Elections are important part of democracy. Elections provide opportunity for citizens to vote candidates or parties of their choice to govern or represent them in an organized manner in a democracy.
Democracy is the preferred form of government the world over and Nigeria is a democratic nation though the democratic experience has been interrupted by military rule a few times.
The inception of fourth republic in 1999 ushered in a new opportunity for Nigerians to exercise their democratic rights with the election of new leaders and representative into the executive and legislative arms of government respectively.
Since then, the nation has had general elections in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and the most recently being in 2019.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is the body constitutionally saddled with the responsibility of conducting elections in Nigeria.
Elections are backed by laws as prescribed in the Electoral Law 2010 (as ammended). The law was ammended earlier in 2015 and an attempt was also made in 2019 to ammend it by the 8th legislature.
The official age of voting in Nigeria is 18 years and eligble voters are registered in the Voters Register in the country. Presently, the number of registered voters stands at about 84 million according to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
In the 2019 general elections, the total votes cast was a meagre 28, 614, 190 while in 2015 elections the total number of votes cast stood at 29, 432, 083.
Research shows that about 50 percent of the Nigerian population are eligible to vote but only about eighty percent of this number are registered as voters.
The data of total votes cast shows that only about thirty percent of registered voters came out to vote in both 2015 and 2019 elections.
This is a clear sign of voter apathy in the country and the result is that this can hardly be classified as popular vote; democracy is about popular vote. This clearly makes the outcome of elections in Nigeria unacceptable.
From my findings, many citizens refuse to go out and vote on election days rather preferring to rest at home or even play games. A few however have some excuses; and that is what they are, excuses.
While many suggestions have been made as causes and possible solutions to the malaise, one bold step I suggest is to legislate to make voting compulsory for all Nigerians of voting age from 2023 general elections with penalties imposed on those who fail to do so.
There are a few nations that have such legislation in place. According to Wikipedia, “As of August 2013, 22 countries provide for compulsory voting”.
With this, I strongly call on the national assembly to consider including the legislation for compulsory voting in the ongoing amendment of the electoral law.
This will not only make more Nigerians to register, collect their PVCs and vote on election days, but will also make the outcome of elections more reflective of the true choice of the people.
Emmanuel Etim is SSA to Governor Ayade of Cross River State on Creative and Knowledge Economy.
NOTE:Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Emmanuel Etim, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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