Since the beginning of 2022 the Nigerian political environment has been charged with politicking and power-play towards the 2023 general elections. National conventions are being held, forms for expression of interest are being purchased and almost all political parties are warming up for their primaries. The stakes appear to be particularly high this time.
Nigerians want to escape bad political circumstances and hope a leader will emerge to rescue the country from insecurity, impunity, lack of accountability and reckless tribal politics. The Nigerian electorate, need a clear and unambiguous agenda in this entire scenario.
As the body of citizens who have satisfied the constitutional provisions and are eligible to cast votes in each successive general elections in the country, the Nigerian electorate is critical to the Nigerian democratic experiment.
Actions and inactions from it largely determine the political future of Nigeria especially after 2023. Past electoral situations have not been impressive, especially in the areas of voters’ registration and voting. Available statistics show that as of March 2019, the electorate population in Nigeria was estimated at 84,004,084, which represents 49.78 per cent of the 200,962,417 estimated population of the country.
But in the last presidential election, only about 35 per cent of the eligible voters participated in the process. This means that a huge proportion of eligible citizens failed to either register to vote or vote. Instead, some opted to be used to perpetrate violence during campaigns, snatch ballot boxes, thumb-print ballot papers and write results which were either announced by returning officers or validated by the courts. In some other cases the electorate opted for ethnicity, religious sentiments, and financial inducements as motivations for voting.
Sometimes they voted but never ensured that their votes counted. As we approach the 2023 general elections, we specially call for a serious self-check on the part of the Nigerian electorate.
They need to register and vote. Failure of eligible citizens to register or vote as represented in the 35 percent of 2019 is unacceptable. In fact, it is disheartening when compared to about 65 percent reported in other countries of West Africa. Where majority of the electorate fail to exercise their franchise, they avail the politicians the opportunity to manipulate the political process. In the general sense there is need for the electorate to re-educate themselves on the meaning and power of their votes in a democracy.
One may understand that the polity is such that many in the electorate either met democracy on the pages of textbooks or the streets of their neighborhood, so, they lack the in-depth understanding of what the democratic system rarely entails. Now is the time for them to be clear that voting is a part of their political obligation, and it is a major determinant of governance.
Their vote is what closes the gap between their political expectations and political realities. It should neither be sold to, nor bought by money and sentiment; but guided by conscience only.
Furthermore, the electorate need to understand that Democracy is an interplay between voters and who they vote for. It is a symbiosis in which the quality of electorate in the system largely determines the quality of elected political office holders, and subsequently the quality of political services available to the people.
Elections determine the present and future situations of a country. These must not be subjected to the vagaries of religions and ethnicity. The Nigerian electorate should choose leaders based on quality and capacity of candidates to deliver political goods to the nation.
They also need to know that to vote is not as important as ensuring that the votes count. For whatever it is worth, they must now imbibe the culture of waiting for elections results and insisting that their votes really count. We consider the role of the government, the press, civil society organisations, the family, political parties, schools, and universities critical in providing the Nigerian electorate with the foregoing political education at this critical time.
We, therefore, call on these groups and individuals to play the agenda-setting role against the 2023 general elections, which is crucial to what will make or mar the Nigerian state in the nearest future.