Nigerians vote to elect governor of key southwest state

2018-09-23 16:19
Nigeria ( iStock)

Nigeria ( iStock)

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Voters in the southwestern Nigerian state of Osun went to the polls on Saturday to elect a new governor amid growing concerns about free and fair voting, six months ahead of a presidential election.

The Osun vote is seen as a litmus test for President Muhammadu Buhari's popularity as he seeks a second term in February.

The 75-year-old retired general who led a military regime in the 1980s was elected in 2015.

Voting opened in most polling booths around 0700 GMT with long queues of voters in Osogbo, the state capital, and other towns and villages across the state.

"You can see that people are already exercising their civic responsibility," electoral official Sodipo Oladapo told AFP in the capital."All those on the queue will be accredited and allowed to vote until 14:00 when the exercise will end," he said.

Turnout was high with long lines still observed in some centres after the stipulated time and officials said those already in queues before 14:00 would vote.

The winner of the election was expected to be announced early on Sunday.

According to the Independent Electoral Commission of Nigeria (INEC), 1.2 million voters were eligible to vote for the candidates of 48 political parties participating in the vote.

Osun is part of Nigeria's southwest which includes the economic capital Lagos and a region crucial to Buhari's re-election as he faces a formidable challenge from an array of high-profile opposition candidates.

The leading candidates jostling for the Osun governor's seat include Gboyega Oyetola of Buhari's All Progressives Congress (APC) and Ademola Adeleke, nicknamed "the dancing senator" because of his penchant for dancing in public.

 'Votes for peanuts' 

Adeleke is the candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He is also an uncle of Nigerian Afropop star Davido, whose real name is David Adedeji, and from a wealthy and political family in Ede, some 20km from the capital.

Though Davido was not around to vote, his father, Adedeji Adeleke and the PDP flagbearer voted in the town.

The winner of the election will replace APC Governor Rauf Aregbesola, who is stepping down after two four-year terms, the legal maximum.

Osun INEC chief Olusegun Agbaje urged voters to come out and avoid any form of financial inducement and warned that "any act of vote-buying will be met with the appropriate sanctions."

He said that offenders risked up to one year in jail.

National deputy police chief Habila Joshak said some 18 500 police, plus equipment, had been deployed to prevent irregularities.

"We have enough men on ground to deal with those willing to sell their votes for peanuts," he warned.

But local and observers who had earlier voiced concerns about inducement, lauded the conduct of the exercise.

"It's being a peaceful environment. There was great enthusiasm among the people as they came out in large numbers," said Clement Nwankwo, the convener of the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room coalition of civic groups.

He said the vote was an improvement over previous ones characterised by allegations of vote-buying, intimidation and logistics problems.

Another observer, Mejuru Lawrence of the Abuja-based Advocacy for Good Leadership group, said the electoral body should be given "a pass mark" for the success of the polls.

"The process has been credible and orderly," he said, adding that INEC and the security agencies should sustain the momentum in next's year general election.

The last gubernatorial vote in the southwestern state of Ekiti in July led to widespread concerns about vote-buying by the leading political parties.

The police said in a statement on Saturday that three suspects had been arrested for an alleged attempt to induce Osun voters.

A police spokesperson said large sums of money were recovered from them and that an investigation was under way.

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