The Director-General of the Nigerian Institute for Democratic and Legislative Studies (NILDS), Prof. Abubakar Suleiman, has said that voter apathy in the 2023 general election may be an invitation to a military coup.
He stated this on Wednesday at a event organised by NILDS and National Assembly in collaboration with Westminster Foundation for Democracy with the topic, “A policy Dialogue on Electoral Security and Inclusive Citizen Participation in Nigeria” held in Abuja.
According to him, the voter turnout in the Anambra governorship election was embarrassing and if it should repeat itself in the 2023 general election, it may lead to a coup.
He also lamented the militarisation of elections in Nigeria, saying it tends to scare or deter the electorate.
He said: “Anambra election turnout was embarrassing. In the election, we got less than 25 per cent, which was not a true representation of Nigeria’s democracy. That is very worrisome.
“Perhaps it may not be the true representation of the people. It is not about the numbers but the number of people who cast their votes.
“If what we experience in Anambra repeats itself in 2023, it may invite the military again. God forbid.”
He further stated that another reason for voter apathy is the issue of the political class not respecting the internal democracy of their parties.
According to him, most candidates that emerge at the primaries are not the true candidates of the party members, adding that most of them are forced on the party by godfathers.
He further lamented the practice where the judiciary now determines who becomes the governor or president.
He stated, “some governors today are products of the judiciary. This creates disenchantment on the side of the electorate. Take the case of Zamfara and Imo. The person may not be the one that people want. We must reduce litigations after the election.”
According to him, another reason for voter apathy is the connivance of the security agencies taking Ekiti in 2015 as a case study adding that “we should reduce the involvement of security agencies in an election.
“I was a minister before, we had cases where the federal executive council issue directive to security agencies on what to do in an election.”
On her part, Hon. Aisha Dukku said low voters turnout is caused by voter apathy and insecurity.
According to her, that is why the House of Representatives embarked on the amendment of the electoral law.
“The amendment of the law will bring about the needed security. In the amendment, there is 16 section that deals with violence. Punitive measures have also been taken care of in the new bill. The security agents also have a role to play.
“We have over 30 million people living with disability and losing that huge number is hindering our democracy. Youths are also used by politicians and when they perpetrate violence they can’t be able to cast their votes.
“It’s a gradual process. I must commend INEC. The low percentage of turnout is very disappointing,” she added.
On his part, Adebowale Olorunmola, the country representative of WFD, said the free, fair, and credible election is a major factor in determining the health of democracies.
Unfortunately, he noted that Nigeria had been on the wrong side of scoring for voters turnout.
“In the 2019 presidential election, we recorded 35 percent turnout which was the lowest in West Africa. In Anambra, we recorded less than 10 percent voter turnout. It is a major concern. It is the major element of what we will see in the 2023 election. In Africa, we have countries recording 60 percent voter turnout.
A public affairs analyst, Jide Ojo said insecurity is not a major factor in voter apathy. He listed physiological violence and physical violence as other factors.
According to him, one mode of voting is the major reason for voter apathy.
He also advocated for the democratization of the voting process to include mailing, early voting, and out-of-country voting for journalists and security agencies who are usually disenfranchised on Election Day because of their duties to be able to vote.