Nigerians to vote in gubernatorial elections as ruling party struggles to regain lost ground in key states

Lagos, Nigeria

On Saturday, Nigerians will vote in a delayed gubernatorial election, weeks after a contentious and contentious presidential election.

Gubernatorial elections will be decided in 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states as the ruling party struggles to regain lost ground in key states.

But all eyes will be on the intense struggle for control of the wealthy state of Lagos, which analysts say will be “the most competitive” in the state’s history.

“This could be the most competitive gubernatorial election in Lagos state,” political scientist Sam Amadi told CNN.

“Many have tried to turn Lagos over in the past, but have failed due to the ingrained power of Bol Tinubu. As president-elect, his influence may have grown in Lagos, but the Compliant are strong,” says Amadi, speaking of supporters of Labor presidential candidate Peter Obi.

Obi caused shock when it was revealed that he had defeated President-elect Bola Tinuba in his home territory of Lagos but came third in the presidential election.

Obi started rejected Tinubu’s victory and contesting the results in the courts.

The February 25 presidential election was widely criticized for massive delays, violence and attempts at voter suppression.

Several observers, including the European Union, also said the elections fell short of expectations and “lack of transparency”.

The battle for Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial center and one of Africa’s largest cities, has typically been a two-party race that the opposition has never won.

This is partly due to Bol’s political godfather and kingmaker Tinubu, who is said to have personally chosen every governor of Lagos since leaving office in 2007.

Tinubu’s firm grip on Lagos politics is now facing an unprecedented threat from Obi’s third-strength Labor Party, which has lost at home.

Labor Party candidate for Governor of Lagos Gbadebo Rhodes-Wivour watches a meeting with members of his campaign team at his office in Lagos, Nigeria, March 3, 2023.

Obi is the first opposition presidential candidate to win in Lagos.

Amadi says his popularity among young people could be a deciding factor in the Lagos governor’s poll.

“They (Obideans) won Lagos in the last (presidential) poll but feel betrayed and downtrodden. Thus, we can see a more intense fight. It depends on how motivated and offended the Obedient are now,” he said.

Fifteen Candidates seek to topple incumbent Governor Babajide Sanwo-Ola of the ruling All Progressive Congress Party, who is running for a second term. But only two of them are seen as a real threat to his re-election.

Until a few weeks ago, the unlikely Gbadebo Labor candidate, Rhodes-Wivour, is now riding the wave of Obi and gaining momentum after his party’s surprise victory in the Tinubu citadel.

Aziz Olahide Adediran of the People’s Democratic Party, also known as Jandor, is another strong contender seeking for the first time to secure his party’s seat in Lagos.

Adedirana’s party has come second in every vote for governor of Lagos since returning to civilian rule in 1999.

Both men tell CNN they are confident of victory. “For the first time, the NDP will take over Lagos and I will be governor,” says Adediran. “People are really tired… the streets of Lagos are hungry for a breath of fresh air and that’s what we represent,” he adds.

A wall is adorned with campaign posters for Lagos People's Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Abdul-Aziz Olahide Adediran (Jandora) and his running mate Funke Akindele in Lagos, March 7, 2023.

Rhodes-Vivour told CNN it’s time to free Lagos from “government takeover” and it’s next in line for state rule.

“I will be the next Governor of Lagos State,” he said. “You can’t stop an idea whose time has come. The idea of ​​a new Lagos… that is run by the people and works for the people, not to take over the state; this idea, its time has come, and whatever they do, they can’t stop it. Hence the confidence.”

Governor Sanwo-Olu asked voters to re-elect him because of his achievements, which he said brought “significant progress” to Lagos, including his commendable handling of the COVID pandemic.

Lagos gubernatorial candidate of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) Babajide Sanwo-Olu in Lagos on January 24, 2023.

But the governor failed to calm the angry young people who blame him role in Nigerian soldiers shooting down peaceful protesters against police brutality in 2020.

Sanwo-Olu admitted to CNN at the time, these footage showed uniformed soldiers firing at peaceful demonstrators, but recently denied orders to fire.

Analyst Amadi told CNN that the Lagos gubernatorial election will be a contest between keeping or expelling the old guard.

“Lagos is a struggle between the status quo and change,” Amadi said.

“The current Sanwo-Olu has a good chance of keeping his job. But he faces a major challenge from Gbadebo (Rhodes-Vivour) who has momentum (Obi waves). Jandor (Adediran) has been left behind because the PDP has been dismantled in southern Nigeria and has no enthusiasm factor in Lagos,” said Amadi.

“Sanwo Olu was not impressive, but it is believed that he performed well in some aspects of maintaining Lagos. He can survive Saturday’s popular uprising… but be careful if the panic from the APC and the loss of confidence in INEC does not demotivate young voters,” he added.

In addition to attempts to suppress voters, loss of trust in the electoral body’s ability to hold credible elections undermined the electorate’s confidence in the democratic process.

Only 26% of Nigeria’s more than 93 million registered voters came to vote in the last election. This is much lower than in the 2019 poll, when a third of registered voters ended up voting.

David Ayodele of civic group EiE Nigeria told CNN that the February 25 elections “exacerbated a trust deficit between the (electoral) commission and voters.”

Ayodele called on the electoral body to redeem itself in a weekend poll by “naming and holding accountable INEC officials who were caught interfering in the electoral process.”

Last month, Lagos authorities said theyaudio clip research, in which two men threatened residents of the local community to vote for candidates from the ruling military-industrial complex or risk being evicted from the area.

Polling stations will open from 8:30 am local time (3:30 am ET) on Saturday and are expected to close at 2:30 pm (9:30 am ET).