By Charles Kumolu

THE voter apathy that marked the governorship and state assembly elections across Nigeria, represents a sharp contrast to the impressive enthusiasm displayed by voters during the presidential election.

It is a development that has left many wondering what could have suddenly eroded the new-found interest in the electoral process, which many thought had come to stay.

The low turnout was so obvious that every part of the political divide was gripped with fear over what it portended for the exercise and the polity.

The development propelled party chieftains, officials of Independent Electoral Commission, INEC and voters to express concern.

However, some key issues believed to be responsible for the dismal participation include: the effect of President Goodluck Jonathan’s loss, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari’s factor, functionality of the Smart Card Readers (SCRs), fear of violence, poor voter education and INEC factor among others.

Smart card readers

Cross section of voters during the accredidation at unit 011 onigbongbo marryland lagos.During the governorship and national assembly election in lagos.PHOTO BY AKEEM SALAU

In spite of local and international commendations trailing the usage of the SCRs during the presidential poll, many voters still have little or no confidence in the device.

Their indifference towards the SCRs which was introduced to minimise rigging, stemmed from the peculiar technical flaws associated with its usage.

Given that these challenges accounted for the inability of some to vote during the presidential poll, the fear of recurrence was rife during the governorship elections, hence the decision not to participate.

Some, who spoke to Vanguard during the governorship cited the scepticism over SCRs as responsible for their indifference.

After-effect of PDP’s loss

Even though most post-election predictions had foretold Buhari’s triumph over Jonathan, a few who were surprised by the victory are still sulking.

Most affected in this regard are committed members of the PDP and a chunk of the President’s admirers.

This element manifested so much in places where voters had come out en mass during the presidential election.

The bandwagon effect on the PDP, which has been manifesting through the wave of defections to the All Progressives Congress, APC, no doubt seems like a mortal blow and and resulted in the poor enthusiasm displayed on the election day.

Buhari factor

It is not in dispute that Buhari literally became a movement in the days leading to the presidential poll.

It was this popular appeal that saw him shattering all the barriers that had historically nurtured voter’s apathy in the country.

For most analysts, this unprecedented interest in the political process displayed during the presidential poll, was not unconnected to the desire for change which Buhari seems to epitomise.

With the objectives behind the popular enthusiasm achieved, many were not too concerned about the governorship exercise, which they felt mattered less.

Fear of violence

Increasing wave violence across Nigeria which has become the saddest commentary about the general elections, also discouraged voters from voting.

The worst hit are traditional volatile states across the country where pockets of violence were recorded before and during the elections.

Even in states not known for high incidents of electoral violence, local rivalry among party supporters, unarguably, increased the level of apathy.

Reported cases of electoral violence recorded during the governorship elections in Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Plateau, Ebonyi, Benue, Kebbi and Bauchi, speak volumes about how the fear of violence scared people away from the polling units.

The violence in these seven states led to 16 deaths. Five persons were feared killed in Benue; four in Kebbi; two each in Rivers and Lagos; and one each in Plateau, Bauchi and Ebonyi.

Poor voter education

In face of encomiums pouring in for INEC over the credibility of the polls, it is believed that the commission performed poorly in the area of voter education.

Though there is a traditional pre-conceived notion among Nigerians that the outcome of most elections is pre determined, in the reckoning of analysts, voter apathy would have been prevented with a robust voter enlightenment.

INEC had inaugurated the National Inter-Agency Advisory Committee on Voter Education and Publicity (NICVEP) to ensure proper coordination and monitoring of voter education nation wide and to ensure participation of marginalised groups. But opinions are divided on whether or not the committee achieved its objectives.


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