The Osun turnout in 2022 was 42.37 per cent, down from 45.7 per cent in the 2018 governorship election in the state but higher than the statistics from the previous elections across the country since 2019.
The just concluded Osun State governorship election offered an early indication of positive possibilities in the 2023 general elections. Despite apprehension about a violent disruption of the poll, the election turned out to be very peaceful and witnessed an impressive voter turnout
Since 2019, voter turnout in elections across the country has been lower than 38 per cent but the off-season Osun election recorded a 42.37 per cent turnout, inspiring hope of improved participation as the 2023 elections beckon. Analysts say improvements in the credibility of the electoral process encourage voters to participate.
The election was, however, blighted by vote buying, an obscene phenomenon that has become prevalent in elections in Nigeria, despite countermeasures such as deploying anti-graft officials to polling areas and banning the use of mobile phones in voting cubicles.
A total of 15 political parties participated in the election. At the conclusion of voting, INEC Chief Returning Officer for Osun, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, declared Ademola Adeleke, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the winner of the election.
Mr Adeleke polled 403,371 votes (51.8 per cent) to defeat his closest challenger, Governor Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who got 375,027 votes (48.2 per cent).
Apart from winning the total majority votes, the PDP also won in 17 of Osun’s 30 local governments while the APC won in 13.
INEC indicates that 827,218 voters were accredited out of 1,952,387 registered voters for the election. About 99 per cent (or 823,124) of the eligible voters were able to cast their votes, out of which 804,450 votes were valid and 18,674 votes were rejected.
This means more than 40 per cent of the registered voters in the state voted during the election. Simply put, four in every ten eligible voters in the state’s 30 local government areas, consisting of 332 wards and 3,763 polling units, voted on Saturday.
The turnout was 42.37 per cent, down from 45.7 per cent in the last 2018 governorship election in the state but higher than the statistics from the previous elections across the country since 2019.
Also, while the voter turnout was lower in percentage terms than in 2018, the actual number of voters was higher in 2022 by over 50,000 votes.
“It is self-evident that votes are beginning to count in today’s Nigeria,” wrote Dakuku Peterside, a policy and leadership expert. “The call for voters to get their PVCs is germane, and people would be more inclined to vote now, knowing that their choices matter.”
“We hope that this will make leaders produced from this process to be accountable to the electorate. This marks the beginning of true democracy in Nigeria – the supremacy and power of the people through balloting,” Mr Peterside wrote in an article published by PREMIUM TIMES.
Osun election pattern
The Osun governorship election is an off-cycle election as a result of post-election litigation arising from the widely condemned 2007 elections. That 2007 governorship election was overturned by a decision of the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin, which saw Rauf Aregbesola declared the rightful winner of the elections after three years of a legal battle.
July 16 was the sixth election to be conducted with governor-elect Adeleke being the fifth to win the poll -Bisi Akande (1999-2003); Olagunsoye Oyinlola (2003-2010); Rauf Aregbesola (2010-2018); Gboyega Oyetola (2018 – 2022) – in 23 years.
Data shows a continuous increase in the number of registered voters, but participation in elections (in percentage terms)
has continued to decline in Osun elections, from 58.6 per cent in 2003, to 53.1 per cent in 2014, before dropping to 45.7 per cent in 2018.
The number further plummet in Saturday’s election as only 42.37 per cent of registered voters voted, data from INEC showed.
Not peculiar to Osun
Although the recent Osun election had the lowest turnout in the state since 2003, the numbers are still more impressive when compared to other elections.
In the last two electoral cycles, including off-season elections, average voter turnout across the country has been lower than 38 per cent, according to INEC official figures.
For instance, the Ekiti governorship election last month recorded a 36.74 per cent voter turnout.
Since 1999, Nigerians’ aversion to voting during elections has been well documented. This is despite the huge amount of money spent by the government.
The 1999 general elections witnessed 52 per cent turnout but the number increased to 69 per cent in the 2003 elections, data from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) showed.
After the 2003 presidential election, participation in subsequent elections has reduced significantly, first to 57 per cent in 2007, to 54 per cent in 2011, before dropping to 44 per cent in 2015.
Just 34.75 per cent of eligible Nigerians voted in the 2019 presidential election, data from INEC showed.
According to a PREMIUM TIMES analysis, the closest numbers to this low turnout in 2019 were recorded during the nation’s first three presidential elections: 35.25 per cent in 1979, 38.94 per cent in 1983, and 36.65 per cent in the 1993 election, which was eventually annulled.