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Voters Apathy and its effects on Nigerian society.

According to Iyayi, the third wave of democratization in the 1990’s led to the conduct of elections in many developing nations/countries. To a very large extent, elections and electoral processes shape the face of the bourgeois modern state. Elections provide the medium by which the different interest groups within the bourgeois nation state can take and resolve their claims to power through peaceful means.

Apathy is a term that is often used to describe an individual’s lack of care, lack of concern or nonchalance towards an issue. The act of apathy then manifests itself in a variety of ways. For example, in regard to political participation people often argue that we live in an era wherebycitizens lack the interest or encouragement to take on their civic duty within society and vote. This is known as voter’s apathy; Voters Apathy has been defined as a lack of interest in participating in elections by certain groups of voters.

Although voter’s apathy is an issue that is not nation-bound and that affects various countries nationwide. It is important to take a myopic view and explore it within the context of the nation you are exploring. In relation to Nigeria, a study by Sunday, Agu & Adeline (2013) titled ‘Voters Apathy and Revival of Genuine Political Participation in Nigeria’found that there are 4 causes of voter apathy in Nigeria. The following are a) INEC’s incompetence, especially in regard to organisation at polling units and the process of voting(b) unemployment, (c) the political environment and d) electoral violence. In my humble opinion, I feel that we can add political alienation to that list. Thisrefers to the sense that voters feel like the political system does not work for them and any attempt to influence it will be a fruitless exercise.

For example, one of the popular rhetoric’s that float around is the idea that one’s vote doesn’t count. There is this assumption, (whether accurate or not it is debatable) that the corrupt nature of the political process has led to issues like electoral malpractices.

One side-effect of voter apathy can be low voter turnout on election day if voting is non-compulsory. In countries or areas with compulsory elections, voter apathy may manifest itself in the form of a high proportion of spoilt ballots or ‘donkey’ votes.

The issue of voter’s apathy became a heated topic during the 2019 presidential and gubernatorial election. As we saw the election postponement create a form of voter fatigue as it caused an Anti-climax, amongst those wanting to perform their civic duty. The anticipation was cut short as news of the election postponement came 6hours before polling units opened. This was highly unfortunate for many that had to travel long distances in order to vote.

‘Voter fatigue -The feeling of tiredness or feelings of apathy due to elections occurring too often.’

So, the question is as a nation what steps need to be taken to reduce voter apathy and encourage active political participation.

  • It is important for the general public to have access to information. As we live in the technological age it is important for the political sphere to adapt this to distribute information and encourage participation. This is defined as E-Democracy/Digital Democracy.
  • Education and awareness are key to engage the general public and create an environment where we have more informed voters.
  • But most importantly if we could produce a much more transparent and accountable election process this would attract the average citizen to take up their civic duty.

Overall in a nation that has approx. 200million people and only a voting population of 28 million people it really causes us to question; truly how democratic is our democracy.

By Dolapo (Program Officer for EiE)

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