Polithinks — The Ballot on My Mind: My Motivation to Vote
This article seeks to understand what is uppermost in the mind of the average voter as they go out to vote for Nigeria’s next president in a few days.
●22nd February 2023
It is finally here! The long-awaited 2023 presidential election in Nigeria is upon us. In the last eight years, Nigerians have had diverse experiences in terms of leadership performance of the party in power – the All Progressives Congress. Nigerians perceive their performance in several ways – from those that believe the party has done excellently in terms of infrastructure, and security, to those who believe the party has not done enough. On Saturday the 25th of February, Nigerians in their numbers will go out to vote, either to renew the mandate of the APC or go the way of the 2015 presidential elections, when Nigerians voted out the then ruling party – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); a first in the history of Nigeria.
This article seeks to understand what is uppermost in the mind of the average voter as they go out to vote for Nigeria’s next president in a few days. For this purpose, we carried out a small online survey, which had thirty-three (33) respondents. From the responses, we find that over 63 percent said they will vote in the elections, which is more than the combined number of those who are undecided or are certain they will not vote.
Analysis of responses show that the number one priority of voters is insecurity – with over 90 percent of respondents considering it as their major priority. This is not surprising given the many incidences of insecurity that the country experienced in the past and the deaths recorded. For example, in 2021, the country experienced a year-on-year increase in death due to insecurity by 47 percent, with 10,366 people dying. In 2022, the first half of the year witnessed over 200 reported banditry cases, and 1,769 deaths. These unrests have grounded economic activities, especially farming, in certain places, displaced many people and hindered the movement of people and capital around the country. In essence, what the responses show is that almost every other aspect of the Nigerian society is dependent on the level of security, hence, it is top on the priority of the respondents, and potential voters.
The second major priority for the voters is the state of the economy. About 72.7 percent of respondents consider it among their top priority. One of the indicators of the state of the economy is the rate of inflation in that economy. Inflation reduces the purchasing power of the people, and has the capacity to affect overall standard of living. As at January 2023, inflation in Nigeria stood at 21.82 percent, making this the highest inflation rate in the country since September 2005. Another indicator of the health of an economy is the growth rate of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The GDP measures the total market value of goods and services produced within an economy in a given year. A developing economy like Nigeria will likely desire high GDP growth rates so it can meet its development objectives. Importantly too, such countries which are usually characterized by high population growth rate, seek to have its GDP growth rate higher than its population growth rate. In the past eight years, Nigeria experienced two recessions – one in 2016, with the GDP growth rate falling by 1.6 percent, and the other in 2020, with the GDP growth rate declining by 1.8 percent. Nigeria’s best performing GDP growth rate was in 2021 when it grew by 3.6 percent. The poor performance of the GDP growth means that the economy in the recent past has shrunk in size and may have contributed to the level of despondency that some people feel at the moment.
The third most important issue on the mind of voters is national cohesion, for which 54.5 percent say they will vote. Nigeria is home to over 250 ethnic groups, all trying to assert their stake to Nigeria. Such assertions are sometimes usually egged on by politicians for their own selfish gains, thus pitting various groups against each other. This is the reason there are ethnic profiling of killers in certain parts of the country, and the ethnic profiling of certain politicians and political parties.
Closely following the concern for national cohesion is the concern over education, for which 51.5 percent of voters are bothered. In 2022, the country suffered one of the longest strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) – from February to October. This strike affected millions of young people in various public universities, and lasted as long as it did due to the little attention paid to education in the country. Besides higher education, Nigeria has as much as 20 million children who are out of school – one of the highest in the world.
These are the burning issues for voters as they go to the polls on Saturday. As voting begins, it remains to be seen if voters believe the APC will help improve the security situation, the economy, national cohesion and education, or ask a new party to lead the nation into recovery in these areas.