With over 84 million registered voters in Nigeria, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) looking to add 20 million more to the number, Nigeria will have a voter database of over 100 million people by the 2023 elections. As a politician, you want to get a chunk of these votes to achieve your aspirations. In our post for this week, we share three things Nigerian political candidates need to start doing now. But first, let us talk about the challenges candidates need to surmount.
Issues Nigerian Political Candidates Must Ponder
Many issues affect the Nigerian political space; electioneering is often riddled with disappointments and surprises. Eventually, the party, through a selective democratic process or outright imposition, produces flag bearers. After this, the candidates start canvassing votes.
On the part of the electorate, there are also challenges arising that often lead to disenfranchisement. The voter registration process is long and tiring. It is challenging to switch polling units and almost impossible to correct mistakes on PVCs. Aside from these, there is the issue of voter apathy. Nigerian voters generally believe their votes don’t count, so they don’t bother to cast it.
Also, Nigerians are convinced that all Nigerian political candidates are the same. In fact, Pew research shows that 57% of Nigerian registered voters believe that no matter who wins an election, things would not change very much. Additionally, incidents of ballot stuffing and electoral violence have led many to lose faith in the process.
But, there’s a silver lining amidst the dark cloud for politicians determined to change the status quo. Over 51% of registered voters in Nigeria are between the ages of 18-35. How is this a positive?
A New Wave of Political Consciousness in Nigeria
If you’ve been on any social media platform since June 28, 2021, you would have noticed various campaigns targeted at young people, urging them to get their PVCs. Hashtags like #EndBadGovernance and #ByeBadGovernance trending with #SorosokeWithYourPVC and #GetYourPVC trended. For the first time in this nation’s recent history, the youths are awakening to the reality of their political power and are mobilising to use it to effect change. This renewed political consciousness arose after the 2020 #EndSARS campaign which united young Nigerians in the fight against police brutality.
To buttress this point, just two weeks after the launch of the Continuous Voter Registration exercise, INEC released registration data which shows 542,000 completed registrations. A breakdown of the numbers reveals that over 356,000 were from ages 18-34. Over 65% of the new registration are young people who are the most active on social media. As a politician, you do not need a seer to tell you that you must leverage the power of social media to gain a favourable spot with the youths and other electorates. How can Nigerian political candidates galvanise this renewed confidence?
Build Trust and Intimacy
Andy Obuorifo made an interesting argument about how the voter who picked the politician who shared money over the one that shared ideas made a ‘rational’ choice. He based his opinion on this question: How can the voter know the intellectual politician isn’t lying like EVERY other past politician? It’s not enough to have brilliant ideas.
With all the factors working against free and fair elections, it is your responsibility to convince the electorate that you will do things differently. How do you make the electorate trust you enough to defy the possibility of violence on election day and go out to vote for you? You have close to two years to show your audience that you’re conscientious, humane, concerned about family, community, that market, those hawkers and so on. But don’t just be about performing virtues. Be sincere, spontaneous and fun.
Social media is a two-way communication tool. Find your community and talk to them about your manifesto and credibility. You must listen to what your audience has to say and respond to them truthfully and respectfully. Apart from the fact that it will make you seem more natural, it will also help supporters feel like stakeholders in your political aspirations. Ensure you regularly update them on your campaign movements, rallies, speeches, changes, and successes. Ask them questions and let their feedback help to shape your campaign strategy.
Call to Action
When a Twitter user @oloye__ tweeted about needing 2 volunteers to help set up physical voter pre-registration points in Ibadan, 22 people volunteered within a week. It gave him the idea that the same infrastructure could be set up across different local government areas and other states, so he created a WhatsApp group for volunteers. According to him, “The enthusiasm for this exercise far outweigh[ed]… initial expectations”. As of the writing of this article, over 200 people have joined the group.
Nigerian political candidates cannot create a successful campaigns or win elections without the people’s participation. What do you want them to do for you? Volunteer? Donate? Register with INEC to get their Permanent Voters Card (PVC)? Join your mailing list? Whatever it might be, social media is the best place to influence them to act.
Our Call to Action
All Nigerian political candidates have stories, but what differentiates you from other candidates is how you tell your stories. In a country like Nigeria, where apathy has been weaponised as a tool for rigging elections, your primary responsibility is to help people overcome their indifference. Using social media to talk about what you are doing, what you have done and what you will do for them is a great way to start.
Remember, it is easier to rig elections when no one comes out to vote. So, leverage this new political consciousness of young persons to build trust and intimacy, engage with the electorate and repeatedly emphasise your Call to Action. And if you experience any difficulties along the way, we are here to help.