OPINION: Guiding your interest and right to electoral participation


By Ogorchukwu Onyinye

It is the obligation of every citizen of a nation to participate in election through voting. Elections are indeed the surest way for a nation to decide on what it wants or what should be done.

It should be understood that elections are carried out for the people, masses and not for the candidates of governmental positions. It is a means for the people to come together in order to agree on that which benefits the nation and pushes the nation forward.

The outcome of this decision affects the image of the nation as an entity, likewise, every individual associated with that nation.

What is an election?

An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses individual(s) to hold public offices.

This decision-making process is usually supported by voting, which is a formal expression of opinion or choice made by an individual or individuals, especially during an election. 

Suffrage in Nigeria

The right to vote is known as “suffrage.” Election in Nigeria began in 1923 through the Clifford Constitution. However, the groups and colonial authorities which dominated the Northern, Eastern and Western regions (Hausa-Fulani, Igbo, Yoruba people) respectively had different perceptions about suffrage qualifications such as gender, nationality, residency, age, tax and income requirements.

The suffrage qualification later became standardized under the federal constitution of Nigeria in 1960. Only four elections took place from 1966 to 1999 due to several military coups.

Although election was constituted in the year 1923, it was not until 1954 women of the Southern and Eastern regions gained voting rights, and 1979 for women in the Northern region. 

Under the Nigerian constitution of 1979, voting rights or the right to register as a voter was extended to all citizens of Nigeria who reside in Nigeria at the time of voters’ registration.

In 2017, Independent National Election Commission (INEC) declared that physically-challenged persons were allowed to register and cast their votes. In 2014, judgment was granted by a federal high court that prisoners could vote but there has been failure to assign polling units to prisons.

Diaspora voting 

Diaspora voting refers to the right to vote by citizens who reside outside their country of region, for example, immigrants or citizens who legally travel out for a reason or the other.

The inclusion of diaspora in political processes is an important tool to maintain connection between the country and its citizens abroad but unfortunately, little attention has been given to this.

INEC Chairman Professor Yakubu Mahmood has urged the National Assembly to enable diaspora voting by pushing for amendments to the existing laws, one of which is section 77(2) of the electoral act (2010 as amended) which restricts registration and voting to persons residing in Nigeria.

Turning a new leaf

We live in a country where a majority of the society has no interest in elections. This could be due to the feeling that their vote doesn’t matter or won’t count.

Such idea and apathy have proven injurious to the democratic system. Some citizens deem it unnecessary to register for a voter’s card.

Consider, if 50% of the parents or guardians execute such mindset giving about 70% of the next generation the same perspective, their children who would make up 90% of the next population also think the same way and in no distant time, the only people who would be involved in elections would be party members.

This outrageous culture is already becoming a realization in the present day. Who are we and what rights then do we have to call ourselves citizens? Or do we really suppose we continue the massive exodus and travel out to other places?

The burden of a citizen would be lifted when the nation begins to lack people who choose to take a stand for the better. Imagine we all relocate in search of so-called greener land, leaving our home in the hands of greed and corruption. The nation only crumbles further and finally falls.

Regardless of your location, your country of origin would never change, and so we would always be associated with a fallen country. The native name given to you by your fathers would not fade away. Would it not be wickedness to watch everything our fathers suffered for washed away, our traditions, our dialect, our way of living, our own culture, to then adhere to another culture and tradition, to give energy and sacrifices for another man’s land when we could not value the one that was passed down to us. We should have a little faith in ourselves and our votes because without us, there is no country. We should cultivate beneficial habits within ourselves, our families, surroundings, and neighborhood because to not believe in our nation is to not believe in ourselves. 

Let us take part in the elections. Let us set the standard for the generations to come. Let every young adult, 18 and above know the power they wield. Let us vote.

SOURCES: Germin.Org, INECNigeria.Org, The Guardian, Premium Times, Wikipedia.

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