SMS vot­ing may solve Nige­rian voter ap­a­thy

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents -

On Sun­day, 22 April, 2018, my wife achieved what was pre­vi­ously in­con­ceiv­able. She per­suaded me to watch a small sec­tion of Big Brother Naija (BBNaija), the Dutch re­al­ity tele­vi­sion show fran­chise. How did she achieve this?

Well, while other fam­ily mem­bers were watch­ing the BBNaija TV show in the liv­ing room, I de­cided to go to the bed­room and mind my busi­ness with the big Ju­ven­tusNapoli foot­ball match in Italy. I was qui­etly watch­ing that game when my wife sent me a What­sApp mes­sage: “170 mil­lion text mes­sages at ₦30 each, that is ₦5.1 bil­lion, apart from ad­ver­tis­ing in­come. Even if or­gan­is­ers spent ₦1 bil­lion on pro­duc­tion, prizes, per­for­mance fees, lo­gis­tics et al, ₦4.1 bil­lion is a tidy sum to take to the bank. Note that ₦900 mil­lion was made in just the fi­nal week.”

That was enough to get me off my seat, es­pe­cially as Ju­ven­tus, the team I sup­port, was los­ing, any­way. Some­how, Big Brother Naija had been able to achieve some­thing that the Nige­rian gov­ern­ment has been fail­ing at, which is cor­ralling a large voter turnout. While the com­par­i­son of an en­ter­tain­ment pro­gramme – which fea­tured a large dose of li­cen­tious­ness – and the elec­toral sys­tem might be in­apt, it gives us an idea of how we might be able to im­prove trans­parency in our elec­tions and re­duce the trust deficit in the vot­ing sys­tem.

At the end of the show, some­thing crossed my mind, and I put it out on so­cial me­dia. I said although peo­ple see the number of votes cast dur­ing the BBNaija pro­gramme as an in­dict­ment of our ap­a­thy to pol­i­tics, I see it dif­fer­ently. Our ap­a­thy is driven, in large part, by elec­tion day stress. (Bad po­lit­i­cal out­comes also play a role). From my view­point, the BBN voter turnout

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