Nigeria’s ruling party wins election in key oil state

Yenagoa,
Nigeria – Nigeria’s ruling party on Monday won the key oil-rich state of
Bayelsa, the electoral body said, a sign of President Muhammadu Buhari’s
growing influence in opposition strongholds.

Forty-five candidates had taken
part in the gubernatorial election on Saturday, which was marred by sporadic
violence, including killings, abduction, vote-buying, snatching of voting
materials and voter intimidation.

Bayelsa has been ruled by the
opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP since Nigeria returned to civilian
rule in 1999.

It is a key political
battleground because of the lucrative oil and gas sector that is largely based
in the southern delta region.

David Lyon of Buhari’s All
Progressive Congress (APC won more than twice the number of votes as his
closest rival Douye Diri of the PDP, said the Independent National Electoral
Commission.

In a statement on Monday, the
president congratulated the new governor, but deplored the violence that
characterised the vote.

“Violence during elections
vitiates our commitment to demonstrate to the world and upcoming generation
that we are a people capable of electing leaders in a peaceful and orderly
manner,” he said, urging those unhappy with the results to seek legal
redress, rather than resort to violence.

‘Big boost for APC, Buhari’

Political analysts see the APC’s
victory in an opposition stronghold as a sign of Buhari’s growing influence.

“The victory is a big boost
for APC and Buhari. It’s a measure of acceptance and popularity of the
president and his party in the core oil-rich region of which Bayelsa is a
part,” said Dapo Thomas, a politics and history lecturer at Lagos
university.

“I think it is also a
reflection of the changing voting pattern of the people in the region who want
to be part of the central government headed by Buhari.”

Bayelsa and central Kogi are
among seven states where gubernatorial elections are being held at different
times from the general election due to court rulings. The results of the Kogi
election on Saturday were still awaited.

Regional elections are fiercely
contested in Nigeria, where governors are powerful figures, controlling state
finances and responsible for key areas from education to health.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous
nation with 190 million people, has a long history of electoral violence.

More than 50 people were killed
during the February and March 2019 general election, which returned Buhari to
power.

In 2011, hundreds of people were
killed in post-election violence, mostly in northern Nigeria.