- Says declining voter turnout, evidence of distrust
Chuks Okocha in Abuja
As Nigeria prepares for governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States next month, a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, has warned that Nigerians are losing confidence in the electoral process.
Jega said yesterday at Tell Magazine’s 20 years of democracy conference in Abuja that the loss of confidence had resulted in declining voter turnout since 1999 when Nigeria returned to civil rule.
He also warned that if care was not taken, the prediction of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on the disintegration of Nigeria would come to pass.
He attributed the low turnout of voters during elections to lack of trust, adding that majority of registered voters in the past election cycle did not vote.
According to him, there has been a remarkable trust deficit by the electorate in the electoral process.
The former INEC chairman also said the country had witnessed some reversals in the progress it made during the 2015 elections he conducted.
Jega added that more work needed to be done to protect the integrity of the country’s electoral process before 2023.
He said: “The clearest evidence of this loss of trust and confidence is declining voter turnout in elections since 1999.
“For example, people have argued that in 2015, the generalised insecurity was a result of the activities of Boko Haram and was responsible for the low voter turnout regardless of the improvement in the electoral process.
“The postponement of elections both in 2015 and 2019 may be some explanations as to why there was low voter turnout.
“Perhaps, the clearest evidence of this loss of trust and confidence in the electoral process is the declining voter turnout in elections since 1999.
“The reported data of voter turnout as a percentage of registered voters for elections are 52.3 per cent (1999); 69.1 per cent (2003); 57.3 per cent (2007); 55.4 per cent in 2011; 44 per cent in 2015; and 37 per cent in 2019.
“Although, a lot of improvement has been seen in the past few years – there’s fear of a possible reversal of fortunes in the 2023 elections if moneybags continue to believe in the use of thugs and money to buy votes.”
He also gave reasons for the deployment of security personnel during electoral process, noting it would curb systemic security challenges.
While making a strong case for the safeguarding of the country’s election process, he urged politicians to know that election is a process and not an event.
Jega called for concerted efforts to ensure that the CIA’s prediction of Nigeria’s disintegration did not come to fruition.
“The CIA thought that 2015 was the do-or-die period for Nigeria; that there would not be a Nigeria in the way you know after the 2015 general election – that has come to pass. But I think if we do not take care, a lot of these predictions will come to pass; that is why we need to do quite a lot, much more than we have ever done in order to protect the integrity of the electoral process before 2023,” he stated.
In his remarks, the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, took a swipe at those he called “ethnic jingoists who described winning election as ‘a do-or die affair.”
Oshiomhole said even after such people had realised their personal ambition, they still wanted the country to explode.