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

Lagos, Nigeria

Nigerians went to the polls on Saturday in a delayed gubernatorial election, weeks after a controversial and controversial presidential election, amid reports of electoral violence and voter disenfranchisement.

A party official was shot and killed during Nigeria’s new governorship election in Lagos on Saturday.

“We are getting alarming reports from all over Lagos of voter intimidation, voter suppression. One of our agents was shot and he is dead,” said Labor Party candidate Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivuor, who is running for governor of Lagos state, in a video message.

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) spokesperson Festus Okoye told CNN. “We are collating and collating the reports from the various states of the federation before taking a decision.”

Reports of disenfranchisement continued on Saturday when about 6,000 residents of Lagos’ Victoria Garden City said their polling station was moved outside their gated compound without notice and claimed polling staff left before a single resident could vote.

The governorship race will be decided in 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states as the ruling party seeks to regain lost ground in key states.

But all eyes will be on the tense contest for control of the country’s rich Lagos state.

“This could be the most competitive governorship election in Lagos State,” political analyst Sam Amadi told CNN. Many have tried to topple Lagos in the past and failed because of the entrenched power of Bola Tinubu. As president-elect, his influence may increase in Lagos, but the followers are strong,” says Amadi, referring to supporters of Labor Party presidential candidate Peter Obi.

Obi caused shockwaves when it was revealed that he defeated President-elect Bola Tinubu in his home turf of Lagos but came third in the presidential election.

Obi rejected Tinubu’s victory and is challenging the results in the courts.

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

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

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

This is partly attributed to political godfather and kingpin Bola Tinubu, who is said to have hand-picked every Lagos governor since he left office in 2007.

Tinubu’s firm grip on Lagos politics now faces an unprecedented threat in Obi’s third-strong Labor Party after losing on home soil.

Lagos State Labor Party gubernatorial candidate Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivor looks on during a meeting with members of his campaign team at his office in Lagos, Nigeria on March 3, 2023.

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

Amadi says his popularity among the youth could change the Lagos governorship vote.

“They (Submissives) won the last (presidential) poll in Lagos but they feel cheated and oppressed. So we might see a more fierce battle. It depends on how motivated and hurt the Obedients feel right now,” he said.

Fifteen candidates are seeking to oust incumbent governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the ruling All Progressives Congress party, who is running for a second term. But only two are seen as real threats to his re-election.

Considered a long shot just a few weeks ago, Labour’s Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour is now riding the Obi wave and has gained momentum following her party’s surprise victory in Tinubu’s stronghold.

A member of the Peoples Democratic Party, Azez Olajide Adediran, also known as Jandor, is another strong contender aiming to win the Lagos seat for the first time for his party.

Adedirani’s party has come second in the governorship election in Lagos since the return to civilian rule in 1999.

Both tell CNN they are confident of victory. “For the first time, PDP is going to take over Lagos and I will become the governor,” Adediran says. “People are really tired… the streets of Lagos need a breath of fresh air and that is what we represent,” he adds.

A wall is decorated with campaign posters of Lagos governorship candidate Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Abdul-Aziz Olajide Adedirani (Yandor) and candidate Funke Akindele in Lagos on March 7, 2023.

Rhodes-Vivour told CNN that the time has come to liberate Lagos from “state capture” and he is next in line to rule the state.

“I am the next governor of Lagos State,” he announced. “You can’t stop an idea whose time has come. The idea of ​​a New Lagos powered by the people and working for the people as opposed to state capture; that idea, its time has come, and no matter what they do, they cannot stop it. That’s where the confidence comes from.”

Governor Sanwo-Olu has asked voters to re-elect him based on his achievements which he says have brought “significant progress” Lagos, including its commendable handling of the COVID pandemic.

Lagos governorship candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Babajide Sanwo-Olu is seen in Lagos on January 24, 2023.

But the governor could not calm down the angry youths who blame him Playing a role in the 2020 shooting of peaceful protesters protesting police brutality by Nigerian soldiers.

Sanwo-Olu admitted to CNN at the time that footage showed uniformed soldiers shooting at peaceful protesters, but has since denied ordering the shooting.

Amadi, an analyst, tells CNN that the governorship election in Lagos will be a contest between keeping or ousting the old guard.

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

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

“Sanwo-Olu has not been spectacular but is believed to have done well in some aspects of keeping Lagos. He may survive the popular uprising on Saturday… but beware of the upset if APC’s intimidation and loss of confidence in INEC’s integrity do not alienate young voters,” he added.

In addition to attempts at voter suppression, widespread loss of confidence the electoral body’s ability to conduct credible elections has undermined voter confidence in democratic processes.

Only 26% of Nigeria’s more than 93 million registered voters participated in the last election. This was far lower than the 2019 poll, when a third of registered voters completed voting.

David Ayodele of the Nigerian civic group EiE told CNN the February 25 election “deepened the trust deficit between the (electoral) commission and the electorate.”

Ayodele urged the electoral body to save itself on the weekend issue by “naming and prosecuting INEC officials who were caught rigging the electoral process”.

Last month, police authorities in Lagos announced they were investigating an audio clip in which two men were heard threatening residents of a local community to vote for candidates of the ruling APC or risk being expelled from the area.

Polls will open at 8:30 a.m. local time (3:30 ET) on Saturday and are expected to close at 2:30 p.m. (9:30 ET).

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