Nigeria Gubernatorial Elections 2023: How Voters Intend to Vote in Select States

By

Kwakol Research

Date Published

March 13, 2023

Category

Insight

Motivation 

Despite the waning public enthusiasm for the 2023 governorship elections in Nigeria following the controversial outcome of the recently concluded presidential election, it is imperative to pay attention to the crucial governorship elections coming up in 31 out of 36 Nigerian states. These state-level races, in which governors and representatives to the state legislatures are being elected, are often overshadowed by the presidential election, but they are equally important in shaping the well-being of citizens. Consequently, Kwakol Research is dedicated to keeping the spotlight on these crucial elections, providing nuanced analysis, and shedding light on the revealed opinions of the surveyed participants concerning the elections. 

Lessons from the 2023 Nigeria Presidential Election

The recently concluded 2023 Presidential Election in Nigeria has highlighted many of the issues and challenges that have been plaguing the nation's electioneering and political processes for far too long. It has been a source of disappointment that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) continues to fail to meet the public's expectations in terms of organization and conducting of polls, leaving much to be desired. This failure has only served to further reduce confidence in the electoral umpire and the political system in general.

The first key lesson from the 2023 Nigeria Presidential Election was that it was determined by a low voter turnout. The recently concluded presidential and National Assembly elections saw a mere 26.72 percent voter turnout, the lowest since 1999, with only 24.9 million of the 93.47 million registered voters casting their ballots. Nigeria has observed a striking decrease in voter turnout over time. In 2015, the turnout rate dropped to 43.7%, a decline from 53.7% in the preceding election. In 2019, only 35% of eligible voters participated in the presidential contest. 

The second key lesson was the cementing of two personality-led political movements in the country: the “Obi Wave” in southern Nigeria and some parts of the north-central, northeast, and northwest Nigeria, particularly in Nasarawa, Plateau, FCT, and the southern parts of Nigeria. This saw a bloc-voting pattern for the Labour Party in states in the south-east and south-south regions not only for the Presidential election but also the National Assembly elections that produced six new senators and 34 new house of representatives members including a commercial motorcycle rider. The other personality-led political movement that entrenched itself as a result of the 2023 Presidential election outcomes was the Kwankwasiyya and its bloc-voting dominance in Kano state. The New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) thanks to the Kwankwasiyya political movement produced two new senators and 18 House of Representatives members. 

The third lesson involves the need for INEC and political leaders concerned to take a hard look at the country’s electoral processes and make the necessary changes to create a more credible and transparent electoral environment. This is the only way to restore the public's trust in the electoral process and the political system as a whole. 

The Gubernatorial races in select states and Voter Intent

The gubernatorial elections, which were initially scheduled for March 11th, have now been postponed to March 18th. Unfortunately, this change is likely to result in even lower voter turnout rates. Regardless, there are a couple of things that should be watched out for in the eight selected Nigerian states as Nigerians head back to the ballot, again.

Benue State 

The upcoming governorship election in Benue State is expected to be a closely contested race with several key issues that might determine the outcome. Benue state is endowed with impressive resources, including Nigeria’s second-longest river, numerous tributaries, and a strong crop production and fruit production base. But despite its potential, the agriculture industry in Benue is still largely subsistence-based, with limited access to funding and outdated practices. There is therefore a need to designate the agricultural sector as a strategic sector for the Benue economy and develop a deliberate strategy to unleash its potential. 

However, unlike in other Nigerian states, key economic issues have not taken center stage in the electioneering process of the upcoming election. Instead, it has been shaped by a zoning rift between the Jechira Tiv sub-group and the Kwande Tiv sub-group, stopping herder-farmer and ethnic conflicts, and the grassroots popularity of the All Progressives Congress’s candidate, Hyacinth Alia - a suspended Catholic priest. With the election a few days away, the Benue governorship seat is set to be highly contested, and the outcome is yet to be seen. Our poll results provide a point of reference for the direction the election outcome might take.

Enugu State 

Enugu has a growing economy, natural resources, and a good base for a knowledge economy to take off thanks to its University of Nigeria university communities in Enugu city and Nsukka town. However, the state is facing some developmental challenges, including an underdeveloped agricultural sector and rising public debt. The race to lead the state is dominated by an informal zoning agreement to zone the governorship to Enugu East, which has resulted in the emergence of the APC's Uche Nnaji, APGA's Frank Nweke Jr., LP's Chijioke Edeoga, and the PDP's Peter Mbah as respective party candidates - all of whom are from Enugu East. There is a potential "Obi Wave" at the state level that might benefit the Labour Party and its battle to unwean the state from Chimaroke Nnamani and Ike Ekweremadu's patrimonial grip. The election is expected to be a tight race, and the issues of job creation, debt management, agricultural development, and insecurity are sure to be at the forefront of the voting influence points.

Kano State 

Kano State is the country's most populous state, and it plays a pivotal role in Nigerian agriculture, hosting the largest concentration of agro-allied processing firms in Nigeria. Kano is also host to the largest cluster of industries in northern Nigeria, and its manufacturing sector makes a significant contribution to the country’s economy. 

However, the state is facing a number of challenges, such as access to financing, sporadic power supplies, and rising input costs amid a weakening currency. In addition, the election cycle has been marred by electoral violence due to a series of clashes between APC and NNPP supporters. The Kwankwasiyya political movement of the high-rising NNPP might affect the outcome of the election with its bloc-voting pattern, otherwise referred to as "SAK" in northern Nigeria. The election is expected to be a proxy battle between Kano's ex-governors and soon-to-be outgoing governor, Ganduje, Kwankwaso, and Shekarau. The outcome of the election will be crucial in determining the future of the state and its economic development.

Kebbi State 

The upcoming governorship election in Kebbi State is a two-party battle between the incumbent party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and the main opposition, the People's Democratic Party (PDP). The APC is running former Army General Aminu Bande, and the PDP is running former Teacher Union leader Nasir Idris. In the wake of the party primaries, mass defections have riddled both major parties as aggrieved APC members led by Adamu Aliero and Yahaya Abubakar Abdullahi decamped to the PDP. The Aliero vs. Bagudu dispute that dominated Kebbi APC politics in the years prior to the primaries and into the gubernatorial election campaign could be better explained when one sees this gubernatorial election in Kebbi as a proxy battle between the two high-staking Kebbi political leaders. 

Ahead of the election on Saturday, Idris has vowed to improve education and agriculture, while Bande has promised to combat banditry using his military experience. These are the two key issues that are likely to determine the race and the outcome of the election.

Rivers State 

The upcoming Rivers state governorship election is a proxy battle between outgoing governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike (PDP) and former governor Rotimi Amaechi (APC). Despite this being the first Rivers State gubernatorial election since 2003 in which neither Wike nor Amaechi are candidates, key gubernatorial candidates Sim Fubara of the PDP and Tonye Cole of the APC are both extensively connected to Wike and Amaechi, respectively. The emergence of the “Obi Wave,” however, has led to the introduction of the increasingly popular Labour Party's Beatrice Itubo and, of course, a regular face in Magnus Abe—a former Senator who spent years feuding with Amaechi over control of the state APC—as the SDP nominee, adding even more uncertainty to the election. 

The key issues that might determine the election are the ongoing corruption case of Fubara and Wike's feud with the national PDP over the aftermath of the presidential primary, which he lost in May 2022. Additionally, the need to diversify revenue sources by leveraging value-added activities in the sectors for which Rivers State enjoys a comparative advantage, such as the petrochemical sector and biofuels (from oil palm and cassava), is of paramount importance. This is especially true given the state's heavy dependence on a single commodity, which exposes it to unpredictable price swings that negatively impact the government’s ability to deliver much-needed public goods as well as harness its demographic advantage. Expect the Labour Party’s bloc-voting pattern to reveal itself again in the election thanks to the “Obi Wave” rocking southern Nigeria and parts of the north-central region. 

Lagos State 

The upcoming governorship election in Lagos State is a vote on Sanwo-Olu's controversial first term as well as a battle to wrestle or maintain Nigeria's president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu's patrimonial grip on Lagos. The result of our polls and the outcome of the presidential elections in Lagos point to an LP advantage. The key issues that might determine the election include the current administration's handling of the October 2020 End SARS protest wave, the Lekki massacre, the poor distribution of COVID-19 palliatives, the BRT and Lagos NURTW crises, and poor financial management. The election provides an opportunity to witness the likely spillover of the "Obi-Wave", which has buoyed LP's gubernatorial candidate Gbadebo Vivour-Rhodes into a formidable challenger to the incumbent.

However, APC’s incumbency and history of electoral victory in Lagos state cannot be discounted. Moreover, other plausible factors like low voter turnout, irregularities on election day, and INEC’s handling of the process remain highly influential. YIAGA Africa's Election Manipulation Risks Index places the state as "High Risk" for manipulation providing credence to reports of electoral violence and other forms of voter suppression.

Taraba State

Despite the result of our poll shown above, the upcoming governorship election in Taraba State seems more likely to be a competitive battle between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Kefas Agbu and the All Progressives Congress (APC)’s Emmanuel Bwacha. The election will be determined by a number of factors, including the fact that the three main contenders including LP’s Joel Ikenya are all from Taraba south which might mean that the winning formula is how well a contender does appeal to Taraba north and Taraba central senatorial zones, as with the growing grassroots popularity of Emmanuel Bwacha across Taraba State.

Zamfara State 

The upcoming governorship election in Zamfara state is critical for the survival of the state, as the citizens are currently facing a number of security challenges, including bandit conflict, herder-farmer clashes, and a nationwide kidnapping epidemic. The two main contenders in the election are Bello Matawalle, the incumbent and recent decampee to the APC, and the PDP's Dauda Lawal, who is increasingly popular among the youth. With the waning of fanatical support for Muhammadu Buhari in the state as his presidency rounds up, it is difficult to predict the outcome of the election, especially for the APC. The key issues that will determine the result of the election include the candidates' security and economic plans for the state and their ability to address the challenges of bandit conflict, herder-farmer clashes, and nationwide kidnapping. This is notwithstanding the situation of issues of security with the federal government. Additionally, the candidates' ability to engage voters, particularly the youth, will be an important factor in determining the outcome of the election.

Conclusion

The foregoing analysis suggests that registered voters in Zamfara, Taraba, and Kebbi generally favor the PDP; registered voters in Lagos, Rivers, and Enugu favor the Labour Party; and registered voters in Kano state largely prefer the NNPP. It is important to note that this particular exercise was conducted solely to analyze voter intent and that no predictions or forecasts were made. In perfect election scenarios, the aggregated vote intent of the registered voters is likely to provide a quality signal for the final outcome of the respective state governorship elections. However, as we have since learned from the recently concluded presidential election, elections in Nigeria do not always pose perfect scenarios. Hence, it is important that readers of this article understand that the primary data collected from our opinion poll should not be taken as a forecast or prediction of the outcome of the 2023 governorship elections.

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Disclaimer: This information in this article is NOT investment advice. It is intended for information and entertainment purposes only.

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