VOTERS APATHY AND ELECTORAL PARTICIPATION IN AKWA IBOM STATE: A CASE STUDY OF 2015 AND 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS

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CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background to the Study
The alarming rate at which the citizens become indifferent in the democratic, political and electoral process in the contemporary time is quite worrisome. Although, the decline in the involvement of the citizens in their country’s electoral process is a problem not peculiar to Africa but the world over, with different root causes. Therefore, different mechanisms and instruments could be adopted in proffering solution to the problem. However, there is an increasing global realisation that credible election constitutes a major factor in a democracy, democratisation and good governance.

Elections in democracies play vital role of ensuring representation of popular will and, subsequently, help to secure the legitimacy of the political system and regime. As argued by Molutsi and Singh (2013), elections are considered extremely vital to the processes of democratisation and democratic consolidation because they are the most visible benchmark needed to evaluate citizens’ political participation. Elections are thus clearly the first necessary step towards democracy. However there is global evidence of political apathy, that is, lack of psychological involvement in public affairs, emotional detachment from civic obligations, and abstention from political activities. All these have undermined the nature of politics in African countries. Electoral process being the different phases of activities before, during and after election(s) depict the process of getting political parties and eligible voters registered, review voters’ register, delineate electoral constituencies, resolve electoral disputes, return and swearing-in the elected representatives, among others. Unarguably, there is growing concern to understand the sources, causes and dimensions of political apathy in the electoral process.
Political apathy is thus a common phenomenon in the developing countries, Africa is not an exemption, and Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa is badly hilted. No doubt, electoral politics was introduced into Nigeria politics in 1922 with the enactment of the Clifford Constitution. During this period, wider opportunity were not given to the populace as the majority of the citizens were disenfranchised and since then made apathetic. Although, the issue of political participation of Nigerians became more enhanced in the subsequent constitutions, such include Richards Constitution (1946), Macpherson Constitution (1954) and so on.

Nevertheless, citizen’s participation is still limited based on certain criterions and conditions. The post-independence period since 1960, however, has witnessed a decrease in political participation, thus majority of Nigerians were no doubt politically apathetic due to unconducive political atmosphere and insecure environment. The situation is worrisome and should be a source of concern to the stakeholders including the electoral management body, i.e. Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), civil society groups, political parties’ leaders, intellectuals, political scientists, public affair analysts, politicians, and electorates, and among different level of government in the contemporary time. Nigeria’s electoral process since the reintroduction of the democratic-civilian regime in 1999 has equally been hampered by low level of political participation.

1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
The 2015 and 2019 Akwa Ibom State elections adjudged to be free and fair by both local and international observers, exhibited high presence of voters’ apathy. In the last concluded election, one will see great disparities between the registered voters and voters’ turn-out. In Akwa Ibom State, two million one hundred and nineteen thousand, seven hundred and twenty-seven (2,119,727) voters were registered by the INEC, while only seven hundred and twelve thousand, and thirty-seven (712,037) cast their votes on the election day out of seven hundred and twenty thousand, and sixty-four (720,064) that were accredited, meaning that the election recorded 37.32% voters’ turn out. The one million three hundred and ninety-nine thousand six hundred and sixty-three (1,399,663) (representing 62.68%) were inattentive toward accreditation and voting during the election (see INEC, 2019). The low percentage of voters’ turnout could be attributed to various factors documented in this paper.

Researchers have advanced some factors that could contribute to political/voter apathy to include poor electoral process, broad psychological factors and collective memory of historical and contemporary events, patterns of trust, feelings of efficacy, political engagement and disengagement at individual, group and regional levels (INEC & FES Nigeria, 2011), electoral fraud and violence, lack of trust in government, insecurity, fear of intimidation/harassment, illiteracy, ignorance, and poverty, and most especially government failure to provide social and basic human needs for the masses, among others. Hence, there is empirical evidence that the global trend has been directed toward a decline in citizen’s political participation but there is lack of grounded and sustained scholarly attention to examine political (voter) apathy in Nigeria most especially on the context of its causes and implications for the polity. Therefore, this study set out to examine the implications of political apathy on the Nigeria’s electoral process and her nascent democracy taking into cognisance the 2015 and 2019 Akwa Ibom State Elections as a case study.

1.3 Research Questions
The following research question will guide this study;
How does voter apathy influence electoral participation in Akwa Ibom State during 2015 and 2019 general elections?
How does youth contribute to political violence in the 2015 and 2019 general elections?

1.4 Objectives of the Study
The objectives of the study are to:
examine the effect of voters apathy in Akwa Ibom State during 2015 and 2019 general elections and Nigeria at large;
find out how youths contributed to political violence during the 2015 and 2019 general elections.
1.5 Research Hypotheses
This research will test the understated hypothesis;
Voter’s apathy tends to affect electoral participation in Akwa Ibom State.
Poor electoral processes and violence tends to demoralize the interest of youth in political participation.

1.6 Significance of the Study
This research work will educate citizens on the importance and benefits of exercising their franchise which will result in making good choices of leaders and better governance. And also the government will be enlightened on the need for sensitizing its people and equally ways of motivating them participate more in political activities. The research will contribute to academic knowledge as regards to the importance of political participation in Nigeria. It will compliment and equally improve researches of previous work with the recent innovation on electoral processes.

1.7 Scope and Limitations of the Study
This research is taking a comparative look at voters apathy and electoral participation in Akwa Ibom State during 2015 and 2019 general elections. The study was conducted mainly in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. This was prompted by the vastness of the area where enough sample could be obtained.

The main constraint of the research is divided into the following parts.
a) Finance- as a result of money constraint the researcher had not enough money to carry out the study. The researcher could not visit places where necessary information relevant to the study could be obtained.
b) Attitude of respondents – some of the respondents were unwilling to cooperate with the researcher because they felt, they have nothing to benefit from the study both financially and otherwise.
However, in spite of these limitations, the researcher believes the approach of blending structure questionnaire materials complemented with several research from the internet provided some useful foundation for further empirical research for this study.

1.8 Definition of Key Concepts
Voter: A voter is a person who has a right to participate in an election by an elector. In Nigeria, a voter is a citizen who is 18 years old and above and is duly registered whose names and details are in the register of voter. In effect, anyone who can exercise the right to vote is a voter.

Election: Election is the formal process of selecting a person for public office or of accepting or rejecting a political proposition by voting. It is important to distinguish between the form and the substance of elections. In some cases, electoral forms are present but the substance of an election is missing, as when voters do not have a free and genuine choice between at least two alternatives

Political Participation: Is citizens’ involvement in the acts, events or activities that influence the selection of and/or the actions taken by political representatives. It refers to the various mechanisms through which the public express their political views and, and/or exercise their influence on the political process.

Voter Turnout: Voter turnout is the percentage of eligible voters who cast a ballot in an election. Eligibility varies by country, and the voting-eligible population should not be confused with the total adult population

Voter Apathy: In politics, voter apathy is perceived apathy (lack of caring) among voters in an election. Voter apathy or lack of interest is often cited as a cause of low turnout among eligible voters in jurisdictions where voting is optional and the donkey vote where voting is compulsory.

VOTERS APATHY AND ELECTORAL PARTICIPATION IN AKWA IBOM STATE: A CASE STUDY OF 2015 AND 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS