Low voter turnout was witnessed across Nigeria as 28 states conducted their 2023 governorship and state house of assembly elections today, March 18.
Exactly three weeks ago, Nigerians went to the polls to elect their president, senators and House of Representatives members. Out of the total 93.47 million registered voters, only 24.9 million persons, representing 26.72 per cent, voted in the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections.
Of the 36 states, governorship polls will be held in 28, namely Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, and Zamfara.
As for the state legislatures, all 36 states are the home bases of thousands competing for 993 state house of assembly seats.
Following the postponement of the state-level elections from March 11 to 18 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigerians decided to come out again to exercise their franchise but reports from several quarters in the country revealed the number of voters was not as high as that of February 25.
In Bauchi State, a report showed that as of past 10 am, only six voters had cast their votes at Kofar Maigari Usman 024 polling units, and no other voter was in the queue.
The report was the same in Lagos State, which has over 7 million registered voters. According to a report by the Guardian, in some parts of the state, particularly FESTAC, no voter was seen at some polling units as of 8.40 a.m. Meanwhile, polls opened at 8:30 am.
In the South-East, in Abia State’s Amasator Ward 3 polling unit 92, reports also showed that few voters turned out to exercise their civic rights. According to a report, election materials arrived at the polling unit at about 8 am but voting was yet to start because no voter had turned out to vote.
In Rivers State, it was the same report. In Obio-Akpor, low voter turnout was reported. The electorate said they were unhappy with the outcome of the February 25 election, hence the decision to stay away.
At Ward 14 at Onitsha North Local Government Area of Anambra State, there were few voters as of 10 am. Many said they stayed away because of a loss of confidence in INEC.
On social media, citizens at different polling units in different states also shared their experiences with lots of complaints of low voter turnout in their polling units as a result of voter intimidation by thugs from opposition parties. Several reasons have been cited for the poor voter turnout being experienced. A policy analyst, Ayantola Alayande, highlighted some reasons for the low voter turnout in the ongoing election. He pointed out that the postponement of the election by a week dampened the spirits of the electorate. “It would have been a different case if the elections followed the presidential elections straight up,” he said.
He also stated that INEC’s poor performance had altered people’s trust in the electoral system, noting that with a poor perception of INEC’s credibility citizens now doubted that their votes would count.
Ayantola further noted that while the turnout was worrisome, the response in governorship elections had always been this way – low — which could be an issue of perception and buttressed that more focus was paid to presidential elections by the electorate. In addition to these, he pointed out that the issue of voter intimidation and violence reported in the presidential elections and the lead-up to today’s elections, including threats to the lives of certain groups of the electorate, might have resulted in a low turnout of voters.
Enough is Enough (EiE), a civil society organisation, highlighted the issue of voter intimidation as one of the reasons for the poor voter turnout in the guber election.It however encouraged the electorates to come out to exercise their franchise.