Key takeaways: power of incumbency, APC’s sweep, and IREV’s surprise

Mar 21, 2023|Fadekemi Abiru

The information in this article is based on all publicly available data at the time of writing (06:30 am on March 21st, 2023).

It’s Day 4 of monitoring the 2023 Gubernatorial Elections in Nigeria. Many citizens have returned to their daily routines, but the Stears Situation Room is still collecting data from the two states (Abia and Enugu) that have not declared new governors. We are also waiting on INEC for updates on the two states (Kebbi and Adamawa) whose results have been declared inconclusive and will be re-run.

Elsewhere, the Central Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will meet later today to decide on interest rates to contain Nigeria’s sticky inflation. This would be the first MPC meeting since President-Elect Bola Tinubu won the 2023 Presidential Elections.

The CBN faces two decisions: hold or raise interest rates. If the MPC decides to leave rates unchanged, it would be because the latest inflation data suggests annual inflation barely increased (21.8% to 21.9%) between January and February 2023. Even monthly inflation is declining (1.9% to 1.7% over the same period), suggesting relatively stable prices. On the other hand, the justification for a rate hike would be an attempt to mirror the US Federal Reserve’s hawkish stance as the US Fed Chair attempts to cool inflation in the world’s largest economy.

These economic decisions may seem removed from the ruggedness of Nigeria’s gubernatorial elections. But they matter for a new administration coming into office amidst a fiscal and monetary crisis.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the takeaways from the most recent gubernatorial elections:


1. Power of incumbency

It’s a well-known political fact that incumbents are difficult to unseat. For Nigeria’s governors, this appears to be true. Of the 11 incumbent governors up for re-election, nine have retained their seats.



In Zamfara state, APC’s Bello Mohammed Matawalle (the incumbent) lost to the PDP candidate, who won the majority of LGAs with a 65,750 vote margin. The fate of the last incumbent governor in Adamawa seems uncertain as Governor Fintiri (PDP) maintains a comfortable lead ahead of APC’s Aishatu “Binani” Dahiru.

However, INEC has declared the election results inconclusive after citing the ‘margin of lead’ principle. Essentially, the margin of votes (32,476 votes) between the top two candidates is less than the total votes that have been cancelled (40,988 votes across 44 polling units).



Conversely, most second-term governors who attempted to “retire” to the Senate lost their elections. Ex-governors have become increasingly more likely to run for Senate as their executive tenures end. However, 7 of the 10 governors in this group lost their senatorial bids, and three of them were members of the G5 (an informal group of PDP governors from the 2019 elections). Seyi Makinde is a key exception as he was re-elected Governor-Elect of Oyo state.

These results confirm some political anecdotes: it’s easier for governors to secure a second term than to be elected to the Senate. 


2. Peter Obi and LP’s popularity did not filter down to gubernatorial elections

While the presidential and governorship elections happened three weeks apart, it is important to compare the performance of the political parties across both elections.

One interesting trend that jumps out when you do so is the performance of the APC and LP across the country between the presidential and governorship elections.

To underscore this point, here’s the state of the gubernatorial races so far:



And here’s a map of the presidential race from February 25th:



One clear takeaway is that the electoral shake-up from the Presidential election did not filter down to governorship results. Each major party (LP, APC, and PDP) won 12 states (including the FCT) in the presidential results.

The performance surprised many political analysts, who were unsure about how to predict Nigeria’s first three-horse race since the turn of the century.

Meanwhile, of the 24 declared governorship results in 2023, the APC holds 15 gubernatorial seats, while the PDP and NNPP hold 8 and 1, respectively.

In this cycle, the Labour Party has not won a single gubernatorial election. Put another way, the APC sweeps the governorship races while the other parties trail.

What is also remarkable about the electoral map between presidential and gubernatorial is that the LP/Peter Obi support did not filter down to gubernatorial races.

Political analysts across Nigeria expected that governorship candidates would ride their presidential candidate's coattails to victory, which is playing out heavily for the APC. When you look at the entire country map, you see that the APC gubernatorial candidates are swinging states from the PDP, particularly in Cross Rivers, Sokoto, and Katsina.

On the other hand, it is clear that the LP gubernatorial candidates were not as popular as the Labour Party’s presidential candidate and did not benefit from the "Obidient" movement.

Meanwhile, the PDP has had an even less fortunate experience. In fact, when you bring in the electoral map from the 2019 gubernatorial race, the ‘decimation of the PDP’, as one analyst put it, becomes even clearer.



In 2019, the PDP’s popularity dominated the South East, South-South, and parts of the North East. But as you can see from both the gubernatorial and presidential elections in 2023, that dominance has been chipped away.

This was most likely a consequence of the G5 governors in Rivers (Wike), Benue (Ortom), Abia (Ikpeazu), Enugu (Ugwuanyi), and Oyo (Makinde) states. The real damage to the PDP across the country will become clearer once the election results in Adamawa and Enugu are declared.


3. IREV is playing a bigger role in settling disruptions to the voting process

We have previously mentioned the improvement in IREV uploads during the gubernatorial races. To quickly recap, eighteen hours after polls closed in the gubernatorial elections, about 77% of results were on IREV, compared to only 10% in the morning after the presidential elections. At the close of business yesterday, gubernatorial result uploads on IREV were 94%, the same completion rate as the presidential election.

Yesterday, we also briefly touched on the efficiency of IREV and the role it could play in making the governorship elections less contentious than the presidential elections, which has seen parties head to court.

We saw this play out as results uploaded to IREV have come in handy where collation has been disrupted. As covered in our live blog, INEC resorted to IREV for uploaded results after thugs disrupted collations in the Kudan local government area in Kaduna.

Similarly, after disruptions in the tightly contested Adamawa race, Prof Muhammed Mele, the INEC official in charge of Adamawa state, rejected the manually collated results from the Fufore local government area (LGA) of the state. Instead, results uploaded to IREV were used.

Ultimately, the presence of IREV has meant the elections in disrupted voting areas no longer have to go to a re-run. This is an important win for Nigeria’s democratic process.


Final words

It’s nostalgic to recall the historic buzz in the lead-up to the presidential elections a few weeks ago: citizens poured into polling units in droves; young first-time voters defied the label of ‘social media activists’ and picked up their PVCs, while Nigerians from the diaspora flew in to use their voices. 

Cue gubernatorial elections, and newer, far more divisive dynamics came into play, especially in the heavily monitored Lagos state. Young Nigerians were introduced to the underbelly of Nigerian politics as stories of bigotry, ethnic violence, political gaslighting, and thuggery spread, with pictures and videos in tow.

What had happened was clear—young Nigerians have come face to face with Nigeria’s brand of do-or-die politics. It’s rough to have one’s hope shot down that way.

As the newly elected officials take up their places in a heavily monitored election, the natural question that follows is: what comes next? 

The real answer lies in the actions of those in power. The world is watching, and the pressure is on.

The information in this article is based on all publicly available data at the time of writing (06:30 am on March 21st, 2023).