Since it will be unthinkable to speak about Nigeria without making reference to Great Britain, then it would be utterly absurd to talk about voting or voter education without creating a nexus to ancient Greek.
Kudos must be given to Greece as they are the pioneer of Democracy. Democracy which literally means (people’s rule) may take a direct or indirect form. It is a way of ascertaining the people’s choice and it also serves as a panacea for resolving communal differences regarding a particular issue. Democracy revolves around voting and voting has its roots in Greece.
Overtime as world’s population started to ascend, direct form of voting became difficult and almost ineffective which gave rise to the clamor for an expansive style of democracy. For an expansive style democracy to be efficient then voter education is extremely vital and should be made a necessity for the electorates.
Nigeria as an independent Multi nation state had her first brief romance with democracy during the late 70’s. 1979 to 1983 to be precise. After which a 16 years hiatus followed. From 1999 till date Nigeria as a nation has witnessed 21 years of uninterrupted democratic rule.
It is important that any nation under democratic rule as of today must adopt the program of voter education as there is a general consensus that the beauty of democracy lies in voting which brings us to the question what is voter education?
Voter education or better still voter sensitization simply means providing legal citizens of a democratic state who are potential voters with vital information about participating in an election in order to make an informed choice.
Elections cannot be genuinely democratic unless voters understand the differences among the contestants so that they can cast a conscious vote.
Information regarding voter education is often provided by the state through a national electoral commission.
Useful information such as how to register to vote, how to complete ballot papers and the electoral system is to be disseminated by the electoral officials prior to the election to enable a smooth process on election day.
Despite the aforementioned purpose that voter education intends to serve In Nigeria, there are still lingering challenges that the programme is still unable to address such as –
1. Partisanship of electoral workers
electoral officials are to be politically non partisan but the reverse is the case in Nigeria. The focus on them should be about disseminating information on ‘how to vote’ rather than who to vote.
2. Problem of multilingualism
we don’t need a rocket scientist to tell us that Nigeria as a state is multilingual in nature, so disseminating information majorly in English is illogical as those who don’t have a good grasp in English language or doesn’t even understand the language at all may not benefit from voter education programme.
3. High level of illiteracy
less than half of Nigeria’s population are illiterate which will only add to the numbers of invalid votes counted during an election as those who can’t read nor write will always find it difficult to complete ballot papers.
4. Low funding
Inadequate finance will invariably make voter education programme less efficient as certain people are starved of vital information regarding an election. Often people in Urban areas are always at the receiving end of such inadequacies.
CREDITS: This work was put together by Abdulhameed Gambo, our newest Editor on Tropics Nigeria.