A report has indicated that the gubernatorial elections in Edo and Ondo states later in the year may witness low voter turnout as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria. The study conducted by a non-governmental organization, Kimpact Development Initiative (KDI), was a survey of 890 potential voters in Edo and Ondo states where gubernatorial elections would be held on September 19 and October 10, 2020 respectively.
The report noted the dwindling voter turnout in the last six elections held in Nigeria since the beginning of this political dispensation from 1999 till date putting the percentage of turnout of voters at 52%, 69%, 58%, 54% and 36% in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 respectively. The survey particularly observed voter apathy that characterized the last governorship elections in the two states. It put the turnout for 2016 governorship elections in Edo at 32% while Ondo recorded 35%.
The survey intended to understand voters’ perception about elections in the two states amidst the COVID 19 pandemic. The study had respondents cutting across the youth 77.8%; middle age 16.9% and the elderly 5.4% respectively. In seeking to know the citizens’ opinion on the ways the pandemic would affect the elections in the two states, responses varied. A larger percentage says the pandemic would result in low voter turnout (48.1%). Others say election logistics would be affected (19.1%).
Some even averred that conducting elections would lead to a surge in the number of cases of the virus in the two states while 14.9% said it would undermine the credibility of the election. On how voters would turn out for the elections, 82% of the respondents say they would go and vote if INEC provides preventive measures and implement mitigation guidelines, while 18% does not support that. In Edo state, 46% of the respondents believe the rate of infections would have subsided before the election in the state. In terms of the confidence level of people trooping out, 75% of the respondents believe people will come out to vote despite the virus.
On what should be done on the elections in the face of the pandemic, 67% says the elections should be held under strict safety measures, 26.8% of the respondents favour postponement while 5.3% avers that the elections should be held with manual processes. The report also revealed 48.3% of voters in the two states show preference for electronic voting while 36% go for internet voting. 11% of the respondents suggest mail voting and 3.8% choose other options. The study also sought to know how comfortable the voters would be casting their votes at the polling booth.
On this, it was reported that 71% of the respondents are not comfortable with going out to the polling booth to cast their vote. Some 25.5% say they are comfortable while 10.8% declare they are indifferent. On the confidence of credibility of the election process, a large percentage (67.2%) of the respondents is confident while 32.8% express no confidence in elections conducted under such circumstances as presented by the COVID 19.
It was recommended that the Nigerian election management body should strictly implement safety procedures by ensuring physical distancing, provision of personal protection equipment for election personnel. The body was also advised to collaborate with other government institutions to mount innovative and aggressive voter education campaigns while not overlooking adequate planning to avoid logistic issues as witnessed in previous elections.
Political parties were equally charged to devise campaign methods that would involve fewer crowd.It would be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission has announced its commitment to conduct the two governorship elections due for later in the year despite the ravaging pandemic. As at the time of collating this report, Nigeria has a total of 10,162 confirmed cases while Edo and Ondo have 284 and 25 cases respectively.