CAUSES AND EFFECTS OF POLITICAL APATHY IN NIGERIA. A STUDY OF 2019 GENERAL ELECTION
Political apathy is the lack of psychological involvement in public affairs, emotional detachment from civic obligations, and abstention from political activity. The takeoff point however relates to the word “apathy,” at once denoting “an individual’s impassivity or indifference and a form of collective political behavior” (Mason et al,1991). As against the dictates of political participation which brings the people to bear in the political and democratic process of a nation, political apathy shows reservation, restraint and abandonment of the system. Since participation in the political system as discussed previously, the individual has a voluntary right to participate or not to participate in the political system.
Political apathy is evidenced in mass, collective behavior but has its origin at the level of the individual psyche. It usually starts with an individual showing disappointment, distrust and faithlessness in the electoral system and encroaches like a virus to other members of the society. In the aggregate, political apathy is revealed by attitudes and an absence of expected activity. When people cease to care about political life, withdraw from obligations to civil society, and perform entirely nominal or rote acts- or none at all- in political institutions or organizations, apathy is indicated. Apathy therefore negates the true meaning of democracy which is government of the people, by the people and for the people. The emerging regime in the state of apathy cannot be considered as a true representative of the wishes of the people and it may lack the local and international backing for its successful administration. It is obvious, therefore, that as a subset of political behavior, voter apathy is multidimensional, operating as it does at the intersections of psychology, sociology, economy and geography, history and the contemporary, laws and structures, process and actors, memory, retention and perception, among others (INEC, 2011).
In describing the political apathy situation in Nigeria, AttahiruJega maintained that there exists voters’ apathy in Nigeria is no longer contentious. Voters turnout in the justconcluded general elections had provided a scientificand empirical evidence of the existence of votersapathy and disinterestedness of sections of theelectorates in elections. This ugly scenario hasimplications for popular participation and governance (Odebode, 2011).
However, several factors have been identified in literature as fueling the growing political apathy. These includes psychological involvement and collective memory of historical and contemporary events and issues, patterns of trust, feelings of efficacy, political engagement and disengagement of individual, geographic regions (Margurn 2003; Mason et al, 1991; Thomas 2004). Psychological involvement is purely and individualistic notion that describes the feeling of participation that an individual have about the political process. This is closely linked to the feeling of trust and believes in the electoral system. People will rationally stand aloof when they see the system as biased towards a particular system and more so when they see the election system as not credible. In addition, campaigns communications and the media(Panagopoulos 2009) have the probability to instigate political apathy. In the wake of hate campaign, political blackmail and libel that alienates the people from the electoral process, apathy will increase. The media from time has been a critical determinant of public opinion which may be in favor of one person or group at the expense of another. Thirdly, the role of space, distance and convenience of voting (Dyck and Gimpel 2005) can have varied impact on the electoral process which is a fundamental aspect of the democratic system. When the voting system occasion huge cost implication to the individual or the voting system is rigid, electorates will show voting apathy. To this end, governments all over the world strive to make the electoral system as simplified as possible so that voters are able to participate irrespective of their educational status, age, abilities and economic status. More so, polling station should be decentralized and brought closer to the people so that the people in the creeks and hinterland can participate in the elections.
Furthermore, Bowler and Donovan (2011) opined that the competitiveness of elections on account of extent to which elections are considered strategic and election outcomes are projected to be close influences political apathy. On the part of those contesting in election, the perception on the fairness of the entire electoral process will determine if he or she will participate in the democratic process. Other motivating factors include impact of technologies and the human, including poll worker, dimensions of elections (Hall et al, 2009), the electoral policy itself (Kaempfer and Lowenberg 1993) and the wider issues connected to economic considerations and voting (cf Koch 2007).
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to:
- determine the causes of political apathy as perceived by secondary school
- suggest strategies for reducing political apathy
The following questions were raised for the study:
- i) What are the causes of political apathy as perceived by secondary school teachers?
- What are the role of INEC in reducing political apathy in Nigeria?
There is no significant difference in the causes of political apathy as perceived by male and female secondary school teachers.