In final stage of election, Nigerians elect state governors

For many Nigerians, their state governors matter more to their daily life than the president or parliamentarians.

By , Guest blogger

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    An electoral official arranges ballot papers at the distribution center in Uyo, Nigeria, Tuesday, April 26, 2011. Nigeria began voting Tuesday for who should serve as state governors in the oil-rich nation, lucrative positions many politicians use violence and election fraud to obtain
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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 statesBayelsa, 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.

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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 governor's seat 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 subnational 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.

Alex Thurston is a PhD student studying Islam in Africa at Northwestern University and blogs at Sahel Blog.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of Africa bloggers. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here.

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