Rousing the electorate from apathy – Vanguard

Available facts show that the level of apathy among the Nigerian electorate is capable of torpedoing efforts to elect good quality of leadership come 2023. Nigeria’s eligible voters are simply not inspired enough to acquire the civic tools they need to assert their power to choosing their leaders.

To be able to assert the power of the people, eligible voters must register for their Permanent Voter’s Cards, PVCs, collect those cards from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and actually turn out on Election Day to vote. Nigerians are falling far too short of expectations in all three activities.

For instance, when the INEC commenced its Continuous Voter Registration, CVR, exercise about a year ago, its objective was to register at least 20 million new voters. However, as at May 2022, it recorded 9,238,991 online registrations out of which only 5,845,751 had completed the physical aspect of the process. That’s just 29 per cent.

Even at that, it is left to be seen how many of the registrants will come back to pick up their voter’s cards. Many Nigerians are fond of failing to come back for their cards. INEC’s Deputy Director of Voter Education, Mary Nkem, disclosed during the Commission’s PVC Bus Drive programme that up to 20 million unclaimed PVC’s are lying uncollected in INEC’s stores. That is enough to give a credible presidential aspirant a landslide victory, no matter his or her party platform.

The most pathetic metric that depicts the gloomy picture of voter apathy is in voter turnout. Facts from the INEC show that Nigeria has consistently recorded around 35 per cent voter turnout during elections. The International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, disclosed that the 2019 presidential election recorded the lowest turnout of voters (34.75 per cent of over 84 million registered voters), and that Nigeria has the lowest voter turnout in Africa.

The reasons for this prevalent low interest in our elections are not far-fetched. Nigerians have become used to the diet of bad governance. They have not really seen many real dividends in our democracy. The rigging, vote buying and violence in our elections have convinced them that their votes will not count in installing good governance. There is very little faith in the electoral process because people do not see it as being capable of positively affecting their livelihood.

It behoves INEC, political parties and their emerging candidates, the media and democracy advocacy groups to intensify their voter education campaigns to bring more people on board. The emergence of new parties and fresh presidential aspirants are pointers that we have great opportunities for a new beginning in 2003.

This should spur the electorate to register, collect their PVCs and vote in 2023.

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