SMS voting may solve Nigerian voter apathy
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