Voter’s Turnout and Democratic Consolidation: A Case Study Of 2015/2019
1.1 Background of the Study
Voters’ turnout is the most common means of participation in a democracy. While turnout is a simple measure, it reflects on concern with outcomes, constituent satisfaction, political attitudes, partisan distribution of the vote, as well as other indicators of democratic effectiveness. Recognizing the importance of citizen participation to democracy (Dahl and Stinebrickner, 2005), it also seems fair to say that turnout plays an important role in democratic consolidation. Unsurprisingly, political scientists have long been concerned with discovering turnout’s determinants. Democracy, today, is unarguably the most preferred form of government the world over. One of its cardinal principles is the participation of the people by making a choice on who governs them. Hence, it is germane that a functioning democracy requires an informed and active public that understands how to voice its interests, act collectively, and hold government officials accountable through credible electoral process (National Democratic Institute, 2011).
It can be argued that credible elections are, therefore, sine qua non for democratic governance, political stability and national development. The first Nigeria’s attempt to practice parliamentary democracy was at independence in 1960 which was interrupted by a military coup in 1966 (Dudley, 1982). In 1979, Nigeria made a transition from military rule to presidential democracy. Again, the democratic government was removed via a military coup in 1983; the third democratic experiment in Nigeria began in 1989 but was aborted in 1993 following the annulment of the presidential election, which would have marked the highpoint of the transition (Joseph, 1991).
Following intense domestic and international pressures on the military government, as well as the sudden demise of the then military Head of State General Sani Abacha, the military government finally relinquished power to an elected civilian government in May 1999 (Osaghae, 1998). Since 1999, elections have become more regular in Nigeria, between 1999 and 2019; the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had conducted six consecutive general elections for the first time in the Nigeria’s political history. The period since 1999 has been marked by an extraordinary progress towards the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria (Oyovbaire, 2008).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
In a nation of over one hundred and eighty million, one should surely expect to see larger figures of people on the electoral register and longer lines at polling stations during the election. During the 2015 and 2019 general elections, the rates of turnout, however, appears to be progressively worse. The issue of voters’ turnout is one that comes up in all mature democracies. Even the oldest democracies in the world find themselves lacking with regards to voters’ participation. Of course, every country has its issues underlying poor voters’ turn out to include widespread lack of faith in the political system, difficult logistics, poor public awareness, and the assumption that one vote makes no difference.
In the case of Nigeria, one of the main obstacles to achieving higher statistics has proven to be the failings of the national electoral body – the Independent National Electoral Commission. During the 2015 General Election, INEC failed to deliver the necessary Permanent Voters’ Cards to over twenty million out of a registered sixty-eight point eight million Nigerian citizens. (Funmilayo, 2017).
1.3 Objective of the Study
The main objective of the study is to;
- To examine the impact of low voters turnout on democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
- To determine the effect of election violence on voters’ turnout.
- To examine the role of the electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on voters’ turnout during elections.
1.4 Research Questions
In order to arrive at a sound conclusion, the following research questions will guide the direction of the study:
- How does low voters’ turnout affect democratic consolidation in Nigeria?
- How does election violence impacts on voters’ turnout in Nigeria?
- What effort has the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) put in place towards reducing the cases of low voters’ turnout?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
The following null hypotheses are formulated for the study:
- Voters’ turnouts have no significant impact on democratic consolidation in Nigeria. (Ho)
- Election violence do not significantly influence voters’ turnout in Nigeria. (Ho)
1.6 Significance of the Study
The findings and results that will be reported in this study will provide the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as well as all relevant stakeholders, with more reliable and scientific way of ensuring that our democracy is effectively consolidated, through proper voters’ education and awareness creation. The findings of the study will also be of immense benefits to the Nigerian voters by helping them to see the dangers of political apathy towards democratic consolidation. To the security outfit, the study will prove how adequate security could ensure greater voters turnout. Academically, the study serve as a contribution to the body of existing literature related to voters turnout and democratic consolidation in Nigeria. It will also serve as a guide to researchers, as well as, provide data upon which further studies could be concluded, as well as, helping other researchers in further research analysis.
1.7 Scope of the Study
Although a total of six general elections (1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019) have been conducted in Nigeria since the return to democracy in 1999. The scope of the study only covers the two recent general elections, that is, the 2015 and 2019 general elections.
1.8 Limitations of the Study
One of the major limitations to a study like this has always been time constraint. For this study, the period within which the study is conducted is relatively short for a thorough research work, hence gathering adequate information becomes very difficult. Also, finance is one of the limitations to the study. The researcher was faced with financial constraint to meet all the needed educational requirements including this research study. Poor approach to questionnaires by some respondents. Most respondents did not return their questionnaires, while some returned it unfilled. This led to the researcher having to wait and collect each questionnaire issued.
1.9 Organization of the Study
This study is made up of five chapters. The first chapter shall contain the background of the study, the statement of the research problem, the purpose of the study, the research questions etc. that would guide the study. Chapter two would present the literature review on the subject matter. The methodology adopted in the study would be stated in chapter three. Chapter four shall focus on the presentation and analysis of collected data. The last chapter – chapter five, would present the summary of the findings, conclusion and appropriate recommendations.