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Nigeria: Mixed Results Predicted in Saturday's Gubernatorial Election

Nigerians vote this Saturday for state governors and legislators. With many governorships up for election, some are predicting Saturday’s election could be a referendum on the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Professor Kabir Mato is head of the political science department at the University of Abuja. He said one big problem with Saturday’s election is that the Independent Electoral Commission is not prepared to conduct an impartial election.

“If free, fair, and credible election will work on Saturday, then the bi-product of that particular election shall be the consensus of the Nigerian people. And that is the only condition under which we will be able to say it’s either a referendum for or against the Obasanjo administration. But the way things are now, it is most likely that the election will not be free, that the election will not be fair. And if it is not free and fair therefore, what that means is that it is not going to be truly a referendum, but simply an exhibition of the desire by the current federal government to continue to keep itself in power by whatever means at the expense of the Nigerian people,” he said.

Mato said there are several states with hotly contested gubernatorial races to watch for in Saturday’s election.

“Some of the key states that are in hot contention are the state of Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, Katsina in the northwestern flank of this country, the state of Kano also, and so many other states of the southwestern part of the country, especially where the PDP government has run for four years is being challenged by eight different political establishments like the Action Congress Party. So these are basically the flashpoints that I think we should look forward to in the election on Saturday,” Mato said.

Some of the gubernatorial candidates in Saturday’s election represent the opposition All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) of former military ruler General Muhammadu Buhari, who is also a presidential candidate as well as the Action Congress Party.

Mato said the ruling PDP has done much damage to the opposition in the last eight years.

“The analysis is that the PDP-controlled federal government has done tremendous damage to the opposition in Nigeria. The ANPP, for instance in the last eight years, has been faced with miss-rule by agents of the PDP. So the ANPP has not been able to spread its tentacles as a major political party in the last eight years,” he said.

Mato said if Saturday’s gubernatorial election and the subsequent presidential and national assembly elections are free and fair, it is likely that state governments and national assemblies might be represented by different political parties.

“If free will is allowed to exist, then we will have state government with a mixture of legislature because Nigerians desire to elect people based on certain principles that may not necessarily be the same with their immediate neighbors. So the likelihood we will see is that we will have governorship election in states that are controlled by probably different parties or the same party,” Mato said.