As the 2019 general elections draws closer, unchecked excesses of followers of political parties in the form of political violence, intimidation and harassment of citizens could lead to voter apathy in the forthcoming elections in Kano state, says Ubale Jakada Kiru, a former member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives.
Kiru, a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was speaking at a town-hall meeting on voter apathy in Nigeria organized by the Organisation for Community Civic Engagement (OCCEN) in collaboration with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) held Thursday in Kano, Nigeria.
“Political violence will lead to voter apathy, politicians from the ruling party [All Progressives Congress] in Kano state are sponsoring thugs who accompany them to campaign rallies and therefore terrorize citizens. The fact that politicians from the ruling party are not being punished for engaging in political violence means voters may be scared away from polling units in 2019,” said Kiru.
Prof Haruna Wakili of the Aminu Kano Centre for Democratic Research and Training of Bayero University, Kano said bad governance could also lead to voter apathy, which he said manifest in different forms including citizens refusing to register and acquire their voter’s card, or registering yet refusing to collect the voter’s or even refusing to turn up at polling units on election day, after registering and collecting their voter’s card.
“Bad governance is responsible for voter apathy, this is because the voter is not sufficiently educated to understand that he can vote out bad leaders, hence will resort to apathy. The masses need political (civic) education by the political parties and INEC,” said Wakili.
In his response, INEC’s resident electoral commissioner in Kano state, Prof Risqua Arabu Shehu acknowledged the fact that INEC had the major responsibility when it comes to voter education adding that the election management body was grateful to civic organisations such as OCCEN for supporting their work.
“The most important element in a democracy is allowing qualified citizens to elect leaders, for someone to be able to elect leaders they must be eligible to vote. The fundamental reason for apathy is people’s lack of confidence in the electoral process. Prior to 2015, there was a lot of irregularities with our election process hence voter apathy; people thought their votes won’t count,” he said.
Prof Shehu said for Nigeria’s democracy to grow, the country’s political class must change; they “need to change their approach to democracy. Politics must not be a ‘do-or-die’ affair and hence voter apathy. The civil society also needs to enlighten the citizens on the need to register and vote during elections.”
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