2023 Elections: Five states to watch in Nigeria’s gubernatorial polls

A look at some of the marquee states ahead of this Saturday

The 2023 elections in Nigeria aren’t over yet. Just as they did two weeks ago for the presidential and senatorial elections, Nigerians will troop to their polling units on Saturday ( March 11) to vote for their preferred candidates in the elections for Governorship and State House of Assembly seats. Many citizens have expressed frustration at the shortcomings of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and there is a desire for better practices during the forthcoming elections.

Only three states out of the country’s 36, several states won’t hold elections on March 11. Some of those states are Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa, which will instead hold their gubernatorial elections on November 11, due to the tenures of the incumbent governors ending on January 14, 2024 (Imo State), January 26, 2024 (Kogi State) and February 13, 2024 (Bayelsa State) respectively. As the anticipation heats up for this weekend across the country, here are five states whose situations you should keep an eye on.


Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate Peter Obi pulled a massive upset in Lagos State during the Presidential elections, when he polled 573,088 votes over All Progressives Congress (APC)’s candidate Bola Tinubu’s 571,575 votes and People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’s candidate Atiku Abubakar’s 76,290 votes. In recent times, Lagos State has been a stronghold of the APC, and candidates of the party vying for governorship positions have never lost an election in the state since Tinubu became Governor in 1999. 

Obi’s win in the Lagos 2023 Elections cancelled the long-held public opinion that Lagos State is a no-go area for other political parties. His win will serve as an encouragement to the other two major contenders—PDP’s Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran and LP’s Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour—vying for a position against the current Governor, Babjide Sanwo-Olu of APC. Prior to Saturday’s election, Adediran (also known as Jandor) and his running mate Funke Akindele have made clear their intentions to loosen APC’s grip on the state, while Rhodes-Vivor, per social media, appears to be the candidate the youth of the country flock to. 

ABIA STATE Elections

The biggest news from Abia State during presidential/senatorial elections was that the incumbent governor Okezie Ikpeazu (of PDP) lost his senatorial bid to Enyinnaya Abaribe of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Throughout the years, many people have spoken up against the way the state has been governed, and have described it as “leadership failure, god-fatherism and imposition.” During the 2023 election, LP won by a landslide with 116,338 votes over PDP’s 5,713 votes and APC’s 2,164 votes. 

There is the belief that victory is possible for LP, with its candidate Alex Otti backed by the goodwill of Peter Obi. On the other hand, while PDP’s candidate Okechukwu Ahiwe, who enjoys the support of Ikpeazu, has pledged to do “completely new things in the state,” it is left for the citizens to show their belief in his words at the poll. APC candidate, Ikechi Emenike remains in contention while APGA will likely not be in the running after their choice of governorship candidate was nullified by the Court of Appeal in Abuja.

OYO STATE Elections 

Sitting governor Seyi Makinde, who was elected into office in 2019, is running for a second term amid claims that he threw his support behind APC candidate Bola Tinubu—who won the polls in the state with 329,427 votes—during the presidential election. Makinde’s alleged act has caused fracas within his PDP camp, with the APC branch in Oyo State denying claims that Makinde had a hand in Tinubu’s victory and distancing themselves from his re-election bid.

The complications in Makinde’s bid in the 2023 elections could create an advantage for other major contenders such as Teslim Folarin (of APC) and Adebayo Adelabu (of Accord). Although Makinde remains a popular figure in Oyo State, the election on Saturday will prove if his goodwill with the public is still as strong as it is perceived to be.


Although Bola Tinubu was declared the winner of the presidential election polls in Rivers State, the result has been contested by the LP frontman Peter Obi. According to Stears Elections figures, LP won the election in the state with 155,583 votes over APC’s 130,209 votes. This situation adds a twist to the gubernatorial election as LP’s candidate Beatrice Itubo could fancy her chances to cause an upset. 

An intense battle can also ensue between the major contenders Tonye Cole (of APC), Siminalayi Fubara (of PDP) and Magnus Abe (of Social Democratic Party (SDP)). Fubara has the backing of the sitting Governor, Nyesom Wike but Cole and Abe seem to also be able to hold their own weight. 


In 2015, power shifted to APC in Plateau State after it had resided in the hands of PDP since 2004. Both parties are in the running for Saturday’s election with their respective candidates Nentawe Yilwatda Goshwe and Caleb Mutfwang confident about their chances of victory. But from all indications, it won’t be only an APC-PDP battle in the 2023 elections. 

During the presidential election, LP won in the state with 236,618 votes; it was the first time the party knew the taste of success in the state. It has given the party’s candidate Patrick Dakum confidence that he has a good chance of winning and overturning the APC and PDP reigns. There is also the chance for more parties to make their impact felt as the APC and PDP governments have been accused of “a lack of political will, lack of innovation, capacity and competency.”