Election in Nigeria: The Need for Youth Participation

When Tola, a 26-year-old seamstress based in Ota, Ogun state, was asked about who she voted for during Nigeria’s 2023 general elections which were held on Saturday, February 25. She gave a rather provoking light smile which suggested a lack of interest in such a question. So, what does this say about youth participation for the election in Nigeria?

Tola said she hadn’t registered her Permanent Voters Card (PVC) prior to the general election in Nigeria, the exercise which determined who rules the seat of power at every level of the federal government, that is, the presidency and federal legislature (members of the senate and house of representatives of the federation).

Youth Participation for the Election in Nigeria

Tola is one among millions of other young Nigerian youths who show a continuous lack of interest in the talks and matters of politics. Another youth who simply identified as Vic said although he had registered for his PVC, he was yet to receive it prior to the general elections. The situation was different for Ahmed, a bricklayer in his early thirties. “My PVC dey with me but wetin be the point,” said Ahmed, with a noticeable frown. “I no think say my vote go count so I no bother myself go line up for hours.”

One would think the socioeconomic problems which have plagued the country for years are enough drive and motivation for every eligible citizen of the country to head out to the polls for the voting exercise, the opposite is however the case, alas. Official data shows a 27 percent voter turnout rate in Nigeria’s 2023 general elections.

This is a decline from a 35 percent voter turnout rate from the last general elections in 2019 which is also a decline from the 44 percent voter turnout rate from 2015, and the trends go on. An observable trend from this data is that each election year witnesses more registered voters count, however, the number of registered voters does not at any election year translate to the number of people who cast their vote.

Youth Participation for the Election in Nigeria
Image credit: The Punch

When is the Election in Nigeria

On Saturday, March 11, the gubernatorial elections will be held across the nation to elect state governors. The current number of registered voters (93 million) is a 13.4 percent increase from an estimated 82 million total registered voters from the last general elections in 2019. In order to prevent the continuously consistent pattern in voters turnout statistics from reoccurring in coming election years, more Nigerian youths need to undergo proper civic education.

What is an election?

An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses individual(s) to hold public offices. This decision-making process is usually supported by voting, which is a formal expression of opinion or choice made by an individual or individuals, especially during an election.

Suffrage in Nigeria: Election in Nigeria

The right to vote is known as “suffrage.” Elections in Nigeria began in 1923 through the Clifford Constitution. However, the groups and colonial authorities which dominated the Northern, Eastern, and Western regions (Hausa-Fulani, Igbo, Yoruba people) respectively had different perceptions about suffrage qualifications such as gender, nationality, residency, age, tax, and income requirements.

The suffrage qualification later became standardized under the federal constitution of Nigeria in 1960. Only four elections took place from 1966 to 1999 due to several military coups. Although the election was constituted in the year 1923, it was not until 1954 that women of the Southern and Eastern regions gained voting rights, and in 1979 for women in the Northern

Under the Nigerian constitution of 1979, voting rights or the right to register as a voter was extended to all citizens of Nigeria who reside in Nigeria at the time of voters’ registration. In 2017, the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) declared that physically-challenged persons were allowed to register and cast their votes. A federal high court granted judgment in 2014 that prisoners could vote but there has been a failure to assign polling units to prisons.

Diaspora Voting for the Election in Nigeria

Diaspora voting refers to the right to vote by citizens who reside outside their country of the region, for example, immigrants or citizens who legally travel out for one reason or the other. The inclusion of diaspora in political processes is an important tool to maintain the connection between the country and its citizens abroad but unfortunately, little attention has been given to this.

INEC Chairman Professor Yakubu Mahmood has urged the National Assembly to enable diaspora voting by pushing for amendments to the existing laws. One of which is section 77(2) of the electoral act (2010 as amended) which restricts registration and voting to persons residing in Nigeria.

Turning a new leaf

In a country where a majority of society has no interest in elections, more people will suffer the consequences. The feeling that one’s vote doesn’t matter or won’t count has proven fatal and injurious to Nigeria’s democratic system. On top of that, some citizens deem it unnecessary to register for a voter’s card. If this endures, in no distant time, the only people who would be
involved in elections would be party members.

This outrageous culture is already becoming a realization in the present day. Young folks have resorted to emigration. The massive exodus, however, is not a solution to the problem. It is merely a way to avoid the problem. It should be understood that elections are carried out for the people, the masses, and not for the candidates of governmental positions. It is a means for the people to come together in order to agree on that which benefits the nation and pushes the nation forward.

The outcome of this decision affects the nation as an entity, likewise, every individual associated with that nation. Voting is the burden of every citizen. Let us take part in the elections. Let us set the standard for the generations to come. Let every young adult, 18 and above know the power they wield. Let us vote.