NigeriaDecides2023: Insecurity, cash crunch, unavailability of PVC will increase voters’ apathy among youths and new voters

Ridwan Abdullahi

Ayomide Tella, 23, is one of the youths enthusiastic to participate in the elections on Saturday although she got fed up of her unending visits to the INEC office to collect her PVC but her hope was dashed last Monday getting a response that her card isn’t available yet.

Ibrahim Danjuma, a third year student of University of Ilorin says he has his PVC however it’s unlikely he’ll be voting giving to the issue of insecurity that usually the case in Nigeria elections. 

Sussan Chinedu, a recent graduate says she was all ready to participate in the election until the issue of cash crunch surfaced. Although she’s willing to take the trouble if she’s able to find enough cash to travel to her polling unit as she resides a distance away from her polling unit. 

Of over a hundred registered voters who participated in a poll dedicated to this story, 34.1% are negative in their decision to participate in Saturday elections, while 14.1% are on the fence. Events preceding the elections day will have a bearing of their decision.

On February 25, 93.4 million eligible Nigerians are expected to go to the polls in a three-vote system to elect the country’s new president to succeed the incumbent President Muhammad Buhari, as well as their representatives in the country’s bicameral legislative houses – 109-member House of Representative and 360-member of the Senate. However, historic accounts from the past electoral processes suggest not all the registered voters will make it to the polls.

Voters’ demography for the 2023 elections as released by the country’s electoral empire shows a sizeable distributions of voters strength favouring men at 52% against women at 48%. This is also as eligible voters within the age of 18 and 49 hold a whooping 75.4% electoral decision strength. 

However, in hindsight, the concerns over the past electoral processes have been how voter apathy marred the previous electoral verdicts and the predictive tendency past reality will have in the forthcoming election.

How much can previous voting patterns tell us what to expect on Saturday?

In Nigeria past elections, low turn out of electorates at the polls has often been the case. The recently concluded Osun election also brought to the fore the issue of voters’ apathy just as it was evidenced in the outcome of 2015 and 2019 general elections. Of two million registered voters in Osun state, only 0.8million actually exercised their franchise. 

“I can’t stress myself out for a country where our votes don’t count,” says Tobi Ola, 25, in spite of having his voter’s card. 

Aside Tobi’s allusion of lack of trust in the electoral system, there are many other reasons that dissuade them from exercising their electoral rights ranging from the bottleneck around the processes of voting to the fear of insecurity as mentioned by Ibrahim, also to the systemic faults such as uneasiness involving the movement of a voter’s polling unit in an event of their relocation to another part of the country. 

Electoral history of Nigeria has constantly featured cases of voters’ Apathy. It has been the case since the return of democracy in 1999. In the 2015 general elections, the vote strength that sealed the fate of the country’s populace stood at 44% representing 29.4 million out of 67.4 million voters eligible. The situation became worse in 2019 elections with only 35.6% of the eligible voters cast their ballots with the remnants of the whooping 82.3 million total registered voters stayed back. This was abysmally low with a near 15% difference from the former.

According to the statistics shown by the country’s electoral umpire, 93.5 million Nigerians registered to vote in the 2023 general elections, out of which 93.3 percent have successfully picked up their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) —a card that authorises voters to participate in the voting process at the polling booths on elections day. This shows a clear departure from the previous elections voting patterns of 2015 and 2019 PVC collections percentages. 

More so,  the addition of the 9.5 million new registered voters populated by enthusiastic youths in the country increases the PVCs collection percentage, this is expected to reflect a high degree of interest in voting come Saturday February 25, 2023. However, the question is, will this record high rate of PCVs collections actually signal robust participation? Only the outcome of Saturday elections has the answer.

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