With the signing of the Electoral Amendment Bill and the INEC release of the elections timeline, preparation for the 2023 elections have continued to gather momentum among politicians and active Nigerians.
According to the timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the 2023 general elections will commence on February 25, 2023, with voters first casting ballots to elect the country’s president and the new members of the National Assembly.
These elections are crucial in strengthening Nigeria’s democracy and will further bolster the growing demands for a potent democracy since its return to democratic rule in 1999.
While elections constitute a virtue of modern democracy, it’s incomplete without voting. Hence, election and voting are virtuous features of modern democracy.
Eligible voters must be enlightened about their rights and roles in selecting who leads the country every four years. Moreover, their informed and non-prejudicial choices during elections impact the types of leaders elected into offices.
This is simply referred to as voter education. Voter education helps ensure eligible voters participate meaningfully in elections by voting and protecting their votes. It provides a framework for building and sustaining a culture of credible elections in Nigeria through popular participation.
With the increasing decline in the rate of voters’ turnout during elections in Nigeria, voter education remains crucial as the nation prepares for another general election. The quest for credible elections and a strong democratic system will continue to be defeated if low voter turnout persists. Moreover, low voter turnout creates an avenue for electoral malpractice among politicians.
In the same vein, the proportion of invalid votes during elections has increased in recent elections. Invalid votes now constitute a third force in Nigeria’s elections. The 2019 general elections recorded 1,289,607 invalid votes out of 28,614,190 total votes.
Since the transition to a democratic system, Nigeria’s elections are often not without one violence or the other. This is impacted by several factors, including intense political competition, illiteracy, ethnicity, weak political institutions, and religious bigotry.
It is, therefore, necessary that voter education is prioritised across all levels by the government, media and civil society organisations. This will help to remedy the issue of low voter turnout, sensitise people to the proper voting process to avoid nullification of votes, and mitigate the surge of violence during elections. Ultimately, the electorates become the kingmaker in Nigeria and not the political godfather.