Was it worth investing 305 billion-naira on the 2023 Nigeria elections?

With the hope of equipping the Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (INEC)  with considerable administrative and organizational capacity to better manage the 2023 general elections; Nigeria’s federal government availed a budget of  N305 billion ($627.1million). This was a 61 percent increase from the N189 billion ($ 388.6 million) the electoral body spent on the 2019 general elections.

Oftentimes we talk about the need for free and fair elections but not enough about the cost pegged on each voter and whether there is always a return on investment from voters? According to the Cost per Registered Voter Index (COVI), there are acceptable thresholds to determine the adequacy of electoral funding – $1 to $3 in stable democracies, $4 to $8 in transitional democracies, and $9 in post-conflict democracies.

INEC registered 93.4 million voters for the 2023 elections from a population of over 215 million Nigerians, and $5.39 was pegged on each voter; which was within the acceptable threshold of transitional democracies.

Before the 2023 general elections, previous elections in Nigeria had a cocktail of problems ranging from perennial logistical challenges, violence, and monetization. With improved funding for INEC, there was hope that things would be different this time round and more voters would be mobilized to take part in the electoral process not just campaigns but also on polling day. Was this the case though?

Despite the huge investment on voters, the elections registered a paltry voter turnout of only 24.9 million Nigerians, representing 29 percent out of the 87.2 million voters that collected Permanent Voters Card (PVCs). And barely 9 million people voted for President-elect Bola Tinubu who will now govern over 215 million Nigerians.

The low voter turnout in the 2023 elections is the least recorded number of voter participation ever since Nigeria returned to democratic elections in 1999. The low numbers in terms of voter participation clearly indicates that the 2023 general elections did not have a return to investment which should be a concern to all pro-democratic actors.

The 2023 Nigeria elections paints a glaring picture on democracy and calls for more action than rhetoric if citizens’ trust in democracy is to be rebuilt in Nigeria and across other African countries.

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