Nigeria’s ruling People’s Democratic party was dealt a blow on Thursday as the results of gubernatorial and state assembly elections showed opposition parties had swept its former strongholds in the south-west.
As the Independent National Electoral Commission began to release results from across the country, the ruling party had retained a healthy share of governorship seats, winning in eight of the 15 states so far announced including those in the south-east, south and much of the north. However, the opposition Action Congress party won all three gubernatorial seats on offer in the south-west and swept up virtually all the seats in state assembly elections.
The results from the south-west, controlled by the PDP for the past eight years, are a further indication of the ruling party’s weakening grip on Nigerian politics following national assembly elections earlier in the month in which the party came close to losing its majority.
In Lagos, the commercial capital, the ACN’s Babatunde Fashola beat the PDP’s Ade Dosunmu by a landslide to hold on to the governorship, with his party winning all 46 house assembly seats.
Observers attribute the PDP losses in the south-west to growing disgust with the ruling party’s brand of patronage politics and lack of progress in service delivery. In contrast, the ACN victory in Lagos has been ascribed to Mr Fashola’s successful attempts to regenerate the city of 17m people.
“It’s a victory for democracy and a victory for Lagos. Everything is now possible,” said Mr Fashola during his victory speech.
“In four years, the governor has brought rapid transformation to Lagos,” said a Fashola strategist, Moji Rhodes, citing the clean-up of the city and transport improvements. “It has given hope to Nigerians – that if these changes are possible here, they are possible all over the country. Mr Fashola’s programmes now serve as a benchmark for governors.”
Governors wield considerable power, and their support is essential for anyone seeking the presidency.
The elections were held on Tuesday in 26 of Nigeria’s 36 states. Violence was reported in the southern Delta region and allegations were made of ballot snatching and attempted rigging in some parts of the south-east.
In the north, where two days of violence erupted soon after the presidential election on April 16, the federal government deployed increased security at polling centres in contests marked by low turnout.
The south-west was a litmus test for the ruling party’s popularity and signals the fading role of PDP strongmen, notably the former president Olusegun Obasanjo, whose candidate in his own state of Ogun came a distant second. Governors wield considerable power in Nigerian politics; their support is essential for anyone seeking the presidency.
Two postponed elections in the northern states of Bauchi and Kaduna were held on Thursday.