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Voter Apathy: Nigerian legislative election witnesses 3% turnout

Nigerians’ aversion for voting during elections is well pronounced, but the challenge saw a new low in the federal legislative by-election that was held in Aba North/Aba South federal constituency of Abia State this weekend.

Only about 3 in 100 registered voters showed up to vote in the election. The electoral umpire, INEC, declared the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chimaobi Ebisike, as the winner having polled 10,592 of the votes.

He beat Mascot Kalu of the All Progressives Congress who had 3,674 votes to second place, and Destiny Nwagwu of the All Progressives Grand Alliance with 1,584 votes to third position.

Civic organization YIAGA Africa tweeted on Monday to say the low turnout for the election is now among the worst three in recent elections in the country. Of the three, two were elections held in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest economic hub.

Data reviewed by this newspaper had shown that elections are costing the country huge outlays, but boycotting of national elections is on the rise in Nigeria, one that is at odds with what obtains among the electorate in neighbouring Ghana.

Lagos leads the pack of states where civic rebellion among voters is high. The state, Nigeria’s richest state with arguably the highest population and a cosmopolitan metropolis, has returned the lowest election turnout in the last two general elections as well as last year’s byelections.

The state again made up for the remaining two elections with the lowest election turnout in recent time, according to the data posted by YIAGA.

The Ifako Ijaiye federal constituency election which was held in December had a voter turnout of 2.9 per cent (with 9,884 people voting out of the 339,864 registered voters).

Likewise, in the state legislative election that was held in September 2017 at Eti-Osa, turnout was 3.42 per cent as only 6,280 votes were recorded out of the 183,551 registered for the election.

Insert “Election result” picture: Elections with the lowest turnout in recent years, according to YIAGA

This is not a rejection of democracy, but a protest against bad governance, a senior programme officer at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Austin Aigbe, recently told this medium.

“Nigerians are generally not excited by the governance outcome in the country,” Mr Aigbe noted at the time.

Meanwhile, observers and citizens alike have told this newspaper that the plunging rate of election turnout is largely due to years of failed electoral promises, electoral violence, distrust in the electoral processes and torturous registration process.

Some believe there is a dearth of core national values and nationalism is ebbing in the heart of most voters, one that has triggered disinterest among Nigerians on national matters.

“The conduct of the political class fueled by our winner takes all system is a disincentive,” the director CDD, Hassan, had told this newspaper.

“We need proportional representation where every party gets something in the end; electoral reforms to unburden INEC, and work more with the citizens.”

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