OFF-CYCLE ELECTIONS IN BAYELSA, IMO AND KOGI: AN EARLY REFERENDUM
The Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi off-cycle elections are scheduled to take place on November 11, 2023. Off-cycle elections are held outside the general elections schedule due to circumstances such as death, resignation, impeachment, annulment of elections by courts, and many more. The forthcoming off-cycle elections in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi, which are scheduled to take place in the aftermath of the 2023 Nigerian general elections, hold a pivotal place in the country’s democratic process. These elections provide a unique opportunity for a swift evaluation of the new government’s performance so far and offer a referendum on how citizens in these states respond to the leadership of the recently elected administration. The outcomes of these contests will significantly impact the political fortunes of the parties involved and lay the foundation for the upcoming general elections in 2027. The 2023 Nigerian general elections marked an important milestone in the country’s democratic journey, characterized by technological advancements, increased civil society participation, and identity-based divisions among candidates and parties. These factors influenced the election results and set the stage for the off-cycle governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi.
As these elections will be held approximately 120 days into the tenure of new administration, they present a unique challenge for both the ruling party, led by President Tinubu, and the opposition, including the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP). The performances of the elected governors, including Diri in Bayelsa, Uzodinma in Imo, and Bello in Kogi, will be closely scrutinized, as these states experienced contentious and litigated general elections at the beginning of the year. Identity politics, zonal considerations, and violence continue to influence the electoral landscape, making it crucial for parties to strategize effectively. The absence of governorship debates and the winner-takes-all approach further complicate the decision-making process for voters, potentially contributing to increased cynicism in Nigerian politics.