Will More Youth Voters Make Any Difference in 2023 Polls?

With over 93.5 million voters registered for the February/March, 2023 general election in the country, the question is will there be an increase in voter turnout especially with the youth constituting the largest voting population? Adedayo Akinwale reports

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last Wednesday revealed that a total number 93,522,272 voters will participate in the forthcoming elections.

Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, while presenting the national register of voters to political parties said of this cumulative figure, 49,054,162 (52.5%) are male while 44,414,846 (47.5%) are female.

While the distribution by age group shows that 37,060,399 (39.65%) are youth between the ages of 18 and 34; 33,413,591 (35.75%) are middle aged persons between the ages of 35 and 49; 17,700,270 (18.94%) are elderly voters between the ages of 50 and 69 while 5,294,748 (5.66%) are senior citizens aged 70 and above.

In terms of occupational distribution, students constitute the largest category with 26,027,481 (27.8%) of all voters, followed by 14,742,554 (15.8%) Farmers/Fishermen and 13,006,939 (13.9%) housewives.

Interestingly, voter distribution per state revealed that Lagos state leads with 7,060,195 registered voters; followed by Kano with 5,921,370; Kaduna 4,335,208; Rivers 3,537,190; Katsina, 3,516,719; Oyo 3,276,675; Delta 3,222,697, Plateau, 2.78 million; Benue,  2.77 million; Bauchi 2.74 million, among others.

The commission further revealed data on disability was not collected for previous registration. However, the cumulative figure of 85,362 persons from the recent CVR indicates that there are 21,150 (24.5%) persons with Albinism; 13,387 (15.7%) with physical impediment and 8,103 (9.5%) are blind.

However, this wasn’t the first time Nigeria has had a huge number of voters. Nigeria had a voter population of 84,004,084 in the 2019 general election. But following the cleaning up of the data from the last Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise held between June 2021 – July 2022, 9,518,188 new voters were added to the previous register resulting in the preliminary register of 93,522,272.

Nevertheless, the percentage of voter turnout in the 2019 election stood at 35.66 % with a total of 84 million registered voters and a turnout of 28.6 million.The Northwest had the highest voter turnout in the 2019 elections which was won by Muhammadu Buhari. For instance,  Kano, Kaduna and Katsina states came first, second and third with a voter turnout of 1.96million; 1.71 million and 1,62 million respectively. Lagos came fourth and was the only Southern state among the states with the highest voter turnout with 1.16 million votes. Jigawa, another Northwestern state comes fifth with a total vote of 1.15million.

As usual, the South had the least voter turnout in the 2019 presidential election. Bayelsa topped the list with a vote of 336,000 votes and Abia comes second with 334,000 votes. Ebonyi, Ekiti and Cross River followed.

According to the data from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (I-IDEA), the rate of voter turnout in the 2019 elections in Nigeria was also the lowest of all recent elections held on the African continent.

The Data compiled by the I-IDEA revealed  that Rwanda in its 2017 presidential election recorded the highest — 98.2 percent. Top 10 countries with the highest voter turnout in their most recent elections are Rwanda – 98.2 percent; Equatorial Guinea — 92.7 percent; Angola — 90.4 percent; Seychelles — 90.1 percent; Guinea Bissau — 89.3 percent; Zimbabwe — 86.8 percent; Sierra Leone — 84.2 percent; Kenya — 79.5 percent; Liberia — 75.2 percent and Burundi —73.4 percent.

The least 10 countries  are Cote d’Ivoire — 52.9 percent, Algeria — 49.4 percent, Mozambique — 48.6 percent, Sudan — 46.4 percent, Sao Tome and Principe — 46.1 percent, Democratic Republic of Congo — 45.4 percent, Mali — 42.7 percent, Egypt — 41.1 percent, Cape Verde — 35.5 percent and Nigeria — 34.8 percent as the last.

Some of the factors that are responsible for low voter turnout are: inadequate voter and civic education, ineffective voter mobilisation, the fear of violence during elections, unfulfilled promises by elected officials and low public trust in state institutions, electoral malpractice, electoral violence, dissatisfaction with the previous or current government and their candidates. elections.

Commenting on the national register of voters, the Editor, Security Digest, Mr Chidi Omeje,  believed there would be an increase in the level of voter turnout in the forthcoming  election compared to the previous elections due to the  level of consciousness among the youths.

According to him, from the demography released by INEC, you could see that the youth demographic is the biggest chunk of would be voters in this coming election.

He said: “This is traceable to the #EndSARS revolution that actually brought out the fire in the youth. The fire here is that awareness, that consciousness, that understanding that they have to be part of nation building. The surest way to be part of nation building is to be part of the democratic process and that process includes exercising that franchise of voting”.

Omeje stressed that the youth are in their numbers, people who previously were not interested in voting  are also fired up  this time around, adding that a bit of that was seen during the Continuous Voter Registration.

He stated: “I’m very optimistic that out of that 93 million voters that INEC released, we could have up to 50-65 per cent turnout, I have that conviction. But this is predicated on the fact that INEC should be ingenious enough to find ways and means to get people to collect their PVCs. I don’t understand this whole thing, it was hellish for people to register and it is becoming more hellish for people to collect their PVCs, I don’t know why they are always making things difficult for Nigerians this way. I believe that there will be massive voter turnout this year, but INEC should help make that possible by releasing PVCs to the people.

“In spite of the pocket of security infractions here and there, we saw in Edo state where there was train station invasion; we saw  kidnappings here and there; we are seeing threats in the South East by the agitators, there are threats but I’m very sure the people’s will, people’s conviction to battle to effect change, to be part of the process that will lead to change in leadership of this country will actually trump every other challenges. Not even security challenge, not even  PVC challenge will dampen morale. The morale is high, we are upbeat, I believe this election will be different from the previous ones in terms of the numbers of voters.”

On his part,  a Legislative Consultant and Public Affairs Commentator, Mr.  Akinloye Oyeniyi, said there would be a large voter turnout with youth constituting the largest voting bloc, and coupled with the dismal performance of the ruling party.

He said: “It is commendable that we are having whooping  93,522,272 as total registered voters as released by the Independent National Electoral Commission. That shows these registered voters are eligible to participate in the forthcoming 2023 general elections.

“There has been questions about whether with the youth constituting the chunk will lead to an increased voter turnout compared to the  2019 general elections when the  turnout was 35%. To these questions,  the answer is yes; and it is not only about the youth constituting the largest bloc but also the dismal performance of the ruling party. The two facts above are what will drive the turnout and the direction of the outcome.”

At the moment, all fingers are crossed as the country approaches another election cycle.

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