Elections are a core process within a democracy. They provide opportunities for important debate on the future of a country. Nigeria – the most populous nation in Africa with over 200 million people and over 84 million registered voters – will hold its next general election in 2023. Ahead of the polls, the nation’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), partnered with WFD to organise a workshop for its members to review the Voter Education Manual.
Challenges of inadequate voter education
Ballots that are rejected during the vote count are widely attributed to inadequate civic and voter education. To put this in context, over one million votes cast in the Nigerian presidential election in 2011 were rejected during counting; mainly because the ballots were wrongly marked. The rejected votes constitute about 3.2% of all votes cast in that election. According to observers, this figure is high and could have been markedly lower with adequate voter education.
At the same time, there have been rapid declines in the turnout of voters in elections across Nigeria. For instance, the voter turnout in the 2019 presidential election dropped to 35% from 44% in the 2015 elections. That 44% turnout was also a decline from 54% attained in the 2011 polls. Indeed, statistics show that the voter turnout for Nigerian presidential elections has been dropping since 2003.
Other issues that have been linked to inadequate voter and civic education in Nigeria include poor participation in voter registration, lack of understanding of voting procedures, underage voting, and election violence.
Tackling the challenges
Improving voter education is one of the five key goals listed in the 2017-2021 INEC Strategic Plan. With this, INEC aims to achieve increased voter turnout during elections, improved voter knowledge of the permanent voters’ card and how to get one, and a reduced number of invalid votes at elections, as well as encouraging ethical voting.
With these goals in mind, WFD and INEC convened a five-day workshop to review the voter education manual and frequently asked questions (FAQs) in Keffi, Nasarawa State – from 12th to 16th January 2021.
During the workshop, participants worked on an enhanced and improved training resource that supports voter education providers and a revised voter education manual from which to develop digital learning tools to reach out to young people.
Modules in the manual for voter education trainers covers practical aspects of how to conduct voter education, as well as information about the electoral and political party system in Nigeria.
The workshop was realized with the support of #OurVoteCountsNG project, which WFD is implementing in Nigeria, with funding from the European Union Support to Democratic Governance (EU-SDGN).