Why is voter turnout so low in Nigeria? In a nation of over one hundred and eighty million, we should surely expect to see larger figures of people on the electoral register and longer lines at polling stations during the election. Our rates of turnout, however, appears to be progressively worse during elections.
The issue of voters’ turnout is one that comes up in all mature democracies. Even the oldest democracies in the world find themselves lacking with regards to voters’ participation. Of course, every country has its issues underlying poor voters’ turn out to include widespread lack of faith in the political system, difficult logistics, poor public awareness, and the assumption that one vote makes no difference.
In the case of Nigeria, one of the main obstacles to achieving higher statistics has proven to be the failings of the national electoral body – the Independent National Electoral Commission. During the 2015 General Election, INEC failed to deliver the necessary Permanent Voters’ Cards to over twenty million out of a registered sixty-eight point eight million Nigerian citizens.
The phenomenon of low voters’ turnout at elections may also be attributed to low literacy rates and lack of education. Nigeria has an average literacy rate of fifty-nine point six percent, which mirrors the average voter turnout of fifty-one point nine percent, calculated from the last fifteen senatorial, presidential, and other parliamentary elections. With a shocking forty-three point six percent voters’ turnout estimated by INEC as of the last presidential election, it is undebatable that our country lacks the representation characteristic of legitimate democracy.
With a shocking forty-three point six percent voters’ turnout estimated by INEC as of the last presidential election, it is undebatable that our country lacks the representation characteristic of legitimate democracy.
The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance estimates that Nigeria has a voting-age population of over ninety-one million during the 2015 General Elections. Unfortunately, less than twenty-nine point five million of these Nigerians old enough to vote and participate in the 2015 presidential elections actually voted in the election.
It is also worth noting that the number of registered voters as of the 2015 election is over two-thirds of the total eligible population of our country. This means almost a third of the eligible population was not even on the electoral register, to begin with! Clearly, our nation is facing challenges getting sufficient participation at elections.
All things considered, it becomes rather evident that the powerlessness faced by the common Nigerian begins and ends with voters’ turnout at the poll, which strips him of his most basic democratic right. Poor voters’ turnout also suggests that the power duopoly enjoyed by the PDP and the APC is invalid, as majority of the people were denied true popular sovereignty by circumstances far beyond their control.
Funmilayo Adetokunbo A-A, is a Political and International Affairs Analyst, based in Somerset, England, United Kingdom.