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All eyes on Lagos in Nigeria’s gubernatorial elections

Nigerians have been voting since early morning GMT on Saturday in delayed elections to pick new governors, with all eyes turned on the race in Lagos and the conduct of the electoral commission after its handling of last month’s disputed presidential election was criticized. Voting ends at 13:30 GMT.

Governors wield enormous influence in Africa’s most populous nation of more than 200 million and their support often decides who becomes president. Some governors preside over states whose annual budgets are bigger than some small African countries.

Voters will choose governors in 28 of 36 states. New state assemblies will be elected in all the states.

Eyes on Lagos

The race that has generated the most interest is in Lagos, the home state of the recently elected President Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party, and Nigeria’s commercial hub, where Tinubu is nicknamed the “godfather” for his enduring political influence.
At stake is control of an annual USD 4 billion budget and running Africa’s largest mega city of more than 20 million, home to some of the country’s billionaires.

However, Lagos is also teeming with poverty as millions live in slums without power and running water, and residents have to endure daily traffic jams and pollution.

Tinubu governed Lagos from 1999 to 2007 and has gone on to play a major role in picking every successor since.

Labour Party’s Peter Obi, who is challenging the results of the presidential election and whose support came from young and urban voters, beat Tinubu in Lagos last month. That has buoyed his Labour Party, which is aiming to dethrone APC from running the state.

The ruling APC’s incumbent Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who has been in the Lagos state government for the past two decades, faces a strong challenge from Labour Party’s Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, an architecture and political activist.

Nigerians will also be watching the race in northeastern Adamawa, a conservative and largely Muslim state, which could produce the country’s first elected female governor.

Disputed presidential election

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is under scrutiny after observers from the European Union, the Commonwealth, and other bodies reported several problems during last month’s voting, among them failures in systems designed to prevent vote manipulation.
The observers criticized the INEC for poor planning and voting delays but did not allege fraud.

The INEC postponed the gubernatorial poll by a week, saying it needed to reconfigure electronic voting machines that are at the center of the dispute over the presidential vote won by Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party.

The main opposition People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) Atiku Abubakar and Labour Party’s Peter Obi rejected the results as fraudulent and will seek to challenge the results in court.

There were fewer cases of electoral violence last month but concerns still remain about possible clashes in states like Kano in the north and oil-producing Rivers in the south, which have witnessed post-election violence in the past.

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