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DATA STORY: Details of Nigerians’ voting pattern in 2023 governorship elections

May 7, 2023

Only four states had a voter turnout above 40 per cent, all of them in Northern Nigeria….

After the presidential election in February, millions of Nigerians went back to the polls on March 18 as Africa’s most populous nation held gubernatorial and state assembly elections. Some 400 candidates contested the governorship seats across 28 states of the federation.

The presidential election in February produced Bola Tinubu of the All Progressive Congress as Nigeria’s next leader. Some of the runners-up of the contest have already submitted petitions to the courts protesting the emergence of Mr Tinubu as the winner of the election.

In March, new governors were elected in 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states. A total of 17 of them were newly elected while 11 incumbent governors ran for their second and final term of four years. Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State is the only governor that lost his reelection bid.

Unlike the presidential election, the governorship elections didn’t record many upsets.

Of the 28 states, the ruling party won in 16 states; the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) retained 10 states while New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and Labour Party respectively won one state each. Meanwhile, before the elections, the ruling APC was in control of 18 out of these 28 states while PDP had 10.

The governing parties lost elections in Kano, Sokoto, Benue, Abia, Plateau, and Zamfara. The PDP lost to the opposition parties in Abia, Benue, and Sokoto while APC lost in Plateau, Zamfara, and Kano.

The Labour Party gained in Abia while Rabiu Kwankwaso’s NNPP took Kano, Northern Nigeria’s centre of commerce.

Analysts believe that the strength of the third force’s performance was mirrored even better in the presidential elections when parties other than APC and PDP won elections in 13 states.


Voter turnout refers to the percentage of people who take part in an election relative to the total number of eligible voters. More broadly, it compares the total number of people of voting age in a country and those who cast their ballot during a particular election.

PREMIUM TIMES reported that only 24.9 million voters, about 29 per cent of the registered voters, turned out for the 25 February 2023 elections. Over 93 million voters were registered to vote and 87 million voters were eligible having collected their voter’s card.

Data from the election management body, INEC, shows that voter turnout was slightly higher during the governorship election with 31 per cent participation across the 28 states. However, the participation was still abysmal — with 3 out of 10 people who registered and collected voting cards casting their ballots.

The eligible voting population in the 28 states was 71.5 million but only 22.3 million people cast their votes.

INEC data shows that Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, and Rivers states had the highest number of registered voters ahead of the 2023 election; however, none of these states were among the top 5 states with the highest voter turnout.

In all the 28 states that participated in the governorship election, less than half of the eligible population turned out to vote. Only four states had a voter turnout above 40 per cent, all of them in Northern Nigeria. Jigawa State in the north-west had a turnout of 45 per cent, Adamawa State in the north-east had a 43 per cent turnout, followed by Sokoto State in the north-west with 41 per cent. Plateau State had 40 per cent, the highest in the north-central region.

In what is a reflection of higher voter turnout in Northern Nigeria compared to the South, for the governorship elections, the next set of states that had the highest turnout were also all Northern states.

The trio of Gombe, Katsina, and Kebbi states each recorded a 39 per cent turnout while the duo of Bauchi and Zamfara states put up a 38 per cent turnout.









This was followed by Kaduna – 37 per cent, Nasarawa – 36 per cent, Taraba – 36 per cent, Kano – 35 per cent and Niger – 33 per cent.

Oyo State, where incumbent governor Seyi Makinde sought re-election had the highest turnout in Southern Nigeria. Oyo, in the south-west, had a turnout of 31 per cent. It was followed by Akwa Ibom – 30 per cent, Kwara – 30 per cent and Yobe – 30 per cent.

Election participation in Benue and Ogun states was 29 per cent each.

On the other hand, Cross River had 27 per cent followed by Borno at 26 per cent; Delta at 22 per cent; and Ebonyi, at 22 per cent. Ebonyi, where a new governor was elected to replace outgoing governor David Umahi, thus had the highest turnout in the south-east.

Lagos, Nigeria’s most cosmopolitan city and the state with the highest number of eligible voters, continued its trend of low voter turnout. It recorded an abysmal 19 per cent voter turnout amid reports of violence and voter suppression. The state was just a little above southeastern Abia and Enugu states where turnout was 18 per cent.

Participation was worse in Rivers State with only 15 per cent of people turning out to vote in the oil-rich state amid reports of violence.























States with the highest number of votes cast

Three northwestern states of Kano, Kaduna, and Katsina recorded the highest number of votes in the governorship election. Kano, the state with the second-highest number of registered voters in Nigeria, recorded the highest number of votes cast with 1.97 million total votes on March 18.

This was followed by Kaduna where 1.54 million people voted. Neighbouring Katsina state was behind with 1.3 million votes cast.

The total votes cast in Lagos was 1.1 million; in Plateau, 1.08 million; in Bauchi, 1.03 million; and 1.02 million in Jigawa.

Only the seven aforementioned states recorded more than one million votes in March 18 governorship elections. Except for Lagos, all the seven states are in the northern part of the country.

Total votes in Niger was 873,020; Oyo, 866,427; Sokoto, 864,419; Adamawa. 853,819; Kebbi, 770,169; and Benue, 768,602.

States with the least number of votes cast

At the bottom of the list is Zamfara with 697,479 total votes cast; Delta with 671,737; Ogun – 663,968 votes, Nasarawa – 660,805; Akwa Ibom – 657,959, Taraba – 651,371, Borno – 636,246, and Gombe – 604,583.

Other states with the least number of votes are Rivers with 483,934; Kwara with 463,740; Cross River with 451,933; Yobe with 435,794; Abia with 358,808; Enugu with 353,463; and Ebonyi with 342,554.

States won by parties across regions

Elections were held across the seven states of Nigeria’s northwest and the APC won in five states (Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Jigawa, and Sokoto State).

The ruling party was defeated in Kano by a strong third force, Abba Yusuf of the NNPP. Mr Yusuf, who is the godson of Rabiu Kwankwaso, the national leader of the NNPP, scored over one million votes to defeat APC’s Nasiru Gawuna. He was the only governorship candidate across the country that scored over one million votes.

In Zamfara, the APC suffered another defeat when incumbent Governor Bello Matawalle lost to Dauda Lawal, a former Executive Director of First Bank, who defected from the APC to the PDP in May 2022.

While APC lost Kano and Zamfara, the ruling party was able to take over Sokoto, the only PDP-controlled state in the region before the election.

In the north-central, the APC gained in Kwara, Benue, Nasarawa, and Niger states. The main opposition PDP won in Plateau State. APC defeated PDP to take over Benue while PDP unseated APC in the Plateau battle.

Elections are scheduled to be held in Kogi State later this year.

In the northeast, the six states were shared between the APC and the PDP. Five governors were re-elected in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, and Yobe states while a new governor was elected for Taraba State.

The ruling party won in Borno, Gombe, and Yobe states. The main opposition retained Adamawa, Bauchi, and Taraba states.

While APC took Cross River in the South-south, the PDP maintained its dominance in Rivers, Delta, and Akwa Ibom states. Although elections were not held in Bayelsa and Edo states in March, the two states are both controlled by the PDP.

APC retained the governorship in south-east Ebonyi State while Peter Mbah’s victory ensured PDP retained Enugu. Alex Otti clinched Abia – the only state won by Labour Party – by defeating the PDP.

Elsewhere in the south-west, APC’s Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Dapo Abiodun were re-elected for a second term in Lagos and Ogun state respectively. In Oyo, PDP’s Seyi Makinde won by landslide to defeat Teslim Folarin of the APC.

Off-cycle elections were conducted in Ondo, Osun, and Ekiti states before this year’s elections. (Premium Times)

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