By Salaudeen Teslim Olamilekan
Over the years, there has been an erroneously hard held belief among some Nigerians, especially the teeming youths of intellectuals, that, ordinarily, electorate votes don’t count in an election. This belief is more evidenced in social media discussions, particularly Facebook. Whether they vote in an election or not, the winner of an election is already known to the powers that be, even before the election day.
In preparation for the 2023 elections, I visited my local government secretariat to register my voter’s card. It was pretty disheartening and mind-boggling for me, realizing that what I observed the very first day I went, there was still the same thing I noticed. About 85% of the people on the queue waiting to be captured are old and mostly unlettered. They are illiterate market women, farmers and some senior civil servants. The numbers of youths in the queue were minuscule.
Many acclaimed young, exposed, and educated individuals who should know better about how a country is built are focused on venting anger and frustration on social media and gatherings against politicians. We fail to do what truly matters for the betterment of our country. It’s safe to say some youths and informed older people don’t even have voters cards, much less planning on voting. A fragment of this proportion doesn’t obtain the card for election purposes. It’s only some one-third among the youthful large social media users who lament and often weep for the country now and then will vote. In the end, the irony is, when an election comes, the old market women and farmers we often view as ill-informed and uneducated are the ones that pull the most votes.
In my conversation with some youths my age in my neighbourhood and the older ones, I discovered seemingly educated people who pride themselves on not having voters cards. They even hold and justify such ignorant views with their full chest. More surprising, a lady once told me that voters are the problem of Nigeria. She believes she’s wiser because she has never voted for any corrupt Nigerian leaders in the past. She has never exercised her right to choose who governs her country and who doesn’t, and she doesn’t seem to care. She sees people that vote as accomplices to the fraud in government. She’s among the many complainants that know every politician that’s not performing by their names but failed to see voting as a reasonable way to push them out of government and establish a new people-oriented government.
To say our votes don’t count in determining who wins or loses the election in Nigeria is a talk borne out of utter ignorance. The fact that the educated ones propagate such opinions makes it more embarrassing. Don’t let us fool ourselves. If our votes don’t count, politicians will not be spending billions of naira on advertisements and campaigns, touring every nooks and cranny of the country begging for votes. I believe anyone who shared in the anger, disappointment and dissatisfaction many of us have towards this current government and doesn’t have a voters card shouldn’t be taken seriously. You can’t complain your way into changing the political order of your country. You take action by voting. Your ignorance towards the poll keeps terrible people in power.
The thing about democracy is that you can’t separate or remove elections from its guiding principles and practices. The moment a country fails to choose its leaders by the polls, directly or indirectly, it cannot be identified as a democratic country. Elections are conducted to elect a leader to represent the people and ensure people’s dreams and aspirations are fulfilled. This mechanism hasn’t proven to be successful in choosing good leaders all the time, but it’s successful in making the majority’s will come to fruition.
It is wise that your hatred towards the ruling government should be why you’re voting, not why you’re apathetic to the poll. If you refuse to vote because you hate the government, your apathy will continue to keep bad people in power, and in so far as bad people are in control, their poor decisions will be ruling every aspect of our lives.
Nigerian politicians understand the power voters have. That’s why they focused more on enticing our poor, uneducated and easily-deceived parents with some handful of rice and N500 so that they could vote for them. Unfortunately, politics is a game of numbers. The more crowd a wrong person pulls based on his war chest, the more that wrong person will have chances of clinging to power.
My fellow Nigerian youths, come 2023, blame yourself if the wrong people win our most important national and regional political offices. Never complain. It’s your fault that you don’t vote. You should now understand that the quality of your life determines the quality of the people in power. How safe and healthy you’re, depends on the outcome of your political decisions. The political aspirations of the government in power affect the country’s political economy, including the highly established businesses and the small and medium scales. It will affect the bread sellers, labourers, and our society’s disadvantaged. We should do away from ego and ignorance and exercise our rights to vote for good and future-focused leaders.
Salaudeen Teslim Olamilekan is an undergraduate of the Federal Polytechnic Offa, Kwara, studying Mass Communication.