Nigerian APC Cements Presidential Win at State ElectionsYinka Ibukun, Emele Onu and Tony Tamuno
Nigeria’s All Progressives Congress consolidated its presidential win last month with landslide victories in state elections marked by violence and low turnout.
The APC retained its grip on Lagos, home to Africa’s largest city, which will be governed by the party that holds national power for the first time since the end of military rule in 1999. So far, the APC also won the governorships of 18 other states, with the Peoples Democratic Party claiming seven, including the oil-producing southern states of Delta and Rivers, according to election officials.
“The APC has replaced the PDP in all ramifications,” Hussaini Abdu, Nigeria country director of ActionAid International, a non-profit organization, said by phone from Abuja, the capital. “I foresee the PDP shrinking further and my worry is that in the next year, we may not have the PDP,” he said, referring to possible party defections.
Turnout for voting in 29 of the country’s 36 states was lower than in the presidential poll that ousted President Goodluck Jonathan last month. Three more states have yet to officially announce results.
The APC, which formed as a merger of the main opposition parties in 2013, sought to consolidate on the presidential victory of former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari, by taking more states from the outgoing PDP government.
At stake in the race for governorship is the power to dispense and receive such cash and patronage. States control about 50 percent of government spending in Africa’s largest economy, according to BudgIT, a Lagos-based organization that works to bring transparency to public spending in Nigeria.
Lagos, an APC stronghold and the country’s commercial hub that has been governed by key party leaders Bola Tinubu and Babatunde Fashola, was a keenly contested battleground between the parties.
The PDP, which had won all previous federal elections since the end of army rule, held back resources to the state as Lagos, with a population of about 20 million, had always been governed by the opposition, said Bismarck Rewane, chief executive officer of Lagos-based consultancy Financial Derivatives Co.
After neglect under army dictatorships, Lagos became a byword for crime, poor infrastructure and gridlocked traffic. Since then, the state government has boosted tax collection in a bid to improve services. It’s the smallest state in Nigeria, yet most densely packed, with 70 percent of Lagosians living in slums, according to Amnesty International.
“It’s very good for business, the state will get additional resources from the federal government,” said Rewane. “The people didn’t want to gamble on change. They have had 16 years of efficiently managing the state and bringing in talented people.”
The conduct of the elections is an improvement on the presidential vote with polling stations opening on time in many places, though turnout was lower, Santiago Fisas, the chief observer of the European Union, told reporters in Abuja on Monday.
The Independent National Electoral Commission said there had been 66 violent incidents during the vote, though many states witnessed a relatively peaceful ballot. The EU observers said there was no evidence of systematic fraud, though the election in the states of Rivers and Akwa Ibom where there was violence and protests following the poll “warrant further investigation,” Fisas said.
In Rivers state, seven people were killed in election-related violence, the Situation Room, a coalition of vote monitors, said on its Twitter account.
Most states get the bulk of their money from oil-income distributions from the federal government, which has an annual gross revenue of about $70 billion. Only Lagos generates 75 percent of its own revenue, according to National Bureau of Statistics data.
That revenue has dwindled as Africa’s largest oil producer has suffered from a 50 percent drop in Brent crude prices since a peak last year in June. The naira has fallen 18 percent in the past six months against the dollar.
‘We expect disputes between the APC-dominated federal government and the PDP-led state governments in the south-south over the distribution of oil rents from the south to the rest of the country,’’ Francois Conradie, a political analyst at Paarl, South Africa-based NKC Independent Economists, said in e-mailed comments. “But developments over the past two weeks make us expect that these wrangles will be fought in democratic institutions.”