By Rafiu Ajakaye
LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) – In a sign Nigeria's ruling party may be in trouble next February, a crucial governor's poll in southwestern Nigeria has been declared "inconclusive" due to neck-and-neck vote totals for the top two contenders.
The official tally in Osun state showed that the country's opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) polled 254,698 to beat the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) with 254,345 — a knife-edge margin of just 354 votes, the closest election outcome in Nigeria’s recent history.
The PDP fielded a serving senator, Ademola Adeleke, for Saturday's ballot, while the ruling party has Gboyega Oyetola as its candidate.
Joseph Fuwape of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said a run-off was necessary since the margin between the parties fell short of the 3,498 registered voters in polling units where elections had been canceled.
"Unfortunately … it’s not possible to declare anybody as the clear winner of the election on the first ballot,” said Fuwape, vice chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Akure.
The electoral body has fixed the rerun ballot for this Thursday, Sept. 27 in seven polling units of Ife North, Ife South, and Orolu local government areas.
Analysts said the poll's outcome is crucial to the two parties ahead next year's general elections, in which incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari faces a herculean task of retaining his seat.
The PDP, the country's strongest opposition party which analysts say may defeat the APC, has yet to name a candidate.