The Anambra state gubernatorial elections have come and gone. However, the low turnout of voters remains a cause for concern.
As reported by the Independent Electoral Commission’s returning officer for Anambra, Zana Akpagu, “a total of 2,064,134 registered as eligible voters out of which only 448,771 actually cast their votes”. Statistically, only 22% of registered eligible voters ended up casting their votes.
One can only attribute this low turn out to the rising incidence of political and voter apathy which had characterized previous elections in Nigeria as well as the distrust of electorates against politicians.
Furthermore, the socioeconomic and education level can also be linked to an electorate’s propensity to vote. The issue of religious and ethnic bias, as well as perceived electoral violence, also has its role in the decision to vote. Other causes can also come from alleged intimidation from security agents, stress encountered from the malfunctioning of card readers, non-flexibility of the entire electoral system and security threats issued by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
The grave consequences and impact of the aforementioned causes on our democracy cannot be overemphasized. It threatens democracy and weakens the foundations and core principles of electoral processes. Unfortunately, the docility of Nigerian electorates towards political participation is being capitalized on by politicians to manipulate elections to the detriment of the citizens who are so ignorant of the power of their votes.
In other to avert this growing trend of voter apathy, there is a need for an effective voter education to be fused into the existing academic curriculum. Also, Civil Society Organizations and religious institutions need to embark on a large-scale citizen enlightenment campaign before the 2019 General elections.
Flexibility in electoral processes will no doubt improve turn out of electorates. This must reflect on initiating technology and eliminating the common cases of card reader malfunction. Policies that improve flexibility in the area of registration timing, location and procedures should also be adjusted.
Conclusively, issues regarding loss of voter’s card and change of location should be addressed as electorates should be able to vote wherever they find themselves so long they have their profiles on INEC’s database.
Kehinde Richard Fashua (a volunteer with EiE Nigeria) writes from Lagos.
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