Buhari has consistently pulled millions of votes, hitting highs of 12 million in 2003 and 2011 before his victory in 2015. In doing so, he has developed a reputation as a powerhouse in the North, which some mistake as the APC's popularity. But is Buhari really the King in the North and does his party reign supreme in Northern Nigeria?
Making allowance for election malpractice, there has been one major factor influencing each election outcome for Buhari: Northern opposition. Let’s look at his track record; he lost in 2007 when the Northern Yar’Adua was supported by the incumbent PDP, lost in 2011 against a popular Southern incumbent, won in 2015 against an unpopular Southern candidate, and defeated a less popular Northerner as the incumbent in 2019.
Yar’Adua was a strong candidate with a pedigree as a Governor and a popular family name—his most formidable Northern challenger. In 2019, even though Atiku was from the North, he was not the formidable candidate he appeared to be (barely winning his own state Adamawa), with a record of cross-partying and even losing the 2015 APC primaries to Buhari. This raises questions about his ability to command a victory on his own accord.
As far as the APC is concerned, we will need to redraw the electoral map ahead of 2023 to account for Buhari's absence. The 2019 Gubernatorial results showed that states like Bauchi and Sokoto which voted for Buhari at Presidential level did not support APC in the Gubernatorial races. Buhari’s supposed northern appeal has always inferred a guarantee of votes from the heavily populated region, so who do these votes go to in 2023?