Apathy and a suspect political equation in 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