On 22 September, voters in the southwestern Nigerian state of Osun cast ballots for governor. Due to the impact of long-ago court decisions, the two southwestern states of Ekiti and Osun now conduct regular off-cycle elections in Nigeria, with gubernatorial votes falling a few months before presidential elections. As such, the gubernatorial contests in these states provide opportunities for major parties to duke it out and do a test run of the presidential election (there are other off-cycle elections too).
In Ekiti in July, the All Progressives Congress (APC) won back a governorship it had lost in 2014 to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The APC has been the ruling party at the national level since 2015, which the PDP was the national ruling party from 1999-2015. In Ekiti, ex-governor Kayode Fayemi defeated Deputy Governor Kolapo Olusola Eleka; incumbent Governor Ayo Fayose was term-limited.
In Osun, the APC and the PDP were again the two main contenders. As in Ekiti, the incumbent governor, Rauf Aregbesola, was term-limited, although in Osun’s case the incumbent was APC rather than PDP. The two candidates, then, are Gboyega Oyetola (APC), the current governor’s chief of staff, and Ademola Adeleke (PDP), current senator for Osun West.
The 22 September vote proved too close for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to call. According to INEC’s official statement, problems of various sorts affected seven polling units and prevented nearly 3,500 voters from casting ballots. Among those who did vote, the margin between the two candidates was 353. INEC will now re-run the election on 27 September (tomorrow) in the affected polling units.
The margin was in favor of the PDP, and that party has accused INEC of maneuvering to support the APC.
What happens Thursday, then, will have national ramifications, as Osun becomes a battle not just over state-level control but over the independence and credibility of INEC.