Quick Guide to Nigeria’s Gubernatorial Elections This Week

This post gives an overview of what will happen in Nigeria’s state elections this week. These gubernatorial elections will conclude a three-stage electoral process that began with legislative elections on April 9 and continued with presidential elections on April 16.

Details About Dates

Today, Nigerians in 29 of the country’s 36 states will cast votes for state governors. On Thursday, voters in Kaduna and Bauchi States will do the same (the elections in these two states were postponed due to the violence that followed last week’s presidential elections). In the remaining five states – Bayelsa, Cross River, Adamawa, Kogi and Sokoto – elections will not take place this week “because the elections that brought the governors of the states in 2007 were flawed and new elections and governors were the results.” Courts and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are currently reviewing the situations in those five states.

Details About Candidates and Parties

According to Wikipedia’s list of Nigerian state governors, of the 31 states holding elections this week, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) holds the governors’ seats in 21. The PDP also has governors in all five of the states not holding elections. The remaining ten governorships are held between the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which controls Edo, Ekiti, Lagos, and Osun; the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), which controls Borno, Kano, and Yobe; the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which controls Abia and Anambra; and the Labour Party (LP), which controls Ondo.

Again according to Wikipedia, only six governors are hitting their two-term limit and are therefore ineligible to run again. That means that many incumbents are running this year. One important incumbent candidate to watch is Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola (ACN), who is seeking – and is likely to win – another mandate to continue his reforms in Nigeria’s largest city. One important open race to watch is the contest in Kano, home to the largest city in Northern Nigeria. Governors’ races in the North will test the strength of a new party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), and will help determine the fate of the ANPP, from which the CPC split. For more on Kano, including struggles within the CPC, see here. Finally, it is worth watching the ACN, which did very well in legislative elections earlier this month. Will the ACN be able to extend its victories in Nigeria’s South West?

News Coverage

News organizations are focusing on issues of electoral violence and are looking at what the elections of governors mean for ordinary people. On the topic of violence, see reports from CNN and Reuters. Violence is gaining even more attention with yesterday’s bombing in Borno State, the stronghold of the Muslim rebel group Boko Haram. AP reports on violence against poll workers.

Turning to the significance of the gubernatorial contests, the BBC highlights the proximity of governors to ordinary people: “For many Nigerians, governors – who control big budgets in the oil-producing country – represent the closest embodiment of power many ever see in African’s most populous nation of some 150 million people.”

Business Day argues that governors are symbols of both failure and hope:

The State level represents the most important sub-national level, and it is generally acknowledged that if governors had performed even at 50 percent since 1999, Nigeria would have seen some measure of economic progress. But for most States, governors come and go and the people are left wondering what is the whole purpose and essence of their office. In the same vein, the members of State assemblies have not lived up to the expectation. They are supposed to be a constructive check on the governors but in most cases, they are appendages of the executive.

Nigerians, when they go to the polls tomorrow, are hoping to elect new governors that will transform their lives through the building and repairing of infrastructure in the states, the support of agricuture and industry, provide platform for the improvement of education and health.

The hopes and frustrations that accompany these elections only increase the importance of the vote. US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, in an interview with VOA, says how the gubernatorial elections conclude in Nigeria will help determine the success of this entire electoral season.

Conclusion

I expect there will be a lot of news today, so please leave a comment and let us know what you’re hearing. And definitely let me know if I’ve made any mistakes above – there are a lot of details to keep track of. Most of all, I wish Nigerians a safe and successful vote today.

Nigerian Elections: More Results and a Few Hypotheses

Since I posted some results from Nigeria’s legislative elections on Monday, the Nigeria Elections Coalition has updated its site with more numbers and has helpfully organized them into charts. Looking at the current count for the Senate will let us advance some hypotheses to explain the voting patterns:

Senate Elections (86 results out of 109 total seats):

People’s Democratic Party (PDP, currently holds the presidency and legislative majorities): 55

Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN): 13

All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP): 7

Congress for Progressive Change (CPC): 6

Others: 5

The results for the House of Representatives are broadly similar, except that so far the ANPP has no seats.

Looking at the results, a few questions come to mind:

  1. Are we seeing an intensification of “regionalization”? Throughout postcolonial Nigerian history, major parties have tended to have strong regional bases. Since 1999, the PDP has enjoyed national dominance, though regional politics certainly continued. What observers are calling a freer vote than past elections, though, may be allowing underlying regional divisions to emerge more starkly: thus the ACN’s gains are concentrated in the South West, its stronghold, while the Northern-based ANPP and CPC are winning seats in the North. Going forward, Nigeria could see regional rivalries become more open.
  2. Are we seeing the popularity of “progressive” politics? The ACN’s victories may represent a form of regionalism, but they may also reflect the popularity of ACN’s celebrity Governor Babatunde Fashola. Fashola has made a number of reforms in Lagos State. The ACN also generated excitement by nominating former anti-corruption official Nuhu Ribadu as its presidential candidate (though note that this article says Fashola outshines Ribadu). Of the opposition parties, the ACN has won the most seats in this election, but other parties are attempting to claim the progressive mantle as well – recall what CPC stands for. Opposition victories, then, may speak to a widespread desire for reform that to some extent transcends regionalism.
  3. Are we seeing triumphs of personality over party? Perhaps we miss part of the story if we look only at how the parties do: maybe individual politicians are winning based on their own skills, networks, and campaigns. After all, many expect President Goodluck Jonathan (PDP) to win re-election, and in fact to outperform his party, despite defeats for the PDP in the legislative races. The governors’ races should shed some more light on this question.

All of these are just hypotheses, and I hope commenters will let me know where logic or evidence refutes them.

As we puzzle over results, the presidential vote is fast approaching. Will the ACN and the CPC join forces in an effort to beat Jonathan? Will the elections go to a second round? This weekend promises to be exciting in Nigeria. Whoever wins, hopefully the elections will go smoothly and peacefully.