ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Millions of Nigerians will return to the polls on Saturday as Africa’s most populous nation holds gubernatorial elections amid tensions following last month’s controversial presidential vote.
New governors are being chosen for 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states as the opposition continues to reject President-elect Bola Tinubu’s victory from the West African nation’s ruling party.
On Friday, armed security forces were seen patrolling the streets of states where elections were to be held.
“Ahead of the elections, the security situation across the country appears tense, with reports of violence, kidnappings and killings in several states,” the Situation Room, a coalition of civil society groups, said in a statement.
Observers said the presidential vote was mostly peaceful, but fears of attacks remain in many parts of Nigeria where armed groups often carry out violent killings, such as in the northwest and southeast.
In a security meeting in Nigeria’s capital this week, Nigeria’s National Security Advisor Babagana Monguno said security forces were deployed to all hotspots of violence and officials do not foresee any serious security threats. .
“We must allow everyone to exercise their fundamental rights as citizens of this country. Anyone who wants to undermine this process should please think again,” Monguno said.
Despite being Africa’s largest economy and one of its major oil producers, Nigeria’s development has been stifled by endemic corruption and bad governance, in many cases involving governors. Nigeria’s constitution grants governors enormous powers, but they are immune from any form of prosecution during their four-year term with a two-term limit.
Despite governors’ powers, polls have shown that many in the West African nation lack a high level of interest in governors’ election and performance, a trend analysts say impacts the level of accountability in states.
“Even if we get the right president, everything else is against us: the people in the national assembly, the governors and the structural issues in terms of the constitution,” said Ayisha Osori, director of Open Society Foundations.
Three political parties emerged as frontrunners among the 18 gubernatorial candidates across the 28 states. And although there is a record 87.2 million registered voters, analysts fear a repeat of last month’s low presidential voter turnout that saw a 26.7 percent voter turnout, the lowest in state history. Nigeria.
In the capital, Abuja, Kate Imadu, 26, was among many who were unable to vote in the presidential elections despite waiting all day and all night to cast their votes. That made her less interested in traveling to her hometown than she is in Cross River state to vote for the next governor, she said.
“What’s the need to travel when I couldn’t vote here during the presidential election?” Imadu asked, echoing the frustration of many others.
Nigeria’s Independent National Election Commission has vowed to address challenges in last month’s elections, such as delays in voting and uploading results, both believed by opposition parties to lead to disenfranchisement of voters and manipulation of results.
“We need to work harder to overcome the challenges experienced in the last election (as) nothing else will be acceptable to Nigerians,” Mahmood Yakubu, head of the election body, told officials in Abuja.