In a much-anticipated official announcement, expected anytime now from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigeria will host her eight general elections in January 2011 – following similar exercises in 1964, 1979, 1983, 1993, 1999, 2003 and 2007. According to INEC, 57,938,945 Nigerians were registered to vote in 1999. In comparison to 1999, the number rose by only 5% to 60,823,022 voters for the 2003 elections, and by 6.3% to 61,566,648 for the 2007 general elections.
“Of the 61.6 million that registered in 2007, only 57.5% voted; and while the number of young people who voted will be difficult to confirm, the force of 70% – the percentage of the general population that young Nigerians represent – has been missing for much of Nigeria’s voting history. Evidently, voter apathy in Nigeria exists both at the level of voter registration, and during the actual voting exercise itself,” said ‘Gbenga Sesan, one of the coordinators of EnoughisEnough Nigeria.
The EnoughisEnough Nigeria coalition is a civic participation group focused on empowering young Nigerians to effectively participate in public governance as a way to drive democratic change. EiE has evolved the RSVP (Register. Select. Vote. Protect) campaign to mobilize and motivate young Nigerians to participate fully in the 2011 general elections. With 1,607,800 Nigerian users on the popular social networking website, Facebook, and tens of thousands communicating constantly with the aid of Blackberry smart phones, it is not surprising that EiE’s focus on this segment of the youth population seeks to address the issue of voter apathy while also extending the ignited interest to the offline majority. For 2011, the key challenge to young people is, “Will we rock the vote or not?” And if recent discussions, on-the-ground action and mobilisation efforts of EiE and other electoral advocacy groups are anything to go by, the youth voter turnout for 2011 will be much higher than previous years.
As avid users of technology and believers in the efficiency of polling, EiE launched a 4-question survey on August 5, 2010. Deployed through a web-based platform that was accessible to computers and mobile devices, EiE asked young Nigerians: “Have you ever voted in Nigerian elections? Do you have a Voters’ Registration Card or temporary slip? Will you exercise your right to vote in the 2011 elections? Are you eager to register to vote in the 2011 elections?”
The survey, which was also publicised using EiE’s website, partner blogs, twitter, facebook, and direct eMail messaging, was available for 14 days and recorded more than 1500 respondents within that short period. With a margin of error of only 3.5%, confidence level of 99%, response distribution of 50% and a population size of 16,787,540 (based on a calculation comparing the percentage of youth and percentage of internet users), the survey was completed by 5% more respondents than the recommended sample size of 1,354.
The poll was extended to a diverse focused Youth segment over the age of 18 comprising YOUTHS in ALL 36 states, and the site was registering up to 400 unique visitors per day for the period of the poll.
“Of course, more work needs to be done for this to be more inclusive,” said Cheta Nwanze, another executive board member for the coalition. “But we think, based on the width of the opinions sampled, that this gives a fairly accurate indication of what to expect, and it is hopeful news.”
A look at the summary of responses (see comprehensive details in figures 1-4 below) reveals that 66% of young people have voted in Nigerian general elections, 52% do not currently have voters’ registration cards (or temporary registration slips), 83% will vote in the 2011 elections, 17% are not eager to register towards voting and 70% are eager to register so that they can exercise their civic rights in January 2011. It is interesting to note that 17% are not eager to register, and 17% stated that they will not vote in the upcoming elections. With as many as more than half yet to be registered as voters, EiE believes that various efforts that seek to mobilise voter turnout should be accelerated, especially as INEC is expected to announce the election (and registration) timetable this week. With 8 out of every 10 connected (and indeed influential) young Nigerians eager to vote in the upcoming elections, 2011 will be a different voting year for Nigeria.