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Will fluctuating trend in Anambra voter turn-out signpost what will happen in 2023?

Since 1999 till date, Anambra State has had seven gubernatorial elections dominated by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

In comparison of 1999 and 2003 gubernatorial elections, voter registration dropped by 16 percent from 2.22 million in 1999 to 1.9 million in April 2003, while votes cast dropped by 15percent from 1.03 million to about 878 thousand in the same period under review.

Ahead of the 2003 and 2007 gubernatorial elections, Anambrians that registered to vote reduced by 1 percent from 1.86 million to 1.84 million while votes cast increased by 33percent from 878,000 to 1.17 million.

In the case of 2007 and 2010 governorship elections, there was almost no difference in the number of voters registered by INEC for Anambra governorship poll as about 1.84 million registered for both election periods while the total votes cast reduced significantly by 76 percent from 1.17 million in 2007 to 284,000 in 2010.

The data for 2010 and 2013 exercises revealed a 4-percent decrease of registered voters from 1.84 million to 1.78 million ahead of the exercise and on the other hand, people that voted rose by 98 percent from 284,000 in 2010 to over 465,000 in 2013 to be the highest percentage recorded in the history of Anambra State’s governorship election.

Results of Anambra governorship election held in 2017 when placed side by side with that of 2013 showed that registered and eligible voters increased by 22 percent from 1.78 million in 2013 to 2.06 million voters in 2017, The increase, however, failed to reflect on the turn-out of voters which fell by 25 percent from over 465,000 in 2013 to a little above 448,000 in 2017.

Voters registered for Anambra gubernatorial election in 2021 was 14 percent higher with over 2.47 million voters than in 2017 with 2.06 million. Similar to the previous comparison, people that voted were nowhere near a reflection of the people registered. Only 241,523 people showed up to vote in the 2021 election which is 43 percent lower than the 448,711 that voted in 2017 gubernatorial elections.

In an interview with Chekwas Okorie, former chieftain of APGA, he listed two major reasons he believed were responsible for the historic low turnout of voters in the just-concluded 2021 election.

Read also: Of eleventh hour defection and fatal gamble in Anambra

Okorie said: “Two things can be attributed to the low turnout. First, there has been a history of low turn-out not only in Anambra State but in recent times, Nigeria. It has been general apathy because of the lack of trust that people’s vote will count.

“In addition to that is the security situation in Anambra State and in the South-East generally. There was this threat that elections would not hold. Many people for fear of their lives stayed at home to watch. As a matter of fact, I will say that the media, especially the television stations that covered the elections live, helped to really have the type of turnout that we had because some people were at home watching the process going on without hitches so more people began to come out.

“You will notice that people came out much later in the day and that was a result of what they watched on the television. But I know going forward, there will be an improvement in subsequent elections because the method of technology INEC adopted, the BVAS (Biometric Voter Accreditation System) has given the public the confidence that their votes will count.”

Valentine Ozigbo, PDP gubernatorial candidate in the election, during an interview with Channels Television, expressed his view on the reason for the low voter turn-out.

“People are happy, willing, ready and actually they did come out but for logistics issues which could easily have been solved, we found the situation where people came for hours and went back home and some who came out remained on the queue and couldn’t vote because of delay and problems associated with authentication of their identity. I want to urge INEC to take this into consideration especially in the case of other elections remaining,” Ozigbo said.

Observers say that what happened in Anambra was not surprising when considering the loss of confidence in the crop of leaders Nigeria has been churning out.

A political analyst, who craved anonymity, said: “Things have continued to go from bad to worse in terms of elections being conducted by the INEC since 2019. Whether off-season gubernatorial election or the general election. At a point, people just lost interest. In fact, 2019 was the worst election in the history of Nigeria. If there is no serious mass sensitisation and change of attitude on the part of government, particularly the Federal Government, the level of voter apathy in 2023 would be terrible. Nigerians no longer see the need to waste their time to go vote,” the pundit said.

Despite the huge resources going into electoral process in Nigeria, the country is lacking in quality leadership. The process does not throw up individuals that have the interest of the people and of fatherland at heart.

In the last two electoral phases, voter turnout across the country has been lower than 35 percent, according to INEC official figures.

Concerning the effect on forthcoming general elections, Okorie however, expressed the optimism that subsequent elections, starting with the Osun and Ekiti States’ elections and going forward to the general election, would witness an improvement in voter turnout.

He strongly believes that the technology being adopted, which INEC is following up with determination, will attract more voters to participate.

Okorie was also of the opinion that the newly passed amended Electoral Act which is expected to be assented to by the President, containing recommendations such as direct primary election, would also improve the leadership recruitment process in the country, where party members will play significant role in determining who becomes their candidate at elections.

He said: “You will discover that when people actually participate in recruitment through direct primaries, they will want to come out to ensure that people they nominate are elected. What happened in Anambra is another lesson to learn especially with the APC that will go ahead and impose candidates. No matter what figure were assigned at primary elections, it will hardly translate to actual votes because the fact that those numbers were manufactured will expose the real voters.

“Parties are now, based on their experience with APC in Anambra State, persuaded in their own best interest to allow a transparent primary election. Those who have nominated their candidates through a popular contest will come out to make sure that their nominee wins the election. When you add that to those who don’t belong to parties who will now vote because they are more confident of the outcome of the election reflecting their votes, it will increase the level of participation. So, when people are allowed to recruit their own representatives, the beneficiaries of that popularity, the people’s mandate will be compelled to be more accountable and not bow down to the whims and caprices of any godfather.”

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