A civil society group based in Kwara state, the Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative (BBYDI) has unveiled a civic engagement platform tagged “YVote Naija” to brace citizens’ participation in the electoral process in the country.
The executive director of the group, Abideen Olasupo, said the initiative became imperative due in large part to the poor voting culture among Nigerians, stating that voters’ turnout which has been falling consecutively over the years is alarming.
He, therefore, advanced that events in the past twenty-one years of the nation’s democratic rule have continued to dispirit citizens from exercising their civic responsibilities. Olasupo furthered that he believed the initiative would revive narratives about the country’s election apathy by working closely to review its electoral laws.
“Our democratic journey has been shaped by many events that have tested the fabric of our collective unity and adherence to democratic principles. On the return of the country to democracy in 1999, the ambience was that of hope and optimism for a country with massive untapped potential. 21 years later, the atmosphere is different. Nigerians across the country are lamenting the state of the nation and many have completely lost hope in the country.
“One of our cardinal objectives is to advocate for the review of the electoral law which has been a limiting factor in the progress of our electoral system. The laws are archaic and do not match the realities of a developing country in the 21st century. I believe that a review of these laws is the first step in initiating the change we desire.”
While expressing disappointment in the turnout of voters over the years, a breakdown of the election turnout in 1999 and 2019 shows a drastic contrast in the number of registered voters and votes cast.
In the 1999 election which marked Nigeria return to civil rule, a total number of 57,938,045 million people registered to vote while only a paltry sum of 29,848, 441 million people voted.
In the last general election, 84,004,084 million people registered to vote, only 28,614,190 million people cast their votes. This represents 34.96 per cent of the registered voters.
The declining figure, according to the group, is unconnected to electoral fraud and violence recorded during electioneering period which discourages citizens from turning out en masse to exercise their duties.
“These figures are worrying. They show that despite the increase in our population, voters apathy has also increased. For a country in dire need of quality leadership, citizens must be more involved in the process that selects their leaders.
“We have researched and analysed some of the factors responsible for this voter apathy. We realized violence during elections have been instrumental as citizens have genuine reasons to worry about their safety due to the kind of violence that comes with many elections in the country.
“Our data revealed that in every election in Nigeria since 1999, lives have been lost as a result of violence during elections. Other factors include the lack of trust in the system, massive rigging, corruption, etc. We have identified many of these inhibiting factors and developed a framework to resolve them.”
The group said it proposed to engage young Nigerians across the 774 local governments in the country to mobilise grassroots support for the objectives of the project.
“We have today launched our website and social media platforms to kickstart a process aimed at increasing voter participation in our elections, keeping the populace enlightened about our electoral laws, facilitate the review of our electoral laws, create digital systems to actively get involved, etc.
As I have said earlier, I am still a strong believer in Nigeria. If we all work together with a shared purpose and hope, we can have a Nigeria of our dreams.”