Rev Fr. Timothy Etsenamhe
In political Science, voter apathy is a lack of interest among voters in the elections of representative democracies. Voter apathy or lack of interest is often cited as a cause of low turnout among eligible voters in jurisdictions where voting is optional and donkey vote where voting is compulsory. Donkey vote usually occur when voters cast the ballot base on the order candidates of the given election appear on the ballot paper. This describes a situation where a prospective voter cast his vote for the first party or person that appears on the ballot paper without bothering about anything other than I am tired of this scorching heat, let me do and leave jare. Voter apathy has led to an increased concerns regarding representative democracies because election results do not encompass the entire population who are eligible to vote. In Nigeria, one could say that voter apathy has been one of the reasons why incompetent people have taken over leadership positions in politics.
Voter apathy could be as a result of some political alienation, a situation whereby voters do not care about an election because they feel estranged from the system or are somehow left out of the political process. When this occurs, those affected feel no nudge to vote. Also, psychological factors can influence voter apathy, the voter’s perception of politics, how the voter sees the political parties, the candidates, discomfort arising from the hustling and bustling around pulling units as in the case of Nigeria, delay in starting elections in some areas, issues of safety et cetera, could encourage self- disenfranchisement. We cannot rule out factors like Voter fatigue, a situation wherein voters are tired to vote because frequent elections or because ofsheer laziness. Besides, ballot fatigue can be responsible for voter apathy. This suggests that many voters exhaust their patience or knowledge as they work their way down the ballot.The farther down the ballot an office is, the fewer the number of votes that will be cast for it. This could account for why some political parties during elections in Nigeria record just a single vote in spite of their numerous supporters. Perhaps it is because they are placed farther down the ballot. Voter apathy is real and could be said to have taken a toll on Nigerian’s nascent democracy.
Nigerian politics takes place within a framework of a federal, presidential, representative democratic republic, hence the electorate plays a pivotal role in deciding those who lead through democratic elections. Nigeria, at the threshold of the end of the Buhari’s government, is few days away to having another General election to usher in a new government, every eligible Nigerian of voting right must shun voter apathy induced by any of the enunciated reasons. Nigeria has gotten a fair share from dysfunctional, incompetent, corrupt and greedy leaders at all levels since her independence, now is the time to undo every process and agents responsible for foisting on this entity mediocre leaders. The electorates must not shun the forthcoming election because it is an opportunity to again decide the Nigerians’ collective continued existence.
Every Nigerian who is of the age to vote must exercise the right to vote enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Independent National Electoral Commission has announced the commencement of collection of Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) to begin from 12 December, 2022 and to end January 22nd, 2023. INEC personnel will be available in all their offices in the Local Government Areas across the nation to attend to voters from 9am- 3pm daily, including Saturdays and Sundays. This concerns voters who are first-time registers, those who transferred their pulling units and those who had one reason or the other to request for a new voter’s card in the past months leading to the coming elections.
This is a clarion call on all eligible voters in Nigeria because the country is on the brink of the grave. As expressed in my last article titled Despondency Vis- à- Vis Christmas, ‘’One reality that stares one in the face today in Nigeria is the air of despondency. The streets of Nigeria are jam-packed with citizens wailing about the harsh economic conditions, general uncertainties and multidimensional poverty that have gripped the once acclaimed giant of Africa. One would only need to step into the streets before one feels the hive of pain and discomfort ordinary Nigerians go through nowadays’’. The only way to change this scenario is to come out and vote and monitor the process of the election. The only legitimate way to change any government or party responsible for the misery of citizens in ademocracy is voting in an election against such a government or party. Choosing not to vote is in itself a vote for the continuity of dysfunctionalism in governance.
It is pertinent therefore to assert that many Nigerians are becoming aware of their right to vote at elections. We cannot but thank the inventors and users of civic technology in the recent years. According to political Scientists, Civic technology seeks to counteract the effects of voter apathy through more modern means, such as social media, applications, and websites. Many startups within the field of civic technology attempt to connect voters to politicians and government, in an attempt to boost voter participation and turnout. Today in Nigeria twitter has become one veritable tool that has encouraged young people in political participation. They get to interact with political leaders by constructive criticism with a little bit of trolling. The Obi-dent, BAtified, ATICulate like their United Kingdom counterpart mySociety movements have been made prominent by hashtags via twitter, Instagram et cetera. The introduction of Bi-modal Voters Accreditation Machine System BIVAS in the forthcoming elections has also incentivized voters, especiallyyoung voters.
After all said and done, the tendency to be disinterested in voting could still be seen in some demography, the wealthy urban dwellers who do every with great panache. This category of Nigerians are the ones accused of not owing a PVC But are the comfort of their homes causing tension on social media. The 2023 election is not an exclusive preserve of some sets of Nigerians, the era when some parts of the country are the deciders of who becomes Nigeria’s president is over. Not even insecurity should scare or deter voters from participating in the coming elections; the illogical sit-at-home practice in the south easterner part of the country should not be considered as apossible cause of voter apathy this time around. Electorates are therefore advised to begin to plan their schedules againstFebruary the 25th 20233, especially those who live in the diaspora who are prepared to come for this election. Nigerians must go out against all odds to choose if Nigeria must work for all or allow her to slip into desuetude.