of pundits have already averred that it is a product of voodoo polling as they are insisting that the polling exercise fell short of meeting the exacting scientific processes required for such a critical national action, which has weighty consequences to pass the integrity test.
In light of the evidence that only telephone polling methodology was applied by ANAP/Nol pollsters, which is defective since the failure to deploy other opinion polling tools makes the process incomplete, experts have been compelled to call to question the integrity of the polls.
That notwithstanding, Mr Obi and LP, which the warped opinion polls favour, have taken the result to heart and are basking in its euphoria.
Hence, I am perceiving a similarity in the Macbeth fable to the current situation in Nigeria because the false positive opinion polls may be giving LP’s presidential flag bearer the false hope that he would clinch the presidency of Nigeria.
It is a feeling that psychologists refer to as Dutch courage.
The purpose of this intervention is, therefore, to encourage the LP Presidential candidate, Mr Obi not to succumb to the allure of self-aggrandizement on account of the flawed ANAP/ Nol opinion poll result.
Should he discountenance my honest and frank advice, he faces the risk of being disappointed in the way that Macbeth was deceived by the three witches’ predictions into thinking that he was invincible, as such, he can not get defeated or be killed by any man born of a woman.
On the surface, the prediction appeared to be truly unassailable.
But he got killed by Macduff, who (unbeknown to Macbeth) was actually not born of a woman, as the witches had predicted, because he was delivered by caesarean section, hence it turned out that Macbeth was tricked by the witches into believing that a man such as Macduff did not exist.
My point is that a false sense of victory in the 2023 presidential contest via double speak, as the ANAP/Nol poll seems to have done to Mr Obi, is dangerous, particularly if the candidate fails to be victorious after the February 25 election result is announced.
Arising from the above, I am concerned that acute feelings of disappointment may cause him and the party followers severe anxiety that could trigger the type of violent reaction witnessed two (2) years ago in the United States of America, USA, when on 6 January 2021, after Mr Joe Biden, was declared the winner of the presidential contest over then incumbent President, Mr Donald Trump, and he became the president-elect. But as the result was going through official confirmation by the congress in Capitol Hill, which is the seat of the US Congress, insurrectionists struck.
Unprecedentedly, the mob comprising of disappointed and enraged Trump supporters, believing that victory was stolen from their candidate, invaded the hallowed chambers of the Capitol with the intention to hang Vice President Mike Pence, who is the head of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs Nancy Pelosi, for certifying Mr Joe Biden’s election victory as the President of the US.
On January 8, 2023 ( last Sunday), which is barely two days and two years after democracy got a stab in the heart in the US on 6 January 2021, when the Capitol was invaded in what some have tagged a violent right-wing insurrection against democracy; in Brazil, a South American neighbour of the US had also suffered a deadly blow to democracy, similar to the one inflicted by-election deniers in the world’s number one democracy, USA.
The Brazilian mobs that were denying Mr Luiz Lula Da Silva’s victory over then-incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro, did not stop at wreaking havoc on the house of parliament, but they extended their rage to the Presidential mansion and the Supreme Court premises a week after Da Silva was sworn in on 1st day of January this year.
Considering the false hope and sense of victory that the two ANAP/Nol election opinion polls have given the Obidients the very impassioned, highly reactive and devoted followers of Peter Obi and LP: would presidential election results that do not give victory to their candidate not trigger mayhem similar to the unfortunate incidents on 6 January 2021, in the US and repeated in Brazil on 8 January 2023?
In making the observations above and by drawing parallels between the evolving situation in Nigeria and the unfortunate incidents in the US and Brazil, I am guided by the dictum: to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
That is simply because the world is a global village wherein what happens in one part can easily echo or be mimicked in other parts of the globe, no matter how far-flung they are geographically.
And, it is in my position as a democracy advocate and for the purpose of shedding more light on the controversial pre-election opinion poll with the expectation that a fresh perspective from a more practical prism would offer further clarity; that l am adding my voice to the wave of opinions on the highly controversial polls result.
Although a plethora of pundits have already averred that the election pre-opinion poll under reference is a product of voodoo polling by emphasising that the exercise was short of meeting the exacting scientific standards, ANAP/NOI team deserve commendation for introducing and sustaining an intrinsic aspect of the democratic process that has helped to keep the government of the people, by the people and for the people afloat, since the return of multi-party democracy in Nigeria in 1999.
Nevertheless, it needs to do better by aggregating all the criticisms, analysing and then synthesising them with a view to filling in the identified gaps in the research methods in order to produce improved, more objective and robust results that would stand the scrutiny of both experts and the public in general or alike.
In using an allegory of witchcraft prediction, which most of us are familiar with, as we are all living in an African society where it is an existential reality, l am hoping that the analogy would help simplify for better understanding of average Nigerians, the reason the ANAP/Nol opinion poll is discredited and should not be relied upon.
Moreover, in my reckoning, there are hardly any educated Nigerians up to the secondary school level that did not read the English literature book: Macbeth.
That is because it is a popular textbook in the secondary school curriculum for students of literary studies in the past several decades.
In relating the fictional narrative in the book, Macbeth to the two (2) controversial election opinion polls conducted by ANAP/Nol predicting victory for Mr Peter Obi, it is worth pointing out that there are significant factors in the results that have given them the colouration of being false positive and basically tending towards being more like witchcraft predictions than scientifically derived predictions that sampling opinions of potential voters in an election exercise.
The reasons are number one (1):
The survey or poll was conducted only via phone (which is shallow) and it is a space where Obi-dients (passionate supporters of Peter Obi) dominate. And that implies that the outcome of the polling exercise would be susceptible to manipulation by the social media savvy Peter-Obi-for-president devotees that are driven by #Endsars youth mobilisation aficionados.
Being aware of how our youth influence the outcome of the television reality show: ‘Big Brother’, one can see their imprint in the outcome of the polls conducted by NOI that was commissioned by ANAP Foundation and which have consistently been in favour of the LP Presidential flag bearer.
There is justifiable suspicion that the so-called Gen-Z behind the Peter Obi movement might have easily transformed into cyber trolls hell-bent on disrupting or distorting online activities by morphing into multiple personalities and genders as well as pretending to belong to an assortment of demographies, including presenting themselves as being in far-flung locations nationwide.
After assuming all the identities highlighted above, they can be responding to polls conducted by telephone with fake telephone numbers and personalities, while they are in one location and most likely, sitting in front of laptops where computer algorithms are doing the work of passing off as ‘multiple human beings’ in fake locations across Nigeria.
Is that not why, as a precautionary measure towards ensuring that some online interactions are with humans, some search engines sometimes display some odd word play or unusual picture play in a sort of puzzle that a user is required to solve to confirm that he or she is human before being allowed to proceed with the intended action?
The number two (2) reason why the opinion poll by ANAP/NOI result is questionable is:
Opinion polling, particularly with respect to politics, is relatively new in our political environment. That means that it has not been practised long enough to be able to capture the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies that are embedded in our culture, which the normal polling template may fail to identify.
Take, for instance, an activity as basic and rudimentary as a business survey or market research. When the telephone services providers like Econet (now Airtel) and MTN were planning to introduce their service to Nigeria, the Zimbabwean and South African firms commissioned specialised organisations to render the service.
Owing to the peculiar nature of the Nigerian business environment and the people, the market demand for the service was underestimated.
It was not until the two pioneer GSM telcos—Econet and MTN—commenced operations in 2001, did they realise that demand was much higher in many folds than their initial projections. With the realisation, they had to start scaling up their capacity to cope with the unanticipated burgeoning market size.
So, the tendency for social scientists not to fully capture the complete indices of the socioeconomic and political dynamics of Nigerian society has always been present.
As such it is not such an anomaly that the ANAP/NOI poll would be fraught with a similar handicap to what the telecoms firms earlier highlighted faced in terms of the accuracy of results of market surveys carried out on their behalf when they wanted to enter the Nigerian market.
In light of the vulnerability highlighted above, with respect to risk no (1), did the NOl poll pollsters ensure that it was not one person or group of persons huddled up in what could have been a sophisticated call centre system mimicking the voice of a thousand different people that were or was responding to their telephone enquiries?
And regarding risk no two (2), was adequate provision for margin of error factored into the report in such a way that it would be clear to the consumers that the result has a huge margin of error, particularly because instead of the deployment of a whole gamut of the tools required to do a thorough job, calling by telephone was the only tool applied, which implies that the final outcome would be flawed and in line with the dictum: garbage in, garbage out?
Therein lies the dilemma and the reason the result of the first and second ANAP/NOl election opinion polls are appearing to be like witchcraft predictions to most Nigerians, perhaps except Peter Obi and LP supporters that the outcomes favour.
To be fair to those who conducted the exercise, the report actually admitted that voter intimidation and suppression are the present and real danger to our nascent political system.
And they were identified as significant factors in Lagos, where area boys or thugs are reportedly forcefully preventing non-indigenes from collecting their Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs; in the North-east where nihilistic activities of religious insurgents/terrorists have kept the electorate in Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, Camps; and in the South-east where activities of the so-called Unknown Gunmen, who are passing off as part of the separatist movement are compelling residents to stay at home for their own safety.
As consequential as the highlighted obstacles are, the influence of the aforementioned nefarious ambassadors on the result of the opinion poll was not sufficiently highlighted or emphasised.
As such, the malaise is not made obvious that owing to the identified issues of voter intimidation and voter suppression, amongst other shortcomings, the polls are fundamentally defective.
And this is a good reason why the result should be taken with a pinch of salt.
In other words, a Caveat Emptor or Buyer-Beware tag should have been boldly put on the last December opinion polls result, so that the public would not (to use the analogy of fishing) swallow it hook-line-and-sinker.
Perhaps, because taking that altruistic option of being upfront with the defective factors intrinsic in the result may take away the thunder, the conductors of the poll decided to adopt the option of speaking in parables, which is the language of mystics, hence the result of the ANAP/Nol 2023 general elections poll is fittingly being referred to as being akin to witchcraft predictions.
In Lagos state for instance, potential voters for the PDP and NNPP and LP candidates would not identify as such owing to legitimate fears that APC faithful, who sometimes present as thugs or goons, may unleash terror on them.
Recently, someone shared with me how he drove himself in a car to Idi-Araba area of Lagos, where he met with some people of northern stock, who live and ply their trade there. He posed the question of who they would like to vote for to some of them and they all chorused APC. But when he spoke to them in the language Indigenous to them, they took him into confidence and confessed that they were concerned about the safety of their lives and business hence they lied about their preferred candidate.
The same acts of voter’s intimidation and suppression can be said to be happening within market places by the union leaders as well as in road transportation places and the unions across Lagos.
The anti-democracy practice does not apply to Lagos alone. It can be extrapolated across the country in different geographic locations and languages as well as across cultures, simply because the demon of voter intimidation and suppression has taken hold in our polity from Lagos to Owerri, and Maiduguri to Port Harcourt, Enugu as well as kano and Makurdi, Sokoto, and Onitsha amongst others.
That is perhaps a second unconscious negligence that might have tainted the outcome of the latest poll putting Mr Obi head and shoulders above his co-contenders for the 2023 presidential contest.
One good old way of conducting a consumer survey (not an election opinion poll) is by relying on utility bills issued by electricity, water or telephone service providers to consumers.
l can recall how a South African firm commissioned to conduct a survey for me when l was putting together the paperwork for the proposed Asaba Airport and Convention City was relying on water service bills of the inhabitants of the catchment area for the survey to determine the number of potential consumers and households in the area of interest. I had to bring to the attention of the survey conductor that such statistics would be unreliable. He asked about the option of electricity and telephone bills and l enlightened him further that in Nigeria, such data are unreliable because we really do not enjoy such services reliably and we consequently hardly subscribe or pay for them as it is done in South Africa and other climes where the provision of public utilities are organized.
Were it not that l was hands-on enough to guide the conductors of the survey, a misleading research result would have been prepared and passed to me. But thanks to my vigilance the misfortune or disaster was averted.
My point is that statistics or data do not lie per se. But how they are obtained and analyzed by human beings could mask the truth.
This is why in my view, the woolly outcome of the December 2022 ANAP-sponsored NOI opinion poll about the probable winners and losers in the 2023 general elections has only ended up giving the LP and its candidate false confidence also known as Dutch Courage.
While it is true that the false hope may be firing up Obi’s voting base, it must face the reality that it is not enough to enable him to clinch the presidency in 2023.
Already, the handicap of LP being bereft of political structures, which some of us have been harping on as being a requirement for the party and its candidates to have any chance of winning the presidential contest has started manifesting.
First, it was noted recently from the elections regulatory agency, INEC records that LP is fielding the least number of candidates amongst the four front-line parties. Even way behind NNPP.
It means that whereas the traditional parties have surplus of people jostling for the tickets, LP does not have enough people vying for the elective offices from its stable. And the relatively short span of time during which the LP grew from obscurity to fairy tale prominence, is a strong factor for that handicap.
Secondly, it has further been revealed in unverified media reports that LP is also yet to send the list of its agents for over 90,000 polling units across the country with 94% from the North-west, North-east and North-central.
That implies that while LP may have more than enough supporters in the south, there appears to be a dearth of Obidients in the northern part of our country to work for Mr Obi and senator Datti Baba-Ahmed, the LP vice presidential candidate.
It also validates the belief that the youth demography (Obi’s supporters base), which is put at a little more than half of the 93.5 million voters registered for the 2023 general elections, which is about 48 million, abound mainly in the south.
And given that the bulk of INEC registered voters reside in the northern parts of our country: North-west 22.6million, North-east 12.8 million and North-central 15.6 million, bringing the total number to roughly 51 million as registered voters in the north out of the 93.5 million registered nationwide; only an estimated 45 million is the total number of registered voters in the entire south. It is comprised of South-west 18.3 million, South-south 15.2 million and South-east 11.4 million.
That means that only less than half of the youth demography (48m), which is about half of the 93.5 million registered voters nationwide, would be voting in the south. Assuming the whole half of the 48 million (24m) youth vote for Obi, which is impossible, it would still not be enough to usher him into Aso Rock Villa.
If the unverified claim that Mr Obi and LP are suffering the jeopardy of lack of volunteers or party faithfuls to monitor voting booths as earlier highlighted, turns out to be real, then search no more for the jeopardy which had been predicted long ago as the Achilles heels for LP and it’s presidential standard bearer to occupy Aso Rock Villa seat of presidential power from May 29, this year.
It is surprising that Mr Obi’s response to the identified underlying jeopardy of LP is that Nigerians should vote out the parties with structures because it is their structure that has destroyed Nigeria. Something to that effect is credited to him in the media report during his campaign over the weekend in Ondo state.
If indeed he made that assertion, then the reality is setting in on him because the apparently unrealistic response, in my view conveys an expression of frustration by Mr Obi—the erstwhile exponent of go-and-verify, which was his mantra at the early stage of his very remarkable and highly commendable run for the presidency that has seen him move from the rear to the front row in the way that Singapore moved from third world to first world in a record time and phenomenal manner.
In light of the circumstances above, it is worrying that the false hope fueled by the ANAP/Nol election opinion polls and other falsehoods being peddled in social media via sexing up of videos and pictures to promote LP and its presidential candidates, the anxiety level of Obidients may be worsened.
And in the end, they may be devastated by a disappointing reality after the 25 February election DVDsy, when the true result of the polls that have been forecasting victory for LP and its presidential candidate, turn out to be far from the anticipated positive outcome.
That being the case, our country may be facing a looming risk of having election deniers after the 25 February presidential and National Assembly elections, and 11 March governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections, if another poll is not conducted by ANAP/Nol or any other reliable election opinion polling organisations with all the gamut of tools required to be deployed in arriving at a more realistic, wholesome and holistic result that would be unassailable, be it Mr Peter Obi, Wazirin Atiku Abubakar or Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, that is tipped to win.
One odd but striking thing is that the result of the ANAP/NOI poll that has engendered the massive furore in the political space is by any standard of measure ephemeral and esoteric. As such, it conjures or re-enacts the prophecies of the three witches in Macbeth, the earlier referenced famous English literature book written by a Scottish author in ancient Europe.
As we are all well aware, witches are known for giving prophecies that appear to be unassailable to fleeting observers but are often found to be duplicitous when subjected to close scrutiny.
That is the sense that l get from the December ANAP/NOI election opinion poll.
Fortuitously, Nigerians are unlike Macbeth, who was duped by the three (3) witches because he did not interrogate the witches’ predictions to see beyond the veneer. Otherwise, he could have spotted the subterfuge.
On the contrary, Nigerians have subjected the ANAP/Nol predictions to rigorous integrity tests. And the national verdict is that the December 2022 election opinion poll result should be taken with a pinch of salt. That means that we have refused to allow the wool to be literally pulled over our eyes.
First witch: “When shall we meet again, in thunder, lightning or in rain?”
Second witch: “When the hurly-burly is done, when the battle is lost and won”
Third witch: “That will be ere (before) the set of sun.”
That is usually the chant of the witches whenever they are about to exit a scene after casting their horrific spell on their victims.
ANAP/Nol do not have to wait for the hurly-burly to be done before it conducts another opinion poll prior to the 25 February and 11 March election days.
In my assessment, our country may not survive the consequences of relying on the result of a wishy-washy election opinion poll on a critical election process such as the forthcoming one.
If nothing else, there is a national consensus that forthcoming polls on 25 February and 11 March can strengthen or ruin the success so far recorded in our nascent democracy that is about to clock twenty-four (24) years back-to-back succession of political parties and smooth change of baton between presidents and political parties.
So, my prayer (some would say that a vote is a prayer point) is that the pollsters should make haste to give Nigerians (who are waiting with bated breath) an update, sooner than later.
In the interim, readers could take solace in the fact that the D-Day for the presidential election on 25 February is more or less five (5) weeks away.
Even if ANAP/Nol is able to come up with a new and more reliable election opinion poll after deploying all the necessary tools that it had failed to apply in producing the current one with integrity issues, it is only when the real elections have been held and the numbers are tallied, that we all can certainly know the unvarnished truth about who lied about what with statistics and data.
In any case, based on my calculations, l am convinced that the PDP presidential standard bearer, Waziri Atiku Abubakar, still holds the ace!
That is because, amongst the front runners, he is the most election battle tested.
The PDP presidential torch bearer already has an estimated twelve (12) million votes in his kitty, courtesy of his last contest for the Presidency against President Buhari in 2019.
Although the outcome of the election was not in his favour, he has a building block of 12m votes of which none of the candidates that are currently contesting for the office with him has and Buhari is not on the 2023 ballot. That momentum is what would propel him to victory.
On the contrary, the last time the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, contested for elective office was in 2003, when he sought and got re-elected as Governor of Lagos State.
Since 2007, he has been ‘crowning’ successive Governors of Lagos State from Babatunde Fashola, who succeeded him to immediate past Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode and current Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, but he has not personally been on the ballot since about twenty (20) years ago.
Tinubu might have been critical to Buhari’s emergence as president in 2015, but the fact that his name has not been on the ballot for two about (2) decades is a minus.
Mr Peter Obi, the LP Presidential standard bearer last had his name directly on the ballot for his re-election contest as Anambra State Governor in 2007, which is about sixteen (16) years ago.
Subsequently, he has been involved in the election of his successor, Willie Obiano, and twice unsuccessfully sponsored Obaze Oseloka, in 2018, against Obiano and Val Ozigbo, in 2022, against the current Anambra State Governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo.
In 2019, he was the running mate to Wazirin Atiku Abubakar, in the contest against President Buhari.
He was merely a vice presidential candidate and we all know why they are referred to as spare tyres that are never used. So he does not really enjoy the advantage of being battle ready.
As for NNPP’s presidential candidate, Dr Musa Kwakwanso, we all know that right now, he is just fulfilling all righteousness because the NNPP is a party of the future.
And to sustain the party until another election circle, l can not fathom why the party which is a potential beautiful bride and was engaged in marriage negotiations with Peter Obi and LP, has remained on the shelf.
A coalition or partnership with a party that wins would help keep the party afloat.
Now, it is imperative that l state here and now that this analysis is written without prejudice or malice to any party or any candidate.
It is an effort made in the best interest of Nigerians, who need to be aided to enable them easily navigate through all the complex and intricate issues concerning the 2023 general elections, which is a duty that l am dispatching with all sense of patriotism.
By Magnus Onyibe.