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Apathy and a suspect political equation in Lagos

By Akinbiyi Rogers
14 May 2015   |   3:24 am
IT is now an open secret in many informed circles in Lagos State that despite the low voter turnout at the last  governorship  election in the state, the number of voters  at the April 11 elections were  more  than those that voted at the presidential  elections earlier on March 28.
Lagos

Lagos

IT is now an open secret in many informed circles in Lagos State that despite the low voter turnout at the last  governorship  election in the state, the number of voters  at the April 11 elections were  more  than those that voted at the presidential  elections earlier on March 28.

Analysts have wondered aloud in the media and social networks how this could be.

Obviously a phantom invisible hand of  ‘Maradona’ has performed on election figures that made a mess of both the politics  of voters’ participation and apathy that pervaded  the whole nation except Lagos State  at the governorship election won by Akinwunmi Ambode  of the APC . .

We need to remind  ourselves  of events leading to the Lagos State governorship  election which many thought  was won by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s  candidate  Jimi Agbaje who put in a very challenging  and credible campaign  performance  that many also    believed was enough to have clinched the governorship  for him anywhere in Nigeria except in Lagos  as  the election results show.

Before the presidential election, Lagos was one of the many states that INEC disenfranchised voters by simply  not making their permanent voter cards (PVCs) available for use where they voted at the 2011 elections even though the voters card for 2011  elections  had no expiry date and could have been used effectively to vote in the 2015  elections .

Even the state governor waded into the issue spiritedly before  making a retreat  once he got his own card before the postponement  of the election earlier on.

So  with  the twin problems of disenfranchisement and  understandable voter apathy, how come Lagos State  election results showed more voters’participation in the governorship elections  than  the rest of the nation?

The  answer may lie in the threat to the Igbo by the Oba of  Lagos  which  warned  them  to vote for his choice  candidate  Ambode  of the APC  or risk  drowning in the  Lagoon.

The election results showed that three Igbo candidates got elected into the House of Representatives while two  got elected into the State House of Assembly. Could more Igbo have been elected into the state Assembly without the threat and could more Igbo have  come out to vote but for the threat?  These are questions that have to be answered sooner than later.

No answer, however, can ignore the fact that the momentum of political participation nationwide  was higher in the presidential elections nationwide except Lagos. .

Around the world, voters do not all come out to vote  in  elections. That is voter apathy. But it has a trend or history and each election has its own peculiarities  and context.

In some cases, less  than 45 % of voter turnout is deemed agreeable while it may not be acceptable  in other locations or environments.

In  all cases,  however,  it is a recognised  fact  that certain factors make voters lose  interest  in exercising their democratic rights and that is not an offence in any nation or clime.

In Lagos in the last governorship elections, it could well be that the bandwagon effect flowing from the presidential election results made voters to stay indoors  although  many still  trooped out to vote for change by voting for  Jimi  Agbaje  of the PDP.

But  then  that does not excuse the fact  that at the end of voting, the total votes cast  in that election was  higher  than that recorded in  the presidential  election which recorded a massive turnout.

Who  then is fooling who in the figures announced (in Lagos)? Definitely, disenfranchisement and  apathy cannot  add  up  to increased voter  participation in any election including that in Lagos on  April  11.

The  political  equation  is therefore suspect  and a new formula is urgently needed to justify the mysterious figures announced for the elections in which Ambode  won  by defeating  Agbaje  who  was the favourite of Lagosians  in that election.

• Rogers, a public commentator, writes from Lagos