Politician, noun. /ˌpɑl·əˈtɪʃ·ən/ A person who is active in politics.
Despite obvious flaws in our electoral process, Nigeria is lucky to be among the 58 percent of countries across the world that practice democracy. The majority go through the process of selecting the small cohort that lead society in order that policies, industries, and institutions reflect the ideals of the masses. This process is significant because out of it comes the sort of business climate that encourages investment, the incentive structure that can curb the mass exodus of young professionals, and the development of the social contract needed to maximize the tax base. Ultimately, elections shape economic outcomes for the next four years and beyond.
In the grand scheme of things, the 2019 election is particularly very important. The stakes are higher considering the effect of the growth in government debt, unemployment situation, exchange rate volatilities, shortfall in private spending, and structural issues like the age-old oil dependence. As these and other non-economic concerns continue to worsen, the country is at a tipping point where the costs of not participating in the elections or making the wrong decisions will have dire consequences.
Notwithstanding the gains of political participation, civic engagement in Nigeria’s political process remains poor. According to the Election Guide, the voter turnout at the 2015 presidential election was 44 percent, the lowest recorded since the beginning of democracy in 1999. Political illiteracy and apathy are common as many citizens do not have the basic knowledge that allows for responsible participation, and in some cases, are unconcerned about the outcomes of the electoral process. Aside low voter turn-out and lack of awareness, there is also inadequate stakeholder engagement in developing policies and regulations.
As a way to fill this gap, Your Nigerian Economist and friends embarked on a Permanent Voters Card (PVC) registration drive in University of Abuja, Gwagwalada. The aim was to incentivize students to get their PVCs and vote in the coming elections. As a result of the drive, 38 students from the Department of Economics were able to get their Temporary Voters Card with a promise to learn about the aspirants and make informed decisions during the election season. With one of the largest populations of youths globally, other interventions to enhance political participation and inclusiveness among young people are encouraged as we go to the polls. The call to action is not necessarily to take up political offices but to examine the values, ideology and past performance of aspirants and vote decisively.
In the words of Bertolt Brecht, “the worst illiterate is the political illiterate. He doesn’t seem to know that the cost of living, the price of beans, of flour, of rent, of medicines all depend on political decisions… He doesn’t know, the imbecile, that from his political non-participation comes the corrupt officials, the lackeys of exploitative multinational corporations”.