Aug 4, 2019

Fighting Voter Apathy With Empathy: A Way To #ShapeTheFuture | Adedunmade Onibokun

Saturday evening was really cool. I had a good time at the Youth Party event tagged “The Future of Youth Involvement In Nigeria’s Politics” and as a young Nigerian who is interested in our politics and growth as a nation, it was nice to listen to the likes of Banky W, Gbadebo Rhodes Viviour, Mujaheed Salisu Ahmad, Kayode Adegbola and Rinsola Abiola talk about their experiences during the 2019 general elections. From their passion it was obvious these young Nigerians from different political platforms had put in their all to win the elections.

The conversation also highlighted many of the challenges we face in our electoral system, for instance, panelists shared stories about threat to life, logistical nightmares, raising funds, getting support and the voting process which could sometimes be very frustrating. One thing however stood out, VOTER APATHY and the need to get more young Nigerians involved in all levels of politics and the electoral process. 

There are a number of reasons many Nigerians are uninterested in voting process, they include the stressful process of voter registration and voting in elections, lack of faith in the process, general lack of confidence in government and the constant presence of irregularities in the voting process are amongst the leading reasons people do not participate in the electoral process. Moreover, having recently participated in election petitions, I know firsthand the damage these activities have on our national health and psyche as a people.  

I believe we can solve the problem of voter apathy with voter empathy and in this post, I will tell you how a political party can access the huge numbers of eligible voters who never come out to vote on election day or participate in the election process. One thing is true, Nigerians have heard it all and I mean that literally, we have had politicians make campaign promises and out rightly deny making such statements upon getting to office. We know too well that our elected office holders only speak to the people during election campaign season and are nowhere to be found after winning the election.

SO HOW CAN WE ENCOURAGE NIGERIANS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE ELECTION PROCESS AND RID OUR PEOPLE OF VOTER APATHY? WE SHOW THE EMPATHY. To show empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another and in what way can empathizing help you win the hearts of Nigerians – through COMMUNITY ORGANISING.

Community organising is the work of bringing people together to take action around their common concerns and overcome social injustice. Community organisers reach out and listen, connect and motivate people to build their collective power. When people are organised, communities get heard and power begins to shift creating real change for good.

Community organizing will help show that a party isn’t only concerned with the vote on election day but also concerned about the things the people find important, such as healthcare, security, economic opportunities and justice. Young Nigerians have to organize systematically and strategically to positively influence our political office holders and impact our communities.

A number of activities which community organizers can engage in include –

·         Public school parents who organize to demand a high-quality education for their children.

·         Neighbors who organize to address potholes in the road and other infrastructure issues.

·         Peaceful protest against police brutality

·         Organizing members of a community to demand better health care facilities

·         Organizing young Nigerians to demand for electoral reforms.  

·         Residents of a community coming together to demand security and many others.

By showing voter empathy, we don’t just bore Nigerians with party manifestos and empty promises which they have all heard before but you show them the values you believe in and how you are standing by those values. If you were a Nigerian who saw members of a political party organize small communities and create change in those communities, won’t you want to give them the opportunity to do more?

Many individuals and NGOs are already involved in various forms of community organizing but hardly do we have political parties engage in such activities. Before people can care about your party and its manifesto, your party must first show the people that it cares. This is one way we #shapethefuture 

I will also encourage young Nigerians to employ out of the box thinking in calling the attention of the public and government agencies/officers to issues which are critical and of immense importance to members of the public.

On a final note, I will leave with these words shared by Gbadebo – “You may not be interested in politics but politics is interested in you”.

Adedunmade Onibokun

@Adedunmade is a lawyer and educates Nigerians on the law via the Nigerian Blawg @Legalnaija

 Photo Credit - @youthparty_ng