Of the 498,390 registered voters in Aba North/South Federal Constituency, only 16,017 partook in Saturday’s bye-election. According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), there are 609 polling units spread across 24 Registration Areas (RAs) in the two Local Government Areas that make up the constituency.
Although Chimaobi Ebisike of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has been declared the winner of the election, one thing that will remain on the minds of those interested in politics, not just in Abia State, South East and the entire nation is the voter apathy recorded in the election.
Declaring the results at the INEC collation centre in Aba South Local Government Area, the Constituency returning officer for the by-election, Prof. Felix Obata, announced that Chimaobi Ebisike of PDP polled a total of 10,322 votes to defeat Mascot Uzor-Kalu of APC who polled 3,674 votes.
Prof. Obata announced that the total number of votes cast were 16,017 while 245 votes were rejected. The 16,017 votes include the votes garnered by other political parties that partook in the election, among which were the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Action Alliance (AA).
Are Nigerians losing interest in politics?
To a typical politician, defeating your opponent with 6,648 votes shows being accepted. But this definitely shows a huge gap. Imagine only a little over 16,000 voting in a city with a population of 2 million. In the buildup to the election, the political gladiators deployed their arsenal, at some point there was tension across the city. But the people simply looked the other way on the day of the election. Directly or indirectly, have passed the message that politicians are overrated. This could be the case of Nigerians losing interest in politics and those who represent them.
While some may argue that the 2 million population of Aba cover residents of Osisioma Ngwa LGA, Obingwa LGA and Ugwunagbo LGA which are not within the constituency where election held, but as truthful as that may sound, Aba South and Aba North LGA on their own have a population of over 1.5 million people put together. If only 16,017 people showed interest in the exercise out of the more 480,000 registered voters, then your guess is as good as mine.
During my visits to various wards and polling units on election day, I found some of the INEC ad-hoc staff sleeping. Will you really blame them? The voters were nowhere in sight. While those who slept were considered lucky, given that they had chairs to rest their back, the situation at Osusu Primary School in Abia North LGA was worse as some of the INEC staff were seen sitting on the floor. Neither the commission nor the community found them worthy of sitting to perform their duties.
At Osusu Hall, unit 34, only 15 out of 1,239 accredited voters had voted at the time I visited the polling unit in the afternoon. At unit 4 of the Golf course, only 15 person had voted four hours after the exercise had commenced, while 10 out of 781 voters had voted at Okigwe Primary School.
With impunity, Aba residents flouted the restriction of movement order imposed by the state government as many commercial buses and tricycle operators were on the streets carrying on with their usual activities. Some of the residents described the low turnout of voters as a total rejection of the current set of politicians.
“Some years ago, someone called for election boycott and people were quarreling with him all over the entire media in Nigeria. Today, even without anyone calling for it, I’m ashamed to say that Aba is politically lost.
“Nobody should count on Aba during any serious election. This is disturbing I must confess. From time immemorial, whenever Ndigbo need block votes, such votes normally come from Aba and Onitsha. With what we have witnessed between 2015 and now, Aba has gone down.
“May be because of terrible governance or other factors like the Biafra agitation, but whatever it is, the earlier we rekindled the political hunger in Aba before the 2023 general election, the better for Ndigbo,” Barr. Kingsley Obi said after casting his vote at Ward-8 Aba South.
Elder Lewis Eme, a voter at the Osusu Primary School, said, “I don’t blame Aba people at all. What do you expect when a group of politicians have decided to make life unbearable for people.
“I saw a lot of young people playing football in front of my own house. If it were before, I’ll instruct them to follow me down to this place because I know they all have their PVCs, but what will be my justification to persuade them?
“Is it payment or salaries of good governance? Imagine politicians begging residents to come out and vote with their bags of money, but people collected the money and went home. Here in Osusu, I saw women shouting let me go and get my share. After getting it, you’ll still see them at home. This is disturbing.”
The fate of the winner and losers has been sealed but the issue of voter apathy calls for serious concern.