Barely a week to the all-important presidential election in Nigeria, Economic Confidential has undertaken a robust fact-checking exercise to expose the process and people behind most of the pre-election polls that have predicted that certain candidates would win the election.
Since the 18 political parties on the ballot concluded their respective primaries and chose their presidential candidates last year, a lot of polls have been conducted by different organisations most of which made bold calls about the likely winners of the election.
Economic Confidential has, however, found out that some of the polls were conducted by organisations whose owners are linked to the same candidates they touted would win the presidential election.
According to the Economic Confidential quartet of Abdulrahman Abdulraheem, Mohammed Dahiru Lawal, Rahma Oladosu and Zeenat Sambo who addressed a world press conference at PRNigeria Centre in Abuja on Sunday, 19 February, 2023, some of the polls have made big calls which are capable of causing violence if certain expectations are not met by the results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Some of the polls predicted the Labour Party LP candidate, Peter Obi, as winner; some projected his All Progressives Congress (APC) counterpart, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, while some chose the flagbearer of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar.
They also found out that some of the polls were conducted without deploying the fundamental scientific factors like methodology, sample sizes, and proper geographical spread.
PRNigeria, a sister publication of Economic Confidential, had addressed a similar press conference last week where they drew the attention of security agencies, the media and the country at large to the pitfalls they noticed “in these pre-election days which can pose a threat to the country’s stability during and after the polls.”
“One of the pitfalls we observed was the proliferation of unscientific, unverifiable and (sometimes) partisan pre-election polls conducted by different organisations and private groups which seemed to make certain candidates and their supporters over-excited ahead of the polls.
“What these calls do to the psyche of supporters is that they make them close their minds to the possibility of their candidates not winning the elections and if this happens, they are likely to suspect foul play and resort to violence along the same ethno-religious lines that we have already noticed”.
According to Sambo, one of the pollsters, Nextier, which called that Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) would win the election, is owned by a man who is linked to Obi.
“The founder of Nextier, Patrick Okigbo, hails from the same Anambra state with the candidate touted to win in the polls. He also graduated from the same University of Nigeria Nsukka as the candidate. In July 2020, the candidate hailed Okigbo over an international award.
“Nextier is also a profit-oriented organisation as it clearly states on the front page of its website: ‘We work with our clients to develop plans, frameworks and roadmaps to realise their economic and social goals,” Sambo noted.
The ANAP Foundation in two separate polls had also called the election in favour of Obi. But Sambo said according to Economic Confidential fact-checks, Mr Atedo Peterside, who owns ANAP Foundation, is a politician and close ally of the Labour Party candidate.
According to her, the digital footprints of Peterside exposed his relationship with Obi.
Premise Data was another group that conducted a poll that was widely reported to have been conducted by Bloomberg and projected Obi as the likely winner of the election.
Sambo said according to Economic Confidential fact-checks on the site of Bloomberg, the poll was not conducted by it as the news story saying ‘Bloomberg projects Obi to win Nigeria’s presidential election’ was not found on the site.
She therefore told journalists that Premise Data only used the credibility of Bloomberg to give leverage to their poll.
“We also discovered that Premise Data, which had never done any poll before, had the same ownership details with another group, Redfield and Wilton, that did a similar poll and also projected that the same candidate would emerge,” she said.
As for the Nigerian Human Rights Community (NHRC) poll that projected Bola Tinubu to win the election, Sambo said the group was not forthcoming with the methodology that was deployed to arrive at the conclusion, adding that there were also mathematical inaccuracies in their report which cast a doubt on their credibility.
For the June Group Research and Council for African Security Affairs (CASA), which called the election in favour of Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, Sambo said the group did not show the methodology deployed and the research they presented to the public was not data-based.
The highlight of the press conference was the visual presentation of how the fact-checks were done by Lawal, who heads the fact-checking and investigation desk at PRNigeria.
Oladosu, on her part, presented Economic Confidential’s recommendations to the journalists, saying pollsters should eschew partisanship and stick to the fundamental science of survey, research, and polling if they must conduct pre-election polls.
She added that Nigerians must lower their expectations and go to the elections with an open mind, vote and be ready to accept the results announced by INEC even if it is in contrary to what the aforementioned polls had told them.
Economic Confidential also called on stakeholders to eschew fake news, hate speech, and divisive media content that can expose the country to danger during and after the polls.
Meanwhile, last week, PRNigeria, a sister publication of Economic Confidential, at a similar press conference listed potential security threats that could affect the elections if proactive measures were not taken by security service.
The 30 page PRNigeria’s report titled: “2023 Election: SWOT Analysis of Major Presidential Candidates and Security Matters” was produced with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability Project (CMEDIA), and funded by the MacArthur Foundation.