The rescheduled presidential elections which eventually held on February 23rd had a voter turnout at 35% of total registered voters with Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC). But in the just concluded elections on Saturday, March 9th, it is clear that the credibility of elections in Nigeria is on a decline and the voter turnout is widely reported by eyewitnesses to be the lowest ever in Nigeria’s history.
In fact, people did not only refuse to go to the polls to exercise their patriotic franchise, some also went about their normal businesses as if it was a normal work-day. Youths played football in abandon and shops opened at street corners while a few other citizens pretended it was a holiday for them.
Without much fuss, the dismal voter turnout implies that a larger number of citizens were indoors enjoying a timeout; away from the confusion of the messy elections. Of these crop are people who have either resigned themselves from participating in elections henceforth because they felt their votes did not count in past elections or they had a family member who got deceased as a result of the violence from the presidential elections.
It is only expected that a number of doting fathers and mothers would have warned their children, who are of voting age, to avoid going out at all on March 9th for security reasons. There were a number of unnecessary deaths in the past election on February 23rd and anybody who is particular about self-preservation will choose safety first even before national duty.
The people are not immune to the things which happen around them afterall; they react in diverse ways to how they view other people, institutions or governance. A lot of times, and it has been proven over a long stretch of historical data that a people will begin to get passive in their local politics if they feel their voice is no longer being heard by their leaders. Perhaps it is on the heels of this that some citizens feel it is better to be insulated from the system and resign from participating in anything related to national or local civic responsibilities. Incidentally, those who vote every four years, vote against all odds, comprise a majority of the ones who criticize the government whenever the government errs – but they are still a very tiny minority considering the population of the country.
For others who are lucky enough to travel out, seeking greener pastures is beyond just seeking better economic advantage; it is now because they are tired of being bothered about the string of factors earlier listed. These people would rather they criticize the state of the nation from abroad than stay within it while feeling like they have no voice.
While the citizenry at large claim they hardly get listened to by the leaders at the helm of affairs, Nigerians have thus attained a legendary state of skepticism towards politicians that they now take everything they are being told by these selfish leaders with a pinch of salt. A little minority who are also religious extremists actively stay away from voting, not just from participating in politics itself but also from voting.
The result of the whole confusion outlined above is a recurring dissonance where a very minor crop of a population determines those who govern a larger population of people. The implication of the mixture of political passivity and voter apathy is very damaging to our nascent democracy. In essence, an extremist minority group could easily mobilize a support base from their adherents to vote in one of their own while the vast majority will have to look on in chagrin.
It is high time that the people understood that these tiny pockets of apathy occurring all over a voting demography is to their disadvantage in the long run. The citizenry therefore need to have a self re-awakening/rethink; put all hands on deck, and take their own destiny and future into their hands by ignoring the distractions and becoming more active in the electioneering and governance process.
Featured image source: International Centre for Investigative Reporting