by Ayodamola Owoseye,
Less than a quarter of the total number of registered voters actually participated in the Anambra governorship election on Saturday.
According to the Returning Officer of the election, Zana Akpagu, a total of 2,064,134 residents registered as eligible voters for the election with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Of this number, only 457, 511, about 22.16 per cent, actually came out on Election Day to be accredited.
Regardless, not all the 457,511 accredited people actually cast their vote. The INEC figure shows that only 21.74 per cent of the registered voters (448,771) actually cast their votes.
For example, Idemili North local Government Area which has the highest number of registered voters, 178,938, had only 25,254 (14.11 per cent) being accredited.
Already, the Independent People of Biafra, IPOB, has claimed credit for the low voter turnout across the state. The secessionist group in a statement on Saturday said Anambra residents listened to is demand that they boycott the polls.
IPOB is calling for the breakaway of the Igbos from Nigeria to form an independent Biafra. The group has been labelled a terrorist organisation by the Nigerian government.
Beyond the IPOB threat, PREMIUM TIMES observed that many Anambra residents were not able to vote due to discrepancies in the INEC voters register and the failure of many card reader machines. Thousands of votes across the state were cancelled due to these reasons and over-voting in some polling units.
The low turnout of voters in Anambra State has, however, followed a consistent pattern in the state.
Since 1999, governorship elections in the state never witnessed up to 50 per cent of voter turnout, except in the 2007 election which was marred by allegations of massive rigging.
A review of the voters’ turnout figures since 2007 shows a progressive decline.
During the 2010 governorship election, of the 1.84 million registered voters in Anambra, only 302,000, or 16 per cent voters turned out to vote on Election Day.
In 2013, a similar pattern played out, with only 465,891, or 24 per cent of the total 1,770,127 registered voters actually voting.
On Saturday, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, candidate, Oseloka Obaze, expressed disappointment over the low turnout of voters.
“You can explain the situation in the cities that people travelled to the village to vote. But, in the villages there seemed to be a mix up,” he said.
The Director, Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, Idayat Hassan, explained that the low turnout of voters in the state was not something strange, as it followed a pattern in the state.
“There is nothing unusual about it. The low turn-out followed a pattern that is known about elections in the state. It raises critical questions on what democracy means to the people in the state and country and how they judge the system,” she said.
According to the CDD boss, some of these issues include questions of trust in the government by the people.
“There are places where the total number of voters that turned out to vote was 14 per cent out of the total number of registered voters in the local government, which is quite low,” she said. “What should be the target is how to get people to turn out and vote. If nothing changes, then it means the country is still faced with lots of challenges going forward.”
“If Idemili North, one of the most populous local governments in the state, with about 180,000 people, had only 25,000 people, or 14 per cent turn-out, then this tells a story that the appetite of the people for democracy is going lower, and something needs to be done about it.
“It is not just the civil society or media that need to take urgent action, but also the politicians as well. People need to be concerned about the level of governance and the paraphernalia that goes into policy making,” she said.
Besides, she said, the large security presence and the nature of politics may have played a role in the poor turn-out of voters during elections, as some people could have become afraid of violence and political fracas at polling units among contesting political parties.
She also blamed the low turn-out on the threat by IPOB and the unusual security presence in the state in the run up to the elections, same as in 2003, 2010, and 2013.