Nigeria in Numbers

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During the 2011 Nigerian elections a number of academics, Nigeria watchers and others discussed the likely outcome of the polls and then dissected the results in a mammoth email trail that lasted for the best part of a month. Here, Olly Owen reproduces some of the debate in order to consider how useful past results are when predicting the outcome of elections in Africa.

In Nigerian elections, the 36 state Gubernatorial races can offer a broader view than the often foregone conclusion of the Presidential election. This time around, amid lots of emailed speculation about regional trends, new party alignments, and the impact of electoral reforms, Nic Cheeseman predicted that, based on established precedent in other countries “When an incumbent does run, they win over 85% of the time, and typically secure over 60% of the vote”. As someone who has – both in academia and previous career in country risk analysis – found lots of reasons to question the value of comparative quantative analysis, this kept niggling at me. I always argue for the greater value of basing predicted outcomes on particular historical knowledge of the locations, social forces and political structures involved. So while I was on the train, just out of curiosity I checked the Governorship results against Nic’s assertion, and this is what I found.

The table below collates the 25 states of 36 in which polls took place and results were announced: Despite announced results, Imo State was rerun so I excluded it, as well as nine others which due to court rulings were not due for re-election. 20 states had one-term sitting governors running for re-election, and five states had races where the seats were vacant after Governors had completed the two terms to which they are limited by Nigeria’s constitution.

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