By Teslim Olawore
Two weeks after Muhammadu Buhari secured a second term re-election, Nigerian voters returned to the polls on Saturday to elect state governors and state house of assembly members, but civil society observers said turnout was low.
Governors are among the most influential politicians in Nigeria. As the country is Africa’s biggest oil producer and also the largest economy, many of the governors control budgets larger than those of small nations.
With so much at stake, governorship elections in the past have been marred by violence including shootings and the snatching of ballot boxes by armed gangs. Results are expected to begin emerging on Sunday.
Incumbent President Buhari, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), beat Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in last month’s presidential election by 15.2 million votes to 11.3 million, although turnout was just 35.6 percent.
“Voters turnout remains low,” the Situation Room, a monitoring mission comprising over 70 civic groups, said of Saturday’s vote in a statement.
Newsmen also reported that turnout was low in many parts of the country including the capital, Abuja, the northern cities of Kaduna and Yola and in the commercial capital, Lagos.
The army said on Friday, that it has deployed enough of its men to ensure people could vote in an environment free of violence. Civil society observers said 39 people were killed in election-related violence on the day of the presidential poll.
“Indications from the field on the low voter turnout points to concerns from citizens on the military deployment,” said the Situation Room, adding that some people felt intimated.
The Situation Room also said there was widespread voter apathy due to disappointment over the way last month’s vote was conducted.