In the aftermath of the recent governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi states, a concerning trend emerges as citizens’ participation hits a new low. The disheartening reality is underscored by the story of Ebelechukwu Tamar, a student who, like many Nigerians, has lost faith in the electoral system, deeming voting “a waste of time.”
In Bayelsa, Governor Douye Diri secured a second term, but the victory is shadowed by a mere 28% voter turnout, a drastic decline from the 54% recorded in 2019 and a significant drop from the 79% in 2012. Similarly, Imo and Kogi states witnessed lackluster participation, with only 29% and 40% voter turnout, respectively.
The declining trend is not limited to state elections, as data from the recent presidential election paints a dismal picture. With a national turnout of 29%, the 2023 general election marked a historic low, costing the country billions of naira. Nigeria’s electoral body, INEC, had allocated a staggering N305 billion for the 2023 elections.
Various factors contribute to this trend, including voter apathy, economic challenges, and shortcomings in INEC’s preparations. Late deployment of officials and materials to polling units has been identified as a key factor influencing voter turnout.
Yiaga Africa, a monitoring NGO, expressed concern over the continuous decline in election quality, questioning the commitment of democratic institutions and electoral integrity. The group emphasized that the November 11 elections were a missed opportunity to rebuild trust in the electoral process.
President Tinubu, while acknowledging the resilience of democratic institutions, encouraged voters in Imo, Kogi, and Bayelsa. He highlighted that democracy thrives when voters reward competence, transparency, and good governance. However, the pressing issue remains—the need to address the underlying challenges eroding citizens’ confidence and participation in the electoral process.