Increasing voter apathy and Nigeria’s democracy


It is a general psychological belief that individuals tend to keep repeating things that bring them benefits and help towards reducing their sufferings. In politics too, citizens believe that the essence of participating in the political process of their country is to maximise their benefits through attaining improved living standard. These include security of lives and property, food security, good and affordable health care, employment opportunities, stable electricity and so on.

You do not need statistical data to arrive at the conclusion that, since 1999 when Nigeria returned to democratic system of governance, the sufferings of Nigerians, who have been coming out to vote in search of better life, increase. Consequently, great number of the citizens choose not to be exercising their franchise as it brings no benefit in their life.

Abraham Lincoln’s definition of democracy as a government of the people, by the people and for the people seems to be irrelevant in Nigeria because some of our leaders who held political offices in the past were suspected to be products of inflation of results of elections rather than making the votes to count not. Thus, the emergence of our leaders is not by the will of the people, and, our leaders are considered to be serving themselves rather than the general populace. That is why they strive to get into power by hook or crook.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) reported that during the 1999 general elections, out of 58 million Nigerians that registered to vote only 30 million were able to vote, 42 million out of 61 million registered voters voted in 2003, only 35 million out of 62 million in 2007, 39 million out of 74 million cast their votes in 2011, 29 million out of 67 million in 2015, 29 million out of 82 million in 2019 and, sadly, in the just concluded 2023 presidential and National Assembly elections we witnessed the lowest turnout whereby of all the 93.46 million eligible registered voters, only 24.97 million came out and cast votes.

Though lack of voter education, electoral malpractices and vote buying during primary elections which produced uninspiring candidates in the general elections, rigging during general elections and the activities of political thugs are contributing factors for political absenteeism during elections but the major factor that converts responsible citizens into political absentees is bad governance by poor performing elected officials and political parties.

To response to this signal of “not having feelings” of citizens about political affairs of our dear country is as a result of lack of efforts from the side of our political leaders to improve people’s situation. I see it that the best way to lure people back to the polls is to promote people’s welfare.

Campaigns and sensitisation are less effective these days, only action matters. Take, for example, the issue of vote buying, you can’t convince someone who lives from hand to mouth similarly being denied the opportunity of going to market on election day to get what eat not to collect a bag of milled maize for vote; relief materials matter.

Zaharaddeen Muhammed,

Azare, Bauchi state

[email protected]