Right and left run neck and neck in Nigeria state polls



Mark Huband in Abidjan and agencies

The Guardian, 16 December 1991

Nigeria’s rival political parties were last night locked in a tight contest for control of the country’s 30 states in governorship elections that are a key stage in the rigorously controlled transition from military to civilian rule.

With 17 states counted, the results last night gave the right-wing National Republican Convention 10 governorships and the left-wing Social Democratic Party seven, on a 30 per cent turnout. Final results are due today.

There was a surprise NRC victory in Lagos state, which was seen as an SDP stronghold. The SDP has taken control in some central and southern states dominated by the Yoruba tribe. But the NRC has performed well in Christian-dominated southern states, as well as in the largely Muslim north.

More than 100 people were arrested for defying a ban on the movement of all but essential vehicles between towns during Saturday’s vote. Liquor sales at the estimated 220,000 polling centres were banned, as well as weapons. The calm contrasted with the mayhem that marred party primaries in September, when hundreds died in clashes.

Also at stake were 1,178 state assembly seats, where victory generally matched the governorship results. The elected civilian state governors, who must receive one-third of votes cast in two-thirds of all local government areas in their states, are due to be sworn in on January 2.

The military government of President Ibrabim Babangida intends to return the country to civilian rule by October 1, 1992. Both political parties were created in October 1989 by the Armed Forces Ruling Council.

The government introduced open ballots, forcing voters to line up in front of a photograph of their chosen candidate, claiming this would prevent ballot rigging. It also disqualified some candidates and detained 13 ex-politicians accused of breaking a decree barring them from politics.


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