“Democracy is still very young in Nigeria, but it’s politics can feel very old… and that could be a reason for plummeting voter turnout”
Democracy in Nigeria is celebrating its 20th birthday – but a democracy project believes plummeting turnout at last month’s Presidential election could be a sign that the first generation to have only known democracy is already losing interest.
The recent presidential election in Africa’s most populous democracy saw the lowest turnout since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, with just a third of voters turning up at polling stations.
Almost half of young Nigerians now own a smartphone, with research from analysts Pew showing that 48% of 18-34 year olds, and 39% of all adults, access the internet using their mobile telephone.
New democracy app Rate Your Leader – whose mission statement is “take back democracy with technology” – has recently been launched in Nigeria to connect politicians with verified local electors using abuse-proof technology.
Rate Your Leader founder and Nigerian tech entrepreneur Joel Poopola commented:
“Young Nigerians are more likely to own a smartphone than they are to vote. For the sake out our democracy it’s vital that politicians think creatively about how best to use digital technology to reach out to voters, the youngest in particular.
“Democracy is still very young in Nigeria, but it’s politics can feel very old, both in process and politicians, with both candidates well into their eighth decade. This is the first generation of Nigerian voters to come of age only knowing democracy, and if turnout levels are anything to go by they may feel less than passionate about participating in it.
“Turnout in Nigerian elections has been decreasing since 2003, and it seems reasonable to speculate that a driving force behind that could be decreasing faith in a political establishment which looks less and less like the electorate.
“International observers have praised the elections for their use of technology to improve the transparency and efficiency of Nigerian elections. It’s time for politicians to take the hint and use it for engagement too.”
Rate Your Leader is a global online platform which helps politicians engage only with voters in their constituencies in an abuse-proof way. The technology allows elected leaders to truly understand what matters most to the people who elect them while allowing local people to identify and contact their representatives at the touch of a button, direct from their phones or tablets.
The app, which also allows people to check to see if they are registered to vote and identify their elected representatives at the touch of a button, is free to download from the App and Google marketplaces.