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2023 Election: A Hope against voter’s apathy to a New Nigeria

With confidence, we are of the position that the current vibes of the 2023 election is sending a strong signal that a new Nigeria of engaged and active citizenry is about to be born.

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It is evident that democracy remains the world’s most acknowledged system of government. The thrust of democracy is citizens’ involvement and active participation in civic and political issues. Hence, it could be rightly said that citizen’s involvement in their governance and decision-making at all levels is a prerequisite tool to sustain a democracy. But then, the big question is: is this obtainable in Nigeria?

Nigeria’s elections have been characterized by voter apathy since its return to electoral democracy in 1999. A small percentage of the voting population actually vote, which is an affront to the idea of ‘majority rule’ which is one of the basic tenets of democracy. It follows that instead of majority rule, there is ‘minority rule’ in Nigeria because in a population of almost 200 million there were 82.3 million registered voters as collated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and only 28.6 million voted in the 2019 elections. A mere 35% of the registered voters voted in the past election!

Seun Akinyemi analyzed that in 2019 elections, the voter apathy situation becomes direr when you consider the numbers that voted for the top two presidential candidates – Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar. Of the 28.6 million that voted, President Muhammadu Buhari of APC, the declared winner got 15,191,847 votes to beat his closest rival, Atiku Abubakar of PDP who polled 11,262,978 votes. As percentages of the registered voters, Buhari and Atiku were elected by a paltry 18.5% and 13.7% of the total registered voters.

President Buhari was declared the winner because he polled majority of the votes. But does that really represent the opinion of the majority in the country? Do 15 million votes represent the opinion of the majority of the registered voters?

In fact, for Akinyemi, the 2019 presidential elections recorded the lowest voters’ turnout since 1999 with just 35.66% of registered voters determining the outcome of the elections. In simple terms, it means those that failed to vote tacitly transferred their voting rights to the few that voted and empowered them to make elective decision on their behalf.

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It is clear that factors engendering Voter’s apathy in Nigeria includes:

  • Corrupt governance: The manner and mode politics and governance is being practiced in Nigeria discourages people from participating in the electoral process. Governance in Nigeria is characterised by deceit and unfulfilled promises.

  • Religious Affiliations: Religion hinders a significant portion of Nigerians from contributing to democratic governance. Some religious denominations are apolitical based on what they believe the bible teaches. They do not lobby, vote for political parties or candidates, run for government office or participate in any action to change government.

  • Political Violence: The thuggery, chaotic and violent situations that characterize some polling units and collation centers in Nigeria has created fear and distrust among Nigerians. And, this has led most to neglect their civic duties and responsibilities. During the 2019 elections, political thugs and soldiers were allegedly involved in the disruption of electoral process at the polling units and collation centers. According to local and foreign observers, more than 25 people were killed in the Presidential and National Assembly elections which held on February 23, 2019.
  • Lack of trust in the election management body, INEC. In most cases, it is impossible for politicians to rig election without the assistance of INEC officials. This gave some citizens the notion that even when they vote, their votes do not count. Winners and losers of elections have been determined by some political bigwigs and INEC officials before the contest, voters only go to the polls to waste their time.

It goes to say that Citizens’ participation in electoral process is a necessary for democratic sustenance. But, the conduct of electoral processes and governance in Nigeria do not inspire confidence.

Incidentally, as we approach the threshold of 2023 elections, Nigeria has added more than 10 million new voters to its election register, most of them youths, ahead of a presidential vote next February. This is very encouraging. Voters in Nigeria will pick a new president to succeed Muhammadu Buhari, who cannot run after serving the two terms allowed by the constitution. Governors, as well as members of the Senate and House of Representatives, will also be elected.

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said a year-long exercise had registered 10.49 million new voters, with 84 percent of these aged 34 and below. In the last election in 2019, there were 84 million registered voters, INEC figures showed. Participation in Nigerian elections is typically low, but political analysts say the country’s economic woes, seen in double-digit inflation, as well as rising insecurity may push more people to vote, especially young people.

The main presidential contest is between ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu, a former Lagos state governor and main opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar, who was vice president between 1999-2007. But Peter Obi, a former governor of the southeastern state of Anambra and Abubakar’s running mate in the 2019 elections, has excited a large number of youths after joining a smaller opposition party, and could possibly pull up a miracle in the presidential election 2023.

In the midst of this rising hope against voter’s apathy towards elections in Nigeria, we join our voices with the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) in their just concluded 2nd plenary meeting proceedings to thank God for considerable growth in political consciousness in Nigeria as we recognise that such consciousness needs guidance through political education so that all citizens, in general and young people, in particular, will be able to effectively play their part in political affairs. We call on all our citizens and institutions to work towards responsible political behaviour and informed choices. In consonance with the principles of the Social Teaching of the Church, our people should be made aware of the duty to be both good leaders and followers.

With the CBCN, we, therefore, encourage all politicians to uphold the values of integrity and decency. We strongly condemn as unlawful and sinful all forms of vote selling and buying and advise all politicians and voters to refrain from doing so.

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Bearing in mind that it is not the responsibility of our religious leaders to dictate to political parties the choices of their presidential, vice presidential and other candidates, we advise the citizenry to bear in mind the implications of these choices while electing the next set of leaders.

Therefore, we call on all our faithful, laity and clergy alike, to come out en masse to vote for people of unassailable integrity, who have the good character, capacity and track record to lead our nation out of the present socio-political and economic doldrums, irrespective of party, religious and ethnic affiliations. It is through the right political choices that our current situation can be ameliorated.

With confidence, we are of the position that the current vibes of the 2023 election is sending a strong signal that a new Nigeria of engaged and active citizenry is about to be born.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Choice Flame Newspaper is geared towards blazing the trail in modern journalism, committed to smart, truth-centered, in-depth and objective reporting on the Church and society through quality contents that empower and elevate the human spirit. It is the publication of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu with the aim to dispel darkness.
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Admin Administrator
The Choice Flame Newspaper is geared towards blazing the trail in modern journalism, committed to smart, truth-centered, in-depth and objective reporting on the Church and society through quality contents that empower and elevate the human spirit. It is the publication of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu with the aim to dispel darkness.

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