Nigeria to conduct state governor polls with main focus on Lagos


Nigerians on March 11, 2023 will return to elect state governors across the country, two weeks after a disputed presidential election; with the main focus on the race to lead Lagos, the country’s economic heartbeat and wealthiest state.

The forthcoming election is for 28 of the country’s 36 governors, who are among the most influential politicians in Nigeria.

Some states, such as Lagos, control budgets larger than those of small nations.

Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party’s Bola Tinubu was declared winner of the presidential election with 39 percent of the vote. However, he lost in his home state of Lagos to opposition candidate Peter Obi of the Labour Party, which is aiming to upset APC again.

Read: Tinubu declared Nigeria’s president-elect

Lagos is important for Tinubu because it is where he built his political and financial powerbase, serving two terms as governor until 2007 and playing a key role in picking every successor since. Losing Lagos could erode Tinubu’s influence in the state of more than 20 million people.


“It will send a big signal of political vulnerability if the APC loses Lagos state race,” said Ikemesit Effiong, head of research at security consultancy firm, SBM Intelligence.

“It is unprecedented that the party of a sitting Nigerian president doesn’t control his home state. Tinubu, through the APC and its predecessor parties, has always been in charge of Lagos politics.” Effiong added.

Lagos is the commercial hub of Nigeria, has a flourishing tech sector, generates the most revenue in Nigeria and has the continent’s biggest deep seaport. It is also where Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, is building a multi-billion-dollar oil refining complex.

Commuters board mini buses in Lagos, Nigeria

Commuters board mini buses in Lagos, Nigeria. PHOTO | PIUS UTOMI EKPEI | AFP

Buoyed by Obi’s performance in Lagos, the Labour Party’s Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, an architect and political activist, will battle it out with APC incumbent Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who has been in the ranks of the Lagos State government for two decades.

The APC has sitting governors in 21 states, while the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has 14. The Labour Party is aiming to win its first governorships in this cycle.

Vigilance on INEC

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of Nigeria will be under scrutiny after its handling of the February 25 presidential election.

Observers from the European Union, the Commonwealth and other bodies reported a range of problems, among them failures in systems designed to prevent vote manipulation and criticized the INEC for poor planning and voting delays. But they did not allege fraud.

Read: Intrigues, upsets cloud Nigeria polls

The commission has said it would use electronic machines to send results to a public portal soon after voting, which it promised but struggled to do last month.

The race in North-eastern Adamawa, the home state of PDP leader Atiku Abubakar, is also being closely watched. The APC candidate has a chance to win and become Nigeria’s first elected female governor, according to some polls.

Voters will also choose state house of assembly members.

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