• Monday, July 15, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigerian voters go missing as turnout heads for lowest since 1999

Nigerian Voters

Nigerian voters are shrinking when the numbers suggest they should be growing.
Between the last election in 2015 and 2019, 16.58 million Nigerians became eligible to vote for the first time, yet preliminary figures of the number of people who took part in the 2019 elections show a shrinking voter base.

Some 8.34 million Nigerians voted for either of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) or the main contender People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 14 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) where presidential results were declared Monday by the electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

That’s 196,366 people or 2.3 percent less than in 2015, when 8.54 million people turned out in the same states, according to INEC data.

By our metric, the lowest voter turnout was recorded in Lagos State, as Nigeria’s economic hub maintained an ugly record from 2015 as the state with the lowest voter turnout.

In Lagos, total votes for the two main parties shrank by 27.79 percent (395,957 votes) to 1.02 million votes in 2019, from 1.4 million in 2015.

That works out to 18.5 percent of the 5.5 million voters who collected their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) in Lagos. In 2015, 98.64 percent of votes in Lagos went to APC and PDP combined.

South-eastern state, Enugu, recorded the second highest voter apathy.

In Enugu, considered a PDP stronghold, votes to the dominant APC and PDP fell 27.71 percent to 409,976, from 567,160 in 2015.

On the other hand, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) recorded the highest increase in voter turnout, with a 35.7 percent jump. Ekiti State was second with a 25 percent increase.

Meanwhile, Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of the ruling APC has opened up a 640,265 lead over main challenger Atiku Abubakar.

Buhari, 76, won in nine states of the 14 states and FCT where election results were announced Monday.

Atiku, 72, won six states.

As analysts run the numbers of the results trickling in, they say there are strong indications that in 2019, voter turnout may well be lower than the previous election in 2015.
“We estimate that turnout may be around 40 percent (give or take 5-10 percentage points on either side),” said Charles Robertson, the chief economist at Moscow-based investment bank, Renaissance Capital.

 

 

“This looks like it will be down a little on the roughly 44 percent turnout of 2015. But the growing population means total votes should top the 29 million of 2015,” Robertson told BusinessDay.
In 2015, 29.43 million Nigerians voted, representing a 43.65 percent turnout compared to the 67.4 million registered voters.

President Buhari claimed 53.96 percent of the votes (15.4 million) as he beat then incumbent Goodluck Jonathan who had garnered 44.96 percent (12.85 million).

If the voter turnout this year falls below the 2015 figure, then it could be the lowest turnout since the country’s return to democratic rule in 1999.

Only 52.26 percent of eligible voters turned up to vote in 1999, according to INEC data. In 2003, the figure jumped to 69.08 percent. It has declined every election year since then.

In 2007, voter turnout fell to 57.49 percent, while in 2011 and 2015, turnout was lower at 53.68 percent and 43.65 percent, respectively.

Political analysts say cases of voter intimidation and electoral violence played a role in the reduced voter turnout. The sudden postponement of the election at the eleventh hour may have also affected voter participation.

Dozens were victims of yet another round of decade-old bombings by Islamic militants up north in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, while brutal killings reigned down south in the oil-rich Rivers State, as reports of sporadic violence piled across Nigeria amid Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly polls.

People were killed and in milder cases battered and injured, while election materials were set ablaze by armed bandits and voting delayed for hours in some polling centres mainly in southern Nigeria.

Situation Room, a coalition of more than 70 civic groups monitoring the election process, said it observed violent disruptions by political thugs that snatched and burnt ballot boxes and papers. The group reported that 16 people were killed in electoral violence across eight states, six of the people from Rivers State alone.