Regrettably, Nigeria, sometimes called the “Giant of Africa,” still needs help developing an effective system for electing its leaders. We can only restore the system by tackling insecurity, corruption, voter suppression, and insufficient election infrastructure.

With more than 200 million inhabitants, according to Worldometer, Nigeria, a country in West Africa, is the most populous on the continent. Although the nation has a history of political unpredictability, corruption, and irregular elections, it has attempted to enhance its democratic institutions and organize free and fair elections. 

With a federal structure comprising 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nigeria’s electoral system is based on a presidential system of government. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the nation’s electoral body, must conduct and monitor the federal and state elections. This article will examine the electoral history of Nigeria, the difficulties encountered throughout the voting process, and current advancements in the democracy of the nation.

The Major Types of Nigerian Elections

At various levels of government in Nigeria, there are numerous different elections. They include; Presidential elections (to select the Nigerian president), Governorship elections (to choose the governors of each of Nigeria’s 36 states), National Assembly elections (for the Senate and the House of Representatives, which make up the National Assembly), State Assembly elections (for the State Assembly, which is the state’s legislative branch of government) and election for members of the local government which includes council members and the vice chairman. A simple majority of voters decides who wins the election, which takes place every four years.

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However, as stipulated by the INEC, candidates running for the office of president or governor shall be declared the victor if he receives the most votes cast in the election and not less than 25% of all votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of all States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja (for the office of the president), or Local Government Areas in the state (for the office of the Governor).

Existing Challenges and Controversies 

Politicians pay or give voters goods in return for their support. This practice tarnishes the integrity of the political process and makes it challenging for candidates who need help to afford to buy votes. Many voters face suppression which may come in the form of fraudulent voter registration, voter intimidation, and violence at polling places, particularly in areas with a lot of resistance.

The election system in Nigeria needs to be revised, as it cannot manage the high number of voters. As a result, there are often long lines, holdups, and uncertainty at the polls, making voters feel disenfranchised and apathetic. There are claims of vote rigging, ballot stuffing, and other election fraud, and politicians “allegedly” utilize their positions to profit themselves and their supporters.

Major Political Parties 

Although Nigeria has a multi-party system with about 18 registered political parties that signed a peace and participated in Elections, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are the two main parties pulling the weight of democracy in Nigeria due to their early existence and the caliber of political members. As retrieved from the APC, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), along with a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), merged to form the APC which was founded in February 2013. 

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The APC was authorized by resolutions voted at their conventions and preceding unique identities. The party’s motto, “Change,” is founded on democratic and progressive principles and has shown great electoral strength when pitted against opposing parties since it was first adopted. The party’s emblem, depicting a hand carrying a broom, represents its mission to eradicate corruption, poverty, and insecurity.

The PDP, established in 1998, had a large membership of traditional chiefs, academics, and business owners. It gained popularity with the army, as evidenced by adding about 100 retired senior officers, including Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military ruler of Nigeria (1976–1979). Under his leadership, the PDP ascended to dominance in the nation. The PDP governed Nigeria from 1999 until 2015. It is a center-left party with a substantial support base in the country’s south. While the party’s motto, “Power to the People,” is based on democratic and socialist principles, the umbrella-shaped logo of the party represents a “defense” or a “shield” against all forms of economic distress. 

The Social Democratic Party (SDP), another political party attempting to gain traction in addition to the APC and PDP, exists. The party was founded in 1989 and emphasizes social democracy. It has a sizable following in the southwest of the country. 

Another center-left party with a substantial following in the nation’s south is the Labour Party (LP), founded in 2002 and places social democracy at the core of its ideology. Founded in 2018, the African Democratic Congress (ADC) is a faltering party with significant support in the nation’s southwest. The party’s “Freedom and Unity” motto is based on democratic principles. 

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The New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), founded in 2002 by Boniface Aniebonam, has continued appearing in elections since its existence. Aniebonam assured members of the party and the citizens of a better vision for the country. The Famous Naija recorded a speech where he said, “We are the beautiful bride in the North as it is and we hope to expand in all parts of Nigeria as the best party.”

Voter Participation and Turnout 

The elections in Nigeria are concerning since they demonstrate a continuing fall in voter turnout, despite attempts by politicians and other authorities to promote active participation in elections by citizens by raising awareness and political education.  As revealed by Premium Times, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recorded 84,004,084 registered voters for the 2019 general elections in Nigeria, but only 28,614,190 of them (33.81%) cast ballots. The election turnout in 2015 was 29.4%.

Despite having a sizable population, the nation has needed help increasing voting turnout, particularly among young people. Most citizens, like eligible voters, sit back in their various homes during Election Day with the justification that their votes will not be counted, while others do so for fear of insecurity. 

However, voter education initiatives are required to increase awareness of the value of voting and educate people about the voting process to increase voter turnout in Nigeria. Political parties must interact with young people and solve their issues.
[Conner Tighe edited this article.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.