Did the Votes count? Yiaga Africa Watching the Vote Report on the 2019 Governorship Elections in Bayelsa and Kogi State.

The year 2019 was symbolic for Nigeria as Nigerians celebrated 20 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria heralded by the 2019 general elections. The general elections were conducted amidst high expectations that Nigeria will advance in its efforts to deepen the integrity of the electoral process. Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed as the 2019 general elections failed to meet those expectations. It bruised the trust and confidence of citizens in the electoral process. Reversing this trend will require new incentives that can inspire and drive citizens participation in a context where hope is short in supply. The Bayelsa and Kogi Governorship elections were conducted within this context. Being the first set of off-cycle governorship elections to be conducted after the general election, both states presented an opportunity to redefine the trajectory of elections in Nigeria. The stakes were high as the incumbent Governor in Kogi was seeking to retain his seat while the All Progressives Congress (APC) was gunning to take control of Bayelsa state from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who on its part was determined to retain power. The elections tested the commitment of the State to refrain from undue interference with the electoral process. It was an opportunity for INEC and security agencies to rebuild trust to renew citizens faith in the electoral process. For the political parties, it was an assessment of their commitment to fair electoral competition and electoral integrity. For other election stakeholders especially the voters, the election presented an opportunity to assert their sovereignty through the ballot.