Nigeria’s federal system of government requires the concurrent functioning of the three tiers of government (local, state, and federal) to facilitate substantive change. Regrettably, it has been noted that the Nigerian electorate tends to focus primarily on the presidential elections, neglecting the significance of elections for the governorship, legislative, and local government. With the switch in the order of Nigerian elections in 2011 to prioritise the presidential elections, the peculiarity of down-ballot races, particularly for state-level offices, has only grown more compelling. That has not led, however, to an attendant increase in voter interest.
With the 2023 state races set to occur two weeks after the closest and most keenly fought presidential election in Nigerian history, we sought to project the outcomes of the 28 governorship races utilising insights from the Enough Is Enough Nigeria commissioned national election study conducted in February 2023 by SBM Intelligence, the results of the presidential election and other non-quantitative factors such as governance incumbency (basically which party currently runs the state), established voting patterns, party dominance over the three election cycles and the party composition of the state’s representation in the incoming 10th National Assembly.
Between 16 January and 3 February 2023, SBM Intelligence interviewed 8921 people in the field regarding the presidential, governorship and legislative races. We also interviewed 2,613 people on phone. All interviews took place in all 36 states and Abuja. For our governorship calls, we have opted to use only responses from the field interviews. Given the fact that there are no governorship races in Anambra, Bayelsa, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Kogi, Ondo and Osun, we expected that there would be a drop-off in the number of respondents for the gubernatorial questions, but we did not expect the drop off to be so great. In the 29 states that we asked governorship questions, we had answers in all, but at differing rates. It is only in 11 states, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Borno, Kano, Kebbi, Lagos, Rivers, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara, that we had more than 50% of the respondents showing an interest in responding to the governorship elections. While in Taraba nearly every respondent answered, in Nasarawa, of 216 people polled, only three could be bothered.
When we set out to conduct this survey, we were hopeful that, like in our earlier calls for the federal results, we would be able to get enough data to at least attempt to model compositions for the state Houses of Assembly. In this we were unsuccessful. This disconnect from the lower levels of governance is very unhealthy for democracy in Nigeria. The undue focus on the presidency cannot possibly lead to a good outcome for the country.
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