Analysis: Citizens Participation Remains Low As Nigeria Keeps Spending Billions On Elections

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analysis citizens participation remains low as nigeria keeps spending billions on elections

Ahead of the Bayelsa governorship election, Ebelechukwu Tamar, a 100-level student of Niger Delta University, departed campus for her hometown in Sagbama Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

Ms Tamar, 22, rooted for the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but she did not vote. She said she has lost faith in the electoral system of the country, hence, she considers voting a waste of time."

The result of the election shows that Governor Douye Diri of the PDP defeated the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Timipre Sylva, to win a second term in office. Mr Diri polled 175,196 votes to beat Mr Sylva who came second with 110,108 votes, and Udengs Eradiri of Labour Party who polled just 905 votes.

Because of eligible voters like Ms Tamar and others who shunned the poll, only three out of every 10 people (28 per cent) in the state who registered and collected voting cards cast their ballots, according to official figures from the electoral body, INEC .

The figure is way down from the 54 per cent recorded in the same election in 2019.

In the 2015 election too, of the 654,493 eligible voters in Bayelsa, only 32.8 per cent (or 230,069) turned out to vote.

However, voter turnout in the preceding 2012 governorship poll had been 79 per cent.

This means between the 2012 and 2023 elections, voter turnout dropped sharply from 79 per cent to 28 per cent.

On Saturday, governorship elections were also held in Imo and Kogi states - both won by candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

In Imo, Hope Uzodinma won with 540,308 votes and Samuel Anyanwu of the main opposition PDP came second with 71,503 votes.

In Kogi, APCs Ahmed Ododo got 446,237 votes while Muritala Ajaka of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) came second with 259,052 and PDPs Dino Melaye got 46,362 votes.

However, all three states saw low voter turnout - indicating that many Nigerians have little interest or confidence in the system that produces their leaders.

Since 2011, there has been a steady decline in election participation in Imo State. The turnout was 29 per cent in Saturday's governorship election.

INEC official data shows that out of the 2,419,922 eligible voters, only 701,338 votes were cast.

In 2019, the turnout was 35 per cent, a decline from 45 per cent in 2015 and 46 per cent in 2011.