Rauf Aregbesola of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) has won re-election as governor of Osun State in the south-west. Mr Aregbesola won over 56% of the almost 700,000 votes cast in the election held on Saturday, August 9, while his opponent, Iyiola Omisore of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), won 42%. The Labour Party candidate came a very distant third with just over 1% of the vote. Mr Aregbesola ran for governor in 2007 on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which became part of the APC in 2013. His PDP opponent was initially declared the winner, but the Federal Appeals Court overturned that decision and confirmed Mr Aregbesola as governor in 2010, which is why the state’s gubernatorial race no longer coincides with those of Nigeria’s other states. Turnout in the poll was under half of the state’s registered voters.
There were some incidents before and during polling, but nothing to seriously call into question the legitimacy of the poll’s official outcome. Two officers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were arrested on Friday for stealing ballot papers, and before the vote the APC claimed that it had uncovered a ‘rigging manual’ that it said the PDP wanted to use to steal the vote. The military deployed en masse across the state, ostensibly to secure the process, but APC supporters tended to see the military’s presence as intimidation on the part of the PDP – Mr Aregbesola in his victory speech on Sunday morning used the phrase “criminal intimidation and psychological assault.”
Why do we care? As with the Ekiti governorship race in June (which the PDP won), our main interest in the race relates to what it has to say about the APC and the PDP’s organisation and electoral strength ahead of the 2015 presidential, federal legislative and gubernatorial elections. Mr Aregbesola’s win shows that the APC is still institutionally strong in many parts of the country, and that perceptions of the opposition party as a mostly northern or Muslim organisation are inaccurate. While we still see the PDP as the favourite going into next year’s race, the outcome is far from being a foregone conclusion.
Analyst: François Conradie