Editorial: Tackling voters apathy, a challenge for all

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Nigerians went to the polls on February 23, 2019, to elect
the President of the country in a poll that eventually resulted in the
reelection of President Muhammadu Buhari for another term of four years.
Although the election was marred with violence, especially in the southern
parts of the country with records of ballot snatching, voters intimidation,
riot and thuggery in various states in South-West, South-East and the
South-South of the country.

In spite of these pockets of violence and irregularities,
the election experienced a generally peaceful process with attestation from
domestic and foreign observers. The Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and
Advancement (YIAGA AFRICA) through its Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) deployed
as parts of its Watching the Vote Project agreed with the Independent National
Electoral Commission (INEC) that President Muhamadu Buhari garnered a total of
15,191,847 votes ahead of his rival and runner up, Atiku Abubakar who got
11,262,978 votes. Other international observers have also commended the
election as free and fair.

The total number of registered voters eligible to vote in
the 2019 general elections according to the figures released by INEC was
82,344,107, while those who eventually cast their votes were 28,614,190 meaning
34.75% of eligible voters participated in the election. This is worrisome and a
cause for alarm in a nation faced with various challenges and in dare need of
citizens to actively participate in political discuss and trends.

Citizens’ participation in elections since the commencement
of the fourth republic in 1999 has been on a fluctuating trend with voters
turning out massively in 2003 with 69.1% an increase of 16.8% compared to the
turnout in 1999 that recorded 52.3%.

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A polling station during the just concluded Presidential and National Assemblies election

In 2007 voters turnout was 58% with a sharp decrease of
11.1% despite the fact that the election was said to be fraught with massive

The 2011 elections also witnessed a continued sharp drop in
voter turnout with 4.3% drop from the 2007 when only 53.5% of the registered
voters turned out to vote out of 73, 528,040 registered voters. In 2015,
67,422,005 were registered to vote in the election while only 43.65% percent of
these voted. The higher drop of 9.85% the just concluded presidential election
also had a drop of 8.90%.

This trend calls for serious cause for concern among
stakeholders especially leaders of thoughts in the country.

Various reasons may have contributed to this growing voter
apathy in the country. Insecurity is a serious reason. Elections in Nigeria
have always recorded violence and fatal incidences with many Nigerians losing
their lives before, during and after the elections.

Major political parties in the country and politicians
across all political divides are guilty of inciting violence in their quest to
convince electorate. At various political rallies politicians adopt hate
speeches that incite religious and ethnic violence amongst followers.

These and many other security reasons contributed to voter
apathy during general elections in the country.

More also, the insensitivity of the government to the plight
of the common man created a gulf between the government and the people.
Politicians after the election lost touch with the people who elected them into
office only to go back to the same people after four years despite the promise
of heaven and earth during the campaign and canvassing.

For us as a medium this trend must be nipped in the bud.
Election in a democratic setting is a referendum on the government in power and
a show of acceptance level to the opposition. Therefore Nigerians and eligible
voters must not lose touch of this reality.

Voter apathy is the reason politicians, elected and
appointed public officials have recourse to take Nigerians who have appointed
them for granted in dispensing their duties.

Nigerians must rise to their responsibility and take the
nations back from the hands of the politicians who care less for common man but
their pocket personal gains.

It is understandable that the 20 year democratic practice in
the country has come with its peculiar challenges during elections. The country
has experienced massive rigging and violence. While most Nigerians have seen
the process and a done deal by politicians, there is the need of the electorate
to understand that the trend is changing with each election.

Nigerians adopted the use of card readers in 2015 general
elections which to some intended to checkmate rigging associate with elections
in the country. With the understanding that ballot box snatching at any polling
unit means automatic cancelation of the election in that polling units, that politicians
resolved to vote buying is enough indication that the electoral process is
becoming transparent and competitive than it used to be.

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The electorate must help to improve on this progress.

The electoral umpire on its part most strive to ensure that
it generates enough trust from Nigerians. INEC must be truly seen as
independent and unbiased in its conducts. Truly, IMPACT commends INEC for
opening its Situation Room for the Civil Society Organizations’ that monitored
the presidential elections. More should however be done to make electoral
process effective and acceptable to the public.

The recurring logistics issues INEC experience should be
perfected before the next general elections as this put huge financial burden
on the country especially ordinary Nigerians who pay taxes.

Government on its part should also provide a level playing
ground for all political parties and should not resolve to intimidate political
opponents and rivals with securities agencies. The security agencies on their
part must be aware of their constitutional limit during the elections. They
must adhere to the electoral acts and respect human rights to the latter.

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