Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last week practically engaged the speed gear, accelerating into advanced activities for the 2019 general elections with the presentation of the consolidated voters register to the leaderships of the political parties in Abuja.
The reactions that have trailed the register, which according to INEC, marked the completion of 10 out of the 14 programmes in the commission’s timetable and schedule of activities for the 2019 general elections, underscored its critical nature in the conduct of a credible, free and fair polls next month.
The electoral body had during the presentation announced that it has cleared a total of 84.004 million voters to participate in both the February 16 presidential/ National Assembly polls and the March 2, governorship and state assembly elections.
“Section 20 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (As amended) stated that the supplementary voters list shall be integrated with the voters register and published not later than 30 days before a general election. The Commission has compiled the record of all those that registered in 2016-2018 and the register has been integrated with that of 2015.
“The Commission registered 14,283,734 new voters in its Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise between April 27, 2017 and August 31, 2018. The consolidated register of voters for 2019 general elections is 84,004,084,” the Commission announced during the presentation of the consolidated voters register.
While rolling out the breakdown of the statistics of the electorate for the general elections, the Commission revealed that the percentage of male voters is higher than the female voters.
It further explained that while the population of male voters stood at 44,405,439 (52.86 per cent), that of the females totalled 39,598,645 (47.14 per cent).
The Commission equally disclosed that youths within the ages of 18-35 accounted for the greater percentage of 51.11 per cent of the entire 84.004 million voting population while middle-aged voters within the ages of 36-50 are 29.97 per cent.
The elderly within the ages of 51-70, the septuagenarians and octogenarians, according to the electoral umpire, stood at 15.22 per cent and 3.69 per cent respectively.
The commission further emphasised that the number of registered traders that will be voting during next month’s poll stood at 7,568,012; artisans, 4,478,202; business persons, 10,810,006; civil servants, 5,038,671; farmers/fishermen, 13,630,216; housewives, 11,844,079; students, 22,320,990; public servants, 2,292,167; and others, 6,021,742.
The zonal breakdown showed that the Southeast geopolitical zone, expectedly with the least voting population has a total of 10.057 million, trailing the Northeast geopolitical zone with a voting strength of 11.289 million; South-South, 12.841 million; Northcentral, 13.366 million; and Southwest, 16.292 million while the Northwest, the zone with highest voting public, has 20.158 million.
Giving further breakdown of the statistics for the voting strength of the electorate according to the states, INEC revealed that Lagos, with a voting base of 6,570,291, tops the list of states as the highest voting population, Kano State trails behind Lagos with 5,457,747 registered voters.
Other states are Kaduna, 3,932,492; Katsina, 3,230,230; Rivers, 3,215,273; Oyo, 2,934,107; Delta, 2,845,274; Plateau, 2,480,455; Benue, 2,480,131; Bauchi, 2,462,843; Anambra, 2,447,996; Niger, 2,390,035; Ogun, 2,375,003; Borno, 2,315,956; Imo, 2,272,293; Edo, 2,210,534; Akwa Ibom, 2,119,727; and Jigawa, 2,111,106.
The states with less than two million voting population include; Adamawa, 1,973,083; Enugu, 1,944,016; Abia, 1,932,892; Sokoto, 1,903,166; Ondo, 1,822,346; Kebbi, 1,806,231; Taraba, 1,777,105; Zamfara, 1,717,128; Osun, 1,680,498; Kogi, 1,646,350; Nasarawa, 1,617,786; Cross River, 1,527,289; Ebonyi, 1,459,933; Kwara, 1,406,457; Gombe, 1,394,393; Yobe, 1,365,913; FCT, 1,344,856; Bayelsa, 923,182; and Ekiti, 909,967.
Comparative analysis of the 2011, 2015 and 2019 general elections’ statistics
From the statistics, although there is obviously a recorded marginal difference between the 2019 voting populations and the two successive elections held in 2011 and 2015, there is, however, no serious paradigm shift in the voting strength of the two most populated states of Kano and Lagos.
In retrospect, while INEC cleared a total number of 73.5 million voters to participate in the 2011 general elections and 69.720 million voters to partake in the 2015 general elections, the number of electorate it cleared for next month’s election rose to 84.004 million.
The breakdown of the voter register obtained from the electoral umpire showed that just like in the 2015 general elections; Lagos and Kano still remained the battleground, especially for the presidential candidates.
In the 2011 general elections, Lagos had the highest number of voters, which stood at 6.108 million, while Kano came second with 5.027 million. In the 2015 general elections, Lagos also had a higher voting population of 5.827 million while Kano had 4.993 million.
Scrutinising the voters register
Expectedly, mixed reactions have continued to trail the credibility of the voters’ register, with many claiming that it is a packaged document to favour a particular zone and a particular candidate of a political party.
For the Chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Peter Ameh, the leadership of the political parties are currently planning to subject the register to a thorough forensic investigation.
Responding to the inquiry from Sunday Sun on whether he believes in the credibility of the register, he said: “You know we just took delivery of the voters’ register. We are planning to subject it to thorough forensic examination and investigation. We want to scrutinise the register to see how some area despite the surge of insecurity could be higher than places with relative calm.”
On Lagos leading the voting population, Ameh said: “I am not surprised that Lagos remained the state with the highest voting population. Lagos is a cosmopolitan city and with some level of push, voting awareness, educated, enlightened persons and advocacy by various religious houses, will expectedly remain ahead of Kano. It did not come as surprise to me.
“However, I can assure you that Lagos will vote based on the ability and willingness of the candidates to tackle issues on ground. Because of the level of exposure of Lagosians, voting will boil down to the positive influence the manifestos of the party candidates will have on them.
“Regardless of the voting strength of any state, there will not be bulk voting for any party. The peculiarities of the 2015 elections will be lacking in this 2019 general election. The actors and spectators have changed. I feel that the candidates must work hard to earn their votes,” he argued.
The National Chairman of the Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA) equally expressed doubt over the possibility of a credible and fair 2019 election, stressing: “There are people that are specialists in manipulating elections at the grassroots, states and national levels. But what we are appealing to the Nigerian voting public is to vote and secure their votes.”
However, for the former president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Murtala Abdul-Rasheed, it will not come as a surprise to many that Lagos retained the position as the state with the highest voting population.
His words: “It is expected because Lagos is working. There have been developmental strides in Lagos because successive governments in Lagos have performed with a lot of investment springing up.
“It is just natural that many people migrate to Lagos daily and by all statistical standards, Lagos has had more influx of migrants on daily basis. You cannot compare Lagos with Kano facing one security challenge or the other. It is just natural that Lagos should retain its position as state with the highest voting population,” he told Sunday Sun.
The former NBA boss also contended that unlike Kano State, the Lagos electorate would, however, be voting based on individual conviction, not collective influence from the political leaders.
“If you watch our electoral trajectory, you will notice that Lagos has always voted based on individual conviction and the party they believe in. The Lagos electorate are not like those in Kano or Kaduna because they are more metropolitan with people of different ethnic and professional background from all over the country.
“It is the popularity and manifesto of the political parties that will determine where the votes will go. I don’t see a situation in Lagos where the vote will be one directional as it happened in 2015 in a monolithic society like Kano State,” he quipped.
Asked how credible the consolidated voters register is, the former NBA boss said: “I think we need to understand the socio-cultural attitude of various places in the country. We should understand that despite the fact that there are security challenges in the North; they still marry more than one wife. They procreate in high numbers more than what we have in other parts of the country.
“States like Imo, for example, is monogamous in nature. We must give it to northerners when it comes to multiplying birth.
They have more shock absorbers than any other part of the country. Those children will definitely grow up to voting age and impact on the voting demography of the country. Also give it to them that they are more politically aware.”
On his fears for the elections, he said: “Violence. I am concerned about the ability and possibility of the security agents to demonstrate impartiality. They must convince Nigerians that they are not going to favour any of the political parties to the detriment of the others. They must also not be perceived as being biased.”
Voters’ register and challenge of ASUU strike
From the INEC statistics, students have the highest number of voting population accounting for over 22.320 million. However, the insoluble strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will pose serious threat of disenfranchising that segment of the society with the highest voting strength.
A parent and legal practitioner, Ezekiel Ugochukwu, told Sunday Sun on telephone that it will take only an insane parent to allow his ward to travel that far distance to school just to cast his or her vote, asking rhetorically, who picks the bill for the trip and accommodation?
Asked if ASUU strike will affect the election, Ugochukwu said: “In the recently released statistics of voters, students have the highest number. But it will be difficult for them to vote because there will be no movement on the election date.
“The only way out is to travel back to school, stay in the hotel to vote the next day. But the unanswered question is who picks the bill. I do not know of any parent who will allow his children to take that risk. For me, that will be a serious problem. My children dare not even mention such to me let alone embarking on such trip. No parent will allow that.”
The legal practitioner equally faulted the voters’ register, alleging compromise by the electoral commission, just as he stressed: “I have a strong feeling that there is connivance between INEC and some political parties to rig the forthcoming elections.
“How did Kano not topple Lagos as state with the highest voting population, especially as they told us that Kano is more populated than Lagos? I want to hinge it on the countless accusations of underage voters, which INEC waved aside with the flimsy reason that the state electoral commission was responsible for that.
“It was not an outright denial. The voters’ register should be thoroughly scrutinised because INEC just indicted itself with a questionable voters’ register. Instead of improving on the 2015 exercise, we are rather falling short. There is every reason to be afraid that the process may be manipulated.
“The present government is poised to find a way to manipulate the process. It is a dangerous trend.”
Fallacy of rating Southeast as least voting zone
One prominent feature of the voters’ register is the now established fact that the Southeast geopolitical zone has the least voting strength in the country.
However, the rating, according to the National Chairman of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Chekwas Okerie, is not only a fallacy, but an error of fact, very far from the reality.
“The voters’ register distributions showed gender, zone, occupation, but did not show ethnic nationalities,” he told Sunday Sun in Abuja, arguing: “If you take into consideration, the Southwest with 13 million votes, I can tell you that it has a composition of five million Igbo.
“It is the same with the Northwest with 20 million registered voters, where Igbo make up of about seven to eight million of that voters. So, if we consider the ethnic distribution of the figures we have seen, we will be looking at a number different from the impression given that Southeast is the least.”