Investigating Political Apathy And Democratic Retrogression In Nigeria’s Fourth Republic
The study was aimed at investigating political apathy and democratic retrogression in nigeria’s fourth republic. The survey research was used in this study to sample the opinion of respondents. This method involved random selection of respondent who were administered with questionnaires. The target population of the study comprised of residents of selected areas in Benue state. The questionnaire administered was one hundred and ten (110) copies and one hundred copies retrieved which constitute the sample size. The descriptive and analytical approach was adopted using Chi-square to test and analyze the hypotheses earlier stated. It was therefore concluded from the f indings that political apathy has significant effect on governance in Nigeria. It was also observed that there is political apathy in the 2019 presidential election in Nigeria. Political apathy is a product of electoral violence and it negatively affects upon the electoral process and its outcome. It was recommended that government and electoral bodies should employ different approaches to enlighten the citizens on the danger of political apathy and the need for active participation in political activities so as to ensure that credible, reputable and responsible citizens emerge as leaders.
1.1 Background of the Study
Political apathy appears to be a minor problem in Nigeria’s political process. Nigerian political parties potentially play important electoral positions in the country’s current political process. Political parties, on the other hand, act as if the issue of political apathy does not exist in the political process. According to Ugwu (2007), citizen participation in political activities is more or less an ordeal in most developing countries, including Nigeria. Of course, this results in political apathy. However, the country’s democratic process continues as if all is well with the country’s political and democratic structures. However, it is this obvious denial that makes the pertinent issues more difficult.
Apathy is described as a state of indifference characterized by the suppression of emotions such as worry, excitement, motivation, or passion. It denotes a lack of thought, emotion, interest, or concern about a significant issue (Wikipedia, 2019). Political apathy is described as a lack of interest in a country’s political activities. It is a person’s lack of participation in participating in political activities, such as campaigns, voting, or attending political events. If a voter of voting age refuses to register, receive a permanent voters card (PVC), join a political party, vote, or engage in the electoral process, they are displaying political apathy (Wikipedia, 2019). According to observations, a large number of Nigerians, particularly the elites, have lost interest in voting, leaving the task to commercial drivers, farmers, market women, artisans, ʻokada’ riders, and young boys and girls, who usually turn out in large numbers to endure the stress of voting in long lines for long periods of time in the scorching sun. According to Agba (2011), the majority of Nigerians currently disapprove of how elections are conducted and tend to stay indoors during voting periods. The existence of political apathy in Nigeria is no longer debatable, according to Falade (2014), because voter turnout in the recently concluded (2019) general elections provided scientific and empirical evidence of voter apathy and disinterestedness among sections of the electorate in elections. An election in which a significant number of people fail to vote will not accurately represent the people’s wishes. Democracy is jeopardized by a lack of enthusiasm for political participation. According to Emerson (2016), one such danger is that a minority will install a government that does not prioritize the interests of the majority. According to Griguoli (2018), a vibrant democracy depends on a well-informed electorate turning out in large numbers, and many citizens do not take voting seriously, do not understand the consequences of not voting, are uninformed, and vote emotionally rather than logically.
Nigeria’s political apathy stems from a combination of ignorance and deliberate deception by some politicians. As a result, the masses are unable to see a link between their state of underdevelopment and their lack of participation in the electoral process (Fabiyi, 2010). Falade (2007) came to the conclusion that the Nigerian political culture does not allow for the establishment and maintenance of true democracy.
Attempts have been made to link the foregoing to certain factors that limit political participation in Nigeria’s electoral process. As a result, several factors have been identified as contributing to citizens’ high levels of political apathy. Political thuggery, intimidation, the belief that votes will not count, insecurity at polling stations, vote buying, election rigging, result manipulation, and the destruction of election materials are all factors that have been identified as contributing to voter apathy. Other factors appear to be a lack of trust in the government, failure to keep election promises, postponement at the eleventh hour, declaration of the election inconclusive, and a delay in the release of election results. In interviews with political experts on low turnout, Adedigba (2019) discovered that most people believe their vote will be ignored, and that the nature of politics, fear of violence, people dissatisfied with the system, and lack of access to basic necessities are all contributing factors. Chief Tunde Adeniran, a former Minister and Ambassador, argued in Yakubu (2019) that declaring elections inconclusive is humiliating, unpleasant, damaging, and anti-democratic. Many people also appear to have lost hope in a better government as a result of poor leadership and violence during campaigns/elections, which frequently result in deaths. DeLuca (2015), for example, criticized educational institutions, political parties, and non-governmental (civil society) organizations for not doing enough to promote public engagement. Specifically, DeLuca (2015) asserted that, rather than preparing students for citizenship and active participation in the governance process, educational institutions are rapidly becoming busy job preparation centers. Van Deth and Ellf (2010) opined that socio-demographic characteristics of individuals (in terms of age, gender and education) still account for manifestations and differences in political involvement and political apathy among the eligible voting population, especially in Europe.
According to Yakubu (2012) political obligations of the citizens to the state include voting during elections but there are many political deviants who fail to vote at elections due to leadersʼ incompetence in their obligations and have experienced that their votes do not matter in producing elected officers due to election malpractices. Yakubu (2012) also observed a declining interest of Nigerians to register and vote from 1999 to 2011 and concluded that bad governance makes people less concerned about their political affairs. Froiland (2015) opined that a relatively high rate of eligible voters do not vote or vote irregularly and that youth apathy plays a significant role in their low voter turnout. In a report put together by Utomi (2019), it was maintained that an election is said to be credible when it is organized in an atmosphere of peace devoid of rancor and acrimony, the outcome of which must be acceptable to a majority of the electorate and within the international community. Staino (2007) stressed that for voters to participate, they must have full trust in the electoral process, confidence in the overall outcome of the voting exercise and confidence in the way in which those who donʼt deliver can be voted out etc. Utomi (2019) also suggested basic conditions necessary to create an enabling environment for holding free and fair elections as an honest, competent and non-partisan electoral body, knowledge and willingness of the political community to accept basic rules and regulations governing the contest for power and an independent judiciary to interpret electoral laws and settle election disputes. From observation, the elites i.e. the educated, the learned, most government workers, teachers, nurses, lecturers etc. no longer deem it necessary to partake in electoral activities. Adeoluwa (2017) affirmed that the electoral process in Nigeria is bedevilled with a lot of irregularities and there seems to be some apathy among the educated elites towards the electoral process. Wikipedia (2019c) maintained that voter apathy of lack of interest is often cited as a cause of lower turnout among eligible voters. Being politically apathetic by the elites in Nigeria has negative influence on the system of government as it allows greedy politicians to keep winning elections and being elected; gives room for high level of corruption, lawlessness and slow development among others. Olawale (2018) opined that one of the effects of political apathy is continued imbalance of power that can lead to civil war and revolution.
In this regard, Egobueze and Nweke  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 her view, after they are elected and sworn into office, they turn demigods. This makes people lose confidence in them and as such manifests in political apathy recorded in almost every election conducted in Nigeria [Eminue, 2014], [Falada, 2007]. This is corroborated by [Ibeogu and Nkwede, 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. These factors no doubt seem to have contributed to political manoeuvre during the election and as such made caricature of our nascent democracy. Low turnout during elections has become an abysmal situation that calls for urgent action in Nigeria. Some political experts interviewed by Adedigba (2019) however suggested good governance as a way to gain peoplesʼ trust and ensure their participation in Nigeria. Ellis, Gratschew, Pammette and Thiessen (2016) argued that cross national studies have generally found that countries with institutionalised compulsory voting experience high turnout as long as compulsion is backed by effective sanctions for non-voting. Daily Excelsior (2019) stressed that there are democracies where voting is compulsory and regulated by national constitutions and electoral laws; sanctions, penalties, or punishment are provided for non-voting as a civic offence. In filling part of this research gap therefore this study will seek to examine political apathy and its effect in Benue state, Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The apparent increase in the level of people refusing to participate in the democratic process in the country is affecting the body politics as well as the democratic institution of the country. This condition produces leaders who do not represent the interest of the people, corruption and conflict. The condition is attributing to the fact that corruption has engulfed the process. A situation where the votes of the electorates no longer counts due to the dishonesty of politicians who hijack the process has led to the apparent disinterest of a large segment of the population in the political process of voting and participating in politics. Structures where the political party determines the outcome of the leaders rather than the votes of the masses constitute an embarrassing situation where the peopleʼs right are denied. The system does not give motivation to people to people to express their will while many are marginalized due to their status in the society. This situation leads to poor turnout of voters, poor leadership structure and bad government.
1.3. Aims and Objectives of the Study
The major aim of the study is to investigate political apathy and democratic retrogression in Nigeria’s fourth republic. Other specific objectives are as follows;
- To examine the nature of political apathy in Nigeria’s fourth republic
- To examine the level of voterʼs turnout for last public elections in Nigeria
- To examine the extent to which political parties have induced or encouraged political apathy in the Nigerian democratic process
- To examine the effect of political apathy in Nigeria’s fourth republic
- To examine the suggested strategies for reducing political apathy in Nigeria’s fourth republic
1.4. Research Questions
- What is the nature of political apathy in Nigeria’s fourth republic?
- What is the level of voterʼs turnout for 2019 public elections in Nigeria ?
- What is the extent to which political parties have induced or encouraged political apathy in the Nigerian democratic process?
- What are the effects of political apathy in in Nigeria’s fourth republic?
- What are the contending issues on political apathy in Nigeria’s fourth republic?
- What are the suggested strategies for reducing political apathy in Nigeria’s fourth republic?
1.5. Significance of the Study
The significance of this timely and topical study is twofold: practical and academic. Practically, this study will be of paramount importance to the elections management bodies in Nigeria especially the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the registered political parties, authorities of the non-governmental organizations, the national and state governments as well as the general public for the following reasons: This research/study is significant as it aims to provide lasting solution to factors militating against political participation in Nigeriaand its adverse effects on the democratic process in Nigeria. It is also relevant to researchers, policy makers, practical statesmen, students. The study will also contribute to the body and encourage other writers or researchers to carryout similar work in the field.
1.6. Scope of the Study
The study is restricted to political apathy and its effects in Benue state, a case study of study of 2019 election.
1.7 Limitation of Study
Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.8 Definition of Terms
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 categorized as the indifference of an individual and a lack of interest in participating in political activities.
This is the formal way of choosing someone who will govern the public, by means of electing or voting for that person or political party (Eulau, Gibbins and Webb, 2019).
Is defined as an organised group of people with at least roughly similar political aims and opinions that seeks to influence public policy by getting its candidates elected to public office.
Is defined as a political system that is run and controlled by citizens of the country. Democracies are made up of elected representatives and require that governmental measures be voted on by these elected representatives or the people. Democracies are not universal and are implemented and enforced in different manner.
1.9 Organizations of the Study
The chapter one consist of the introductory part of the study which includes the study background, the statement of the research problem, the study objective and scope of the study.
The second chapter is a critical review of other literatures relevant to the study and its objectives including the theoretical framework for the study. While the third chapter is methods of data collection, sampling and data analysis used in conducting the study. The fourth chapter centres around the research findings including an analysis of how it relates to previous findings. The fifth chapter consists of the summary of findings, conclusion and recommendations base on the study objectives.
Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations:
This chapter summarizes the findings on Investigating Political Apathy And Democratic Retrogression In Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, Benue State as case study. The chapter consists of summary of the study, conclusions, and recommendations.
5.2 Summary of the Study
In this study, our focus was on Investigating Political Apathy And Democratic Retrogression In Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, Benue State as case study. The study is was specifically focused on examining the nature of political apathy in Nigeria’s fourth republic; examining the level of voterʼs turnout for last public elections in Nigeria; examining the extent to which political parties have induced or encouraged political apathy in the Nigerian democratic process; examining the effect of political apathy in Nigeria’s fourth republic and examining the suggested strategies for reducing political apathy in Nigeria’s fourth republic.
The study adopted the survey research design and randomly enrolled participants in the study. A total of 100 responses were validated from the enrolled participants where all respondent are residents of Benue State.
With respect to the analysis and the findings of this study, the following conclusions emerged;
As this study has shown, voter apathy indeed affects the growth of electoral democracy in Nigeria. It is important to note that the problem of low voter turnout is associated with a number of chief among them included, lack of change, failure to honour campaign promises, electoral violence, and Religious beliefs, age eligibility, limited voting hours and lack of voter education. These factors made a lot of people to stay away from voting and as such the growth of electoral democracy in Nigeria is being affected negatively because electoral democracy entails a democratic government based on a system that enables all the citizens to select one candidate from a list of competitors for political office.
The process is called an election. There however other factors other than an electoral process with high voter turnout which are critical for the growth and development of democracy; an independent, impartial judiciary, observance of rule of law, the operation of the arms of government as independent and separate entities providing checks and balances to each other, adherence to good governance tenets of transparency and accountability as well as protection and promotion of human rights in their broad spheres.
Based on the findings the researcher recommends that;
- The registration system used by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ought to be made automatic and compulsory to facilitate high voter turnout. Voter registration should be a continuous process to allow those that have attained the voting age and relocated to be registered in those areas.
- The voting system also needs to be changed to allow for compulsory voting to everyone with a national registration card.
- The INEC should come up with special voting provisions. For example, absentee ballots which may be cast prior to Election Day, or provisions that allow citizens to vote outside their home district, facilitate voting.
- There is a need to reform the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in order for it to function as a truly independent, competent, transparent, autonomous, and impartial arbiter of the electoral process that inspires confidence in the electorate.
- Voter education should be strengthened and conducted from time to time to empower voters with necessary knowledge and skills about elections. Civil society organisations should compliment government efforts through voter mainstreaming and the government should open up the space for civil society organisations to flourish.
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