Nigerians are great lovers of entertainment and this is evident in their passion for the Big Brother Naija show – from the way they talk about their favourite housemates to mobilising votes for them. Beyond the entertainment value of the show however, there are lessons to learn in relation to elections in Nigeria.
According to research, Nigeria has the lowest number of voter turnout in Africa. The country recorded its all-time lowest voter turnout during the 2019 presidential election for the first time in history since its return to democracy in 1999. From available statistics, the voter turnout for the 2019 presidential election was 34.75, that of 2015 was 43.65 per cent while the 2011 presidential election recorded a voter turnout of 54.07%. As we can see, there is a steady decrease in the percentage of voter turnouts from 2011 to 2019 which suggests that there is voter apathy in the polity.
Meanwhile, the Big Brother Naija show was said to have polled over 170 million votes in 2018, over 240 million votes in 2019 and it is was rumoured to have polled a yet to be verified 900 million votes in the just concluded 2020 edition. While we do not dispute the fact that BBN vote counts come from different parts of Africa and not Nigeria alone, there are still lessons to learn from it.
When we compare the BBNaija polls to voter turnout during Nigeria’s elections, we would notice that there is a sharp contrast between both. While we see a steady increase of voters in the show, the reverse is the case in Nigeria’s elections. The high number of voters in the reality TV show is probably directly related to the ease with which the voting process is done. For example, fans of the show can easily vote for their favourite housemate through SMS, the DSTV app and on the website of the show organizers. On the other hand, the voting process during the election in Nigeria is stressful.
It is understandable that voter apathy in Nigeria is linked to several factors including loss of faith in the system due to electoral malpractices that make voters feel that their votes may not count; fear of intimidation and violence which are common during elections; ballot snatching, the rigorous nature of registration for elections, collection of PVCs and the actual voting exercise, etc.
However, to improve voter turnout during elections, INEC might want to consider leveraging technology to make the voting process less tedious through electronic voting. Adopting this method would also put a check on electoral violence and ballot snatching and gradually restore the faith of the electorate in the system. The ease with which BBNaija fans cast their votes is a lesson for INEC – the easier the process, the higher the voter turnout.
How Nigerians reacted:
Maybe INEC should recommend the #BBNaija model of voting to Nigerians (₦50 or ₦100 Naira per vote per candidate whatever the case is). I think it would be interesting to see the outcome.
— Chidi Onuke (@chidionuke) September 30, 2020
Dey would still find a way to rig the election , you don’t know this country, both INEC and the two leading parties in Nigeria are all scam
— Table shaker (@Tableshaker11) September 30, 2020
Your vote will not still count.
— Kamady (@Kamadyshot) September 30, 2020
Not all the vote were SMS… a huge percentage of it was online and desktop vote, also Dstv and Gotv vote came through
— Eniibukunoluwa Zoé💡💡💡 (@Eniibukunoluwa_) September 30, 2020
No one actually knows the true value of those 'free' online votes because the data used in voting wasn't free
— Olusesan Ayodele (@AyodeleOlusesan) September 30, 2020
It doesn't work that way.
In BBN, you can vote multiple times. In Politics, you can only vote once.
Also, note that the votes also cut across other Africa countries as well…
— Edward .E. Onoriode 🍥 (@Edward_Onoriode) September 30, 2020
The reason we had such high voter turnout is that these votes were cast online. If the @inecnigeria would provide such a platform, I believe that Nigerians would vote during elections as well.
— Kelveka (@kelveka) September 30, 2020