2023 elections: Hitting rock bottom, finding a way up (1) - Punch Newspapers

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12/3/2021 10:10:00 AM

2023 elections: Hitting rock bottom, finding a way up (1) - Punch Newspapers

The most widely read newspaper in Nigeria

3 December 2021The subject of this article was imposed on me by TASCK Creative Company Limited, who were the organisers of the Ignite Conference 2021, which took place in Lagos State on November 17, 2021. Led by musician/rapper/entertainer, MI Abaga, TASCK has, over the past few years, actively tried to mobilise influential voices in the creative sector to drive activities to promote civic engagement, including campaigns and music tours, to encourage the youth to vote and actively use their voices and platforms for change. According to TASCK, they took the learnings from previous conferences, other interactions and the #EndSars protests in October 2020 and deployed all of these to create the IGNITE platform.

I do not know what informed TASCK to invite me to be the Keynote Speaker at their 2021 IGNITE Conference. However, I accepted the invitation because I admired what they were trying to do, which was to be a “force for good.” In any case, it dovetailed nicely with the work of Anap Foundation, which I founded in 2003, and which has only one declared objective/mission as shown on our website (www.anapfoundation.com); To Promote Good Governance.

I am an economist and an investment banker by training and an entrepreneur by choice and so I understand that it is impossible to separate economics from politics. Indeed, in most countries where the economy is underperforming substantially (including Nigeria), nothing might change significantly for as long as politics continues to be allowed to trump economics. To move the needle significantly in Nigeria, you need more knowledgeable leaders as well as a more discerning electorate. An ignorant and hungry electorate can give politicians a licence to do whatever they want with the economy, provided they pay each voter a little amount of money to secure their votes once every four years. Such an arrangement can go on in perpetuity if the more educated voters get disillusioned and opt out of the electoral process. headtopics.com

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Demography is important. In Nigeria’s case, 53.9% of our population are aged 19 and below, whilst 95.2% of the population are aged 59 and below. A corollary of this proposition is that 4.8% of the population are aged 60 and above. When youth complain that old politicians continue to dominate top political appointments, I remind them that it is for the 95.2% to rise up, organise themselves and kick out the oppressive 4.8%. The good news is that there are even some converts within the 4.8%, who will gladly work with the 95.2% to kick out the old “failed” politicians.

Nobody is going to come from Mars, Jupiter, Australia, the UK, the USA or France to improve Nigeria. That said, I sympathise with our citizens who are seeking greener pastures in Canada and a few other rich countries that will take in a smattering of Nigerians on selective criteria; usually to accelerate the brain drain from Nigeria. The fact however is that, with a population of 200 million (of which at least 100 million are below the poverty line), Nigerians are far too many to be absorbed by the rest of the world. Whether we like it or not, it will remain the responsibility of knowledgeable, skilled and patriotic Nigerians (at home and abroad) to improve the country and the plight of our impoverished citizenry. Shirking that responsibility does not come so easily to some of us who have had Nigeria embedded in our DNA from childhood. I have personally not found that country that I would like to emigrate to – and I have travelled through all of the five major continents as well as Australia.

A very worrying trend in Nigeria is the falling voter turnout which invariably is a measure of voter apathy. Voter turnout as a percentage of total registered voters, climbed from 52.26% in 1999 to 69.08% in 2003, but then it has been dropping ever since; 57.49% in 2007, 53.68% in 2011, 43.65% in 2015 and 34.75% in 2019. Even if we accept that some of the earlier percentages were heavily inflated, the downward trend is real. Anap Foundation has commissioned opinion polls several times across the country since 2010 and those polls also confirm increased voter apathy. We hit rock bottom (so far) in the Anambra governorship elections of November 2021, where the total number of valid votes cast was marginally below 10% of registered voters. Indeed, Professor Charles Soludo won that election by securing only 112,229 votes out of 2,466,638 registered voters i.e. 4.5% of the registered electorate only. Do not misinterpret this to mean that I am unhappy for him. I heartily congratulate him on his important victory, but I am simply stating the facts as regards the very low voter turnout.

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All over the country, it has almost become fashionable for the educated young voter (18+ and above) to brag that he or she has no intention of registering to vote or voting or both. This was my definition of rock bottom at the Ignite Conference.The most popular reasons which educated youths give for opting out are: (1) the votes will not count anyway, and (2) the candidates are uninspiring. I would like to remind these youths that, over 2,000 years ago, Socrates famously said, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” headtopics.com

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