By Adeola Ogunlade
The Head of Department of Political Science, University of Lagos, Professor Derin Ologbenla, has called on the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) to make voter education, a continuous process throughout the period in between elections.
Ologbenla said this at a Webinar on Registration, Voting and Participation in the Democratic Process in Nigeria, organised recently by WE the Women’.
He said that the only way to address voter apathy and ensure popular participation in elections is continuous voter education and enlightenment and transparency in the election by INEC.
He said that citizens’ participation in the electoral process is vital for democratic sustenance and growth and there must be a conscious effort by INEC to continue to educate the populace on their right and responsibility toward a free and credible election at every given point in time.
He noted that there were small improvements in the conduct of the last presidential and National Assembly elections in Nigeria when compared to previous elections.
As he puts it: “Nigeria with a population of over 200 million people, there were 82.1 million registered voters according to INEC, but only 26.6 million voted in the 2019 elections and that was a mere 35.66percent of the registered voters that voted in that elections.”
Ologbenla continued: “the use of card reader machines in the 2019 elections reduced electoral fraud. Despite this improvement, the citizens’ confidence in the electoral process is still very low and a major challenge to our democracy.”
“Government must also undertake voters’ education, pubic enlightenment campaign, enforce law and order throughout the process of electioneering at campaigns in election and post elections”, he said.
He asserted that voters’ apathy is a subset of political apathy; it has become a major problem worldwide.
Earlier in her words, the past Women’s Studies Program Director and past Deputy Chair for Graduate Studies in the Department of Political Science at Brooklyn College, Professor Mojubaolu Okome, highlighted voters’ fatigue, voters’ alienation, electoral violence, rigging, voters’ disillusioned frustration and belief that politics is an exclusive terrain for the wealthy and those favoured by godfathers as reasons for voter apathy.
She called on Nigerians to be prepared to vote because without voting en-mass, there is no possibility of influencing the system, thus, the solution is to vote.
She posited further that the solution to our political system goes beyond voting as citizens must be engaged. They must participate robustly and elected representatives must be responsive to the needs and aspiration of the people.
Also speaking at the event, the convener of We Women, Ambassador Funke, said the event was to encourage Nigerians, especially women, to actively participate in the political system in Nigeria.
She said that we are nonpartisan and all we want to, is to encourage more women to take active participation in governance, adding that women representative in elective and appointive position is less than 35percent in Nigeria and is important we change this trajectory and get more women involved in governance.