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Nigerian Elections: Focus on Governors - 2003-04-09


Politics in Nigeria is based not just on ideas, but also on influence. And to win the national elections, analysts agree it helps to control state and local government. Wale Adebanwi is a lecturer in the Political Science Department at the University of Ibadan. He says, "A party that does not control any state is only a party in name."

A professor of Political Science at the University of Ibadan -- Bunmi Ayoade -- says if a party has a strong gubernatorial candidate at the state level, it will indirectly help determine who wins the presidency: "That’s because [the gubernatorial candidates act as] a megaphone for the party. So what the governors do also adds up to the votes of the presidential (contenders)."

Today, the ruling People’s Democratic Party, or PDP, is in the lead in the gubernatorial race. It controls 17 out of the 36 states. But the picture may change after the upcoming polls.

In the southwestern state of Oyo, some say they will not vote for the PDP candidate for governor. They say the party’s governors in the southwest have not curbed corruption and violence.

Governorships may also change hands due to party re-alignment: new parties have been created, and some members – and voters – have switched parties.

Even some politicians are changing their allegiance –increasing the chance that different parties may win state office. One is Governor Chinwoke Mbadinjuju in the southwestern state of Anambra. He no longer enjoys the support of his party -- the PDP – which says he has performed poorly. The governor has left the party to join a rival, the Alliance for Democracy, AD. If he wins, it will be a gain for his new party.

On the other hand, there are indications the AD may lose some states to the PDP because the AD – which is make up mostly of ethnic Yoruba – has not nominated its own presidential candidate. Instead, many AD voters are supporting the re-election of President Olusegun Obasanjo – himself a Yoruba from the southwest.

In some states, one of the issues is the imposition of Islamic law, or Sharia. Analysts say the All Nigerian People’s Party, or ANPP, may lose some northern states, like Zamfara. They say some voters will turn out against the governor’s support for the measure. Candidates in Oyo state in the southwest are heeding voter concern about Sharia – and have distanced themselves from any plans to introduce it.

Some think state governors will be able to restore federalism – by leading the move to grant greater powers to the states. But others say many governors are tied to established interests -- and lack the clout to make any change.

A few have been commended for their outstanding performances. One is the Abia state governor – Uzo Orji Kalu – of the PDP. He is credited for publishing a monthly progress report. He has also revitalized dying industries and parastatals and built new ones.

Meanwhile, as Nigeria’s general elections draw closer, campaigning has gone grass roots. Most of the candidates are now in the countryside looking for votes. In Ibadan, the state governor and other candidates can not be found in their offices – they’ve gone off to rural areas.

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