POLITICAL APATHY AND SUSTAINABLE DEMOCRACY
In contemporary time, democracy has turned out to be the most supported political tool for development and social change, which has attained near global acclaim and admiration by many world leaders. Although it is contestable, the reasons for this vary. First, democracy has gained acceptability as a form of government based on equity and justice. Secondly, it purports to uphold the rule of law and guarantee the preservation of human rights. Sustaining democratic governance is a philosophy hinged largely on the functionality of the institutions of governance in line with democratic process and norms. The study investigated the impact of political apathy on sustainable democracy. That is, a carefree attitude by the citizens towards voting is inimical and an aberration to widely celebrated modern democracy.
The study employed the survey research design in achieving the aim of the study. Lagos State was used as the study area. 187 rspondents who have attained the minimum age of 18 were sampled. In anaylsing the data, descriptive and multi-regression was employed.
This study out found that in Nigeria, political parties are liabilities rather than assets to the Nigerian Democracy, considering their attitude that encourage voters’ apathy. Indeed, failed electoral promises; ideological bareness; electoral violence, high level of indiscipline and unprincipled party defection characterizes Nigeria’s political parties and by implication stimulate among the citizens a mood of pessimism about partisan politics. As the 2019 general elections had been concluded and Nigerians continue to yearn for sustainable democratic governance, political parties should reposition themselves; by being well-grounded on ethos and ideology and build confidence and trust in the electorates. Hence, there is a compelling need for Nigerian political parties to be democratic, as democracy is incontrovertibly inconceivable without virile political parties. It highlighted existing strategies for development in the country, examined progress and challenges in implementing the strategies, and further identified measures which when adopted and implemented, will likely change the social, economic, and political condition of the country for economic growth and sustainable development.
1.1 Background to the study
The confidence of the citizens in the electoral system and their participation in the electoral process are requisites for the enthronement of responsible and democratic leaders. The success of the 2015 Nigeria general election requires transparent electoral process and mass participation of the electorates. Political apathy in recent times has become seemingly an innocuous issue in the democratic process in Nigeria. While every government’s purpose is to develop and implement policies for the benefit of its citizens, it is also the right and responsibility of the citizens to elect their leaders through the ballot. A nation’s political foundations are built on elections. Abah and Ibeogu (2018) asserted that voting is a basic process that enables the citizens to choose their own leaders and their representatives in government which entails that voters can influence the policies and programmes of a political party and the entire administrative system. In Nigeria, where every adult is given the right to vote, irrespective of sex, class, occupation, statistics in the last two decades have, however, shown that many people do not participate in elections even when they have been registered by the nations electoral body (Adelekan, 2012). His or her vote and those of others elects the representatives that form the government and govern the country.
It has also been observed that despite the increased rate of voters registration owing to the rise in population and political awareness, the rate of voting in Nigeria continue to drop in every election conducted in the country just as the number of unclaimed voter cards keeps increasing. Akinbolade (2013) asserted that voter apathy seems to have emerged as a major problem in mature and emerging democracies, settled and volatile societies, large and thriving economics, as well as small and troubled ones, among youth, men/women and other marginalised groups as much as among mainstream dominant interest groups. Political apathy could be measured by the percentage of registered voters and the turnout during the elections. In other words, the percentage of the registered voters who turn out to vote on election day, and the percentage of voting age population, registered or not registered, that cast their ballots on election day (Aro & Chidiume, 2015). Awolowo and Aluko (2012) articulated that every election cycle, the number of Nigerians who vote appears to have repeatedly shrunk in spite of the ever growing number of registered voters and this has been the pattern since 1999 when Nigeria returned to democratic rule. In his analysis, between the last election in 2015 and the 2019 election, over sixteen million (16.58) Nigerians according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), became eligible to vote for the first time; yet preliminary figures of the number of people who took part in the 2019 elections showed a shrinking voter base such that collations by INEC in states such as Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi, Rivers and some others witnessed the lowest turnout, with less than thirty percent (30%) of their registered voters making the ballot. This in stark contrast to the 1999 general election where about seventy percent (70%) of all registered voters turned out to usher in Nigeria’s new democracy. Attempts have been made to link the above to certain inhibiting factors on voter participation in electoral process in Nigeria. In this regard, Egobueze and Nweke (2016) lamented that many people have lost trust and confidence in the government and their elected representatives since those elected to represent the people have always failed to deliver on the promises made to the electorate during campaigns.in their view, after they are elected and sworn into office, they turn demigods. This makes people lose confidence in them and, as such, manifests in voting apathy recorded in almost every election conducted in Nigeria(Eminue, 2005; Falada, 2007). This is corroborated by Ibeogu and Nwede (2015) earlier position that politicians make series of promises during election campaigns; hence most of these promises are far from being fulfilled after they are voted into power. As a result of this, most voters lose interest in any political activities. Political apathy experienced before, during and after the election could be expatiated on the basis of lack of trust/confidence in the government, fear of intimidation by hired thugs/security agents, campaign crises, bad governance, election fraud/violence, poor political education, poverty and dearth of infrastructural development in the State, among others (Adebanjo, 2003).
These factors no doubt seem to have contributed to political manoeuvre during the election and as such made caricature of our nascent democracy. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) being the institution saddled with the electoral responsibilities of the country has been constantly knocked down on the grounds of low level of voter education to quell the menace of voter apathy inNigeria’s electoral process. In this regard, Idike (2014) ascribed that poor political andvoter’s education in congruence with low level of education, illiteracy in Nigeria has been a major bane on voter participation in democratic process in Nigeria. As such, the outcome of elections depicts high degree of voter apathy. He decried a situation whereby nearly fifty percent (50%) of registered voters neglected to pick up their PVC’s and therefore, could not be accredited to vote as a result of inadequate mobilisation by INEC.
The political stability and development of any political system is a function of the citizens’ awareness and positive involvement in civic and political matters. This is the reason why Appadorai (2004) posited that democracy demands from the common person a certain level of ability and character: rational conduct and active participation in the government. In Nigeria, political activities and transition programmes have been marked with turbulence, uncertainties and violence. Right from the First Republic, Nigerian politics is characterised by greed, love of power, violence, assassination, thuggery and election rigging (Adeyemo, 2011). Violence has become synonymous with Nigeria’s political culture such that virtually all elections held so far in the country are violent-ridden (Ojo, 2014). Although the Nigeria general election held in 2011 was relatively peaceful, it was also marked with some irregularities. According to Okpi (2019), although the national assembly election held on Saturday, April 9 2011, has been appraised by many as successful, some malpractices and violence recorded across the country threaten to dim light on democratic progress (Adelakun, 2011).
During the election, there were reported cases of underage voting, distribution of money at polling centres, manipulation of voters register, diversion of electoral materials, ballot box snatching, unlawful possession of firearms and other electoral offences. This political scenario engendered a lukewarm political attitude and participation among some citizens. In a political system, the citizens can be involved in the political process and decision making by joining a political party, voting during the election, participating in the electoral campaign, community affairs and other political activities (Adelekan, 2010). The level and pattern of political participation of the citizens determine, to some extent, the success of the political system. In Nigeria, politics is seen by several people as a dirty game that must be avoided. This is due to the undemocratic tendencies, deception, violence and uncertainties that characterise the political system (Adekunle, 2007). Commenting on the political apathy displaced by Nigerian citizens during the 2011 general election, The INEC chairman, Professor Attairu Jega, lamented: That there existsvoters’apathy in Nigeria is no longer contentious.
Voters turnout in the just concluded general elections had provided scientific and empirical evidence of voters’ apathy and disinterestedness of sections of the electorates in election. This ugly scenario has implications for popular participation and governance. (Okeke, 2011) This is corroborated by the report of an interview conducted during the 2011 election. One of the respondents said, my father told me not to vote when I was leaving home. This morning, my father said I was wasting my time. He said all politicians were the same and it would make no difference. Statistical analysis of the 2011 general elections showed that only 35% of the registered electorates voted during the election. Commenting on this, the INEC chairman expressed that the scientific evidence of poor turnout of voters during the election was at variance with the belief that Nigerians showed much enthusiasm during the polls (Okeke, 2011). The development and sustenance of true democracy in Nigeria depends, to a large extent, on theelectoral system.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
It has become extremely worrisome that over the years, there seems to be significant decline in the rate of voter’s turnout during elections in Nigeria. Going through the analysis of official records obtained from INEC website, it revealed that 52.3% of the registered voters voted in the 1999 elections; the figure rose to 69.1% in 2003, then went down to 57.4% in 2011, 43.6% in 2015 and only a handful of 34.74% of the registered voters actually voted in the just concluded 2019 presidential elections (INEC, https://www.inecnigeria.org/all-about2019-generalelections). The News Agency of Nigeria, 2019 in the same vein reported that the 34.75% of voters in the 2019 general elections represents 26,614,190 electorates who cast their votes during elections and that 33.18% representing 27,324,583 of the 82,344,107 registered voters were valid votes that led to the final decision of INEC, hence the declaration of Muhammadu Buhari as President on the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 23 2019. The above scenario presents a gloomy picture of voter participation and democracy in Nigeria especially when recourse is made to the fact that Nigeria’s population has been approximated to about two hundred million (200m) persons. Supposedly, the affairs of Nigeria state is supposed to be run by elected officials whom the greater majority of the electorates elected, but the electorates feels disenchanted and allows of the affairs of the greater population to be decided by few inactive politicians. Again, when very few people vote, the politicians elected do not represent the general population’s beliefs and values. Voter ap athy has therefore been compared with a sort of political depression, where one feels helpless and unable to influence important events. On the basis of this, this study investigates the interaction between political apathy and sustainable democracy and also interrogates the role of INEC in improving political participation in the national electoral process. The study seeks to also establish the most significant construct of political apathy that significant influences sustainable democracy in Nigeria.
1.3 Research Questions
The study seeks to address and provide answers to the following research questions
- What are the factors responsible for voter apathy among the electorate?
- To what extent does political empathy influence sutainable democracy?
- How does electoral credibility affect sustainable democracy?
- To what extent does political attitude interact with sustainable democracy?
1.4 Research Objectives
The specific objectives of the study are aimed at:
- To determine the factors responsible for political apathy among the electorate.
- To examine the effects of political empathy influence sustainable democracy.
- To examine the influence of voters credibility on sustainable democracy
- To investigate the effects of political attitude on sustainable democracy.
1.5 Research Hypothesis
Ho1: Political empathy does not have a significant effect on sustainable democracy
Ho2: Voters credibility does not have a significant effect on sustainable democracy
Ho3: Political attitude does not have a significant effect on sustainable democracy
1.6 Research Methodology
In achieving the research objectives, the survey research design approach is to examine the effect of leadership style on leadership effectiveness in Nigeria. The study employs quantitative approach research. This approach would enable the researcher to measure the phenomena through the use of data objectively. Williams (2007) opines that quantitative analysis provides meaning and objectivity to data collected. The quantitative approach utilises theories and predicts future outcomes, and according to Leedy and Ormrod (2001), the quantitative research approach affirms or verifies relationships among variables, leading to building theory and creating generalisations. Lagos State will be used as the study theatre since the researcher cannot sample all the states in Nigeria. A multistage sampling technique would be applied to ascertain the sampling size. Cronbach’s Alpha is employed to test the reliability of the instruments of the study. The study will make use of descriptive and inferential statistics in achieving the research objectives.
1.7 Significance of the study
The study addresses the effect of political apathy and sustainable democracy in the Nigerian context. This is important because it will provide a framework to understanding the issues of political empathy in Nigeria while providing a roadmap that will guide individuals and others in understanding their roles and duties in sustaining democracy in Nigeria and how they can be most effective civic capacities. The study will provide reference points in helping leaders understand how the different policies and mechanisms to put in place prevent political apathy in the country. The study will also provide deeper insights into what is needed by individuals to further improve their effectiveness and thus allow for improvement in the different capacities they operate in. The study will also add value to academia and other researchers by adding to the scanty literature on sustainable democracy and how it brings about leadership effectiveness in Nigeria.
The study investigates political apathy and sustainable democracy in Nigeria. The study will be limited to Lagos State alone. The choice of Lagos state is chosen because it is the adjudged the 7th economy in Africa and according to Egbas (2019), the State has a total number of 16, 570, 291. The respondents to be sampled will be limited to people who fall within the minimum age of participating in politics of 18 years.
1.9 Ethical Consideration
The researcher focuses on examining the political apathy and sustainable democracy As a result of time constraints, other factors such as the political participation programme of the government. The study will be limited to Lagos state. The respondents will be approached by the Researcher and Research assistants. It is important to note that there is no prior relationship between the researcher and the respondents in focus. Respondents will be sampled at different times and individually in order to prevent undue influence and bias in opinion. The researcher would provide the needed assistance in bringing the respondents in contact with the researcher through a zoom communication platform. The researcher requests information relating to the phenomena under investigation from the potential respondents directly or via their telephones and emails and telephones for their ease, availability and willingness to participate in the survey. The Gatekeeper and the research assistants will not divulge any information about the respondents’ personal details as this will be kept solely confidential by the researcher. From the researcher’s point of view, this is an objective and independent study, there is a moral obligation to remain ethical. The research instrument will reveal the true intentions of the research. The whole process of ensuring informed consent includes providing sufficient and suitable research material to the respondents, providing opportunities for the respondents to carefully explore the research instruments, answering the statements in the information in the research instrument as required while educating the respondents in order to comprehend the information and gaining the voluntary approval of the respondents in giving an opinion on the phenomena at hand
There will be a consideration and high implementation of ethical standards in ensuring people are not under pressure to respond to issues raised. This is achieved through informed consent brought about by the exchange of information between the researcher and the respondents, and education of the respondents. It is critical to adhere to the moral norms to avoid errors, promote and strictly work within the framework of the dissertation, and protect the respondents (Resnik, 2015).
1.10 Definition of Terms
Political Apathy: political apathy is a feeling of disinterest or apathy towards politics. It can consist of interest apathy, voter apathy, and information apathy. It can be categorised as the indifference of an individual and a lack of interest in participating in political activities.
Sustainable Democracy: Everyday practical and participatory strategies that are self‐consciously tied to a vision of the future which will be more economically equitable, peaceful, inclusive, and socially just
Political credibility mechanisms that reduce the discretionary powers of governments
Political Attitude: Influences that define a person’s political views, ideology, and levels of political participation. Political attitude is the subset of human behavior that involves politics and power.
Political Empathy: political empathy expressed in policy and through collective identification, is related to social evaluations, attributions of agency.
1.11 Outline of the Study/Organisation of the study
Chapter one contains background to the study, the research problem, the research aims and objectives, the significance of the study and summary of the methodology. Chapter two is centred on discussing existing literature on political apathy and sustainable democracy theoretical review on which this study is anchored, empirical literature and conceptual framework. Chapter three explains the methodology used in achieving the objectives of this study. This includes the population, sample size and technique, validity and reliability of research instrument and method of data analysis. Chapter four contains the results and the discussions of the results. Chapter five includes the summary of the study, conclusions and recommendations.