By FRANCIS B. ABULU, Esq
A low point of the February 25 presidential election was the abysmal low voter turnout in five predominantly coastal local councils in Delta South senatorial district. A repeat of that negative feature in tomorrow’s governorship and State assembly elections would have far-reaching consequences for the fortune of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP).
The abiding tenet of democracy is that a government which assumes power based on its overwhelming electoral support is ultimately expected to enhance the well-being of its citizens. Consequently, our people must be enlightened and adequately educated to understand the importance of voting as a sure route to getting power in a democratic state.
The loss of the PDP in Delta South Senatorial Seat to the opposition All Progressive Party ( APC) was largely due to leadership failure to mobilize the voters in the coastal areas of Warri North, Warri South-West, Burutu, Bomadi and Patani local councils.
The poor voter turnout was embarrassing compared to the 2019 elections and previous ones since our country returned to democratic rule nearly 24 years ago.
It should be noted that political mobilization and its impact on voter turnout is synonymous with political literacy which underpins the essence of democracy. It leads to political participation and enfranchisement of citizens to choose leaders of their choice, which is an effective way to make a demand on the government for the much needed infrastructure and catering to the well-being of the people. Therefore, the sensitization and mobilization of the people to vote with a view to ensuring that their votes count while elected officials are held accountable to the citizens, cannot be over-emphasised.
We have a situation in Delta South senatorial district where some political leaders are oblivious of the caricature description of our votes by Mr. Mike Igini, former Akwa Ibom State Resident Electoral Commissioner as “Fish Votes”! This is most demeaning yet both elected and appointed office holders of Ijaw and Itsekiri extraction are comfortable as they unknowingly gave meaning to this negative profiling based on the lean votes recorded in the presidential and national assembly elections.
The decline of party mobilization in the February elections was so evident that almighty Warri North and Warri South-West Local governments put together produced less than 20,000 votes! The ‘kporuku’ votes as they called them in Ijaw was nowhere to be found. Take for instance Burutu as a federal constituency returned less than 20,000 as well unlike the previous polls that recorded multiple thousand votes. Therefore, people in command leadership position must be responsible and accountable at all times.
In the past two weeks that I carried out a post-mortem of the elections, I discovered that the PDP’s failure in Delta South was caused by lack of party mobilization two or a day before the elections besides outright embezzlement of funds meant for mobilization and other logistics before and on the election day proper. Part of the reasons for this unfortunate development is that many political leaders saw the general election in the mould of party primaries where they could make quick money as delegates without knowing that the general election is a contest among parties while party primary is an internal affair in which every committed party member is a winner.
If the PDP must win in Delta South,party leaders in Warri North, Warri South-West, Burutu and Patani should be closely watched to ensure accountability in the management of party funds for effective mobilization. Some people must be held accountable for whatever failure which may arise. I am amazed that days after this failure some persons have not been questioned for their role in the colossal failure that made the PDP to win one senatorial seat and the the other two lost to the opposition APC! This must not happen in the upcoming election, otherwise we will all pay the price of complacency.
To change the narrative, the Southern Senatorial District must ensure that our people who were registered in the communities within the coastal areas are mobilized from the upland to cast their votes. What’s the need of people having a voter’s card when they choose to stay behind at the time of decision making that will affect their future?
Again, it’s imperative for political leaders to turn a new leaf by exercising power for the benefit of the people. Was this not the case, the pervasive voter apathy among our people partly attributed to lack of trust in political leaders and their neglect of the people over the years will not have happened.
As far as I am concerned, holding political power that doesn’t translate to the well-being of the people is sheer abuse of office.
Barr. Francis Bekesuode Abulu is Special Assistant on Politics to Gov Okowa.