Oversea Voting: A Nigerian Perspective

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in 2014 Turkish polls won his country’s first direct presidential election. About 2.7 million registered Turks in the diaspora were eligible to perform their civil right. It was the first time the Islamic democratic state would extend the ballot boxes to other countries (in parts of Europe & Asia) in her national election. It’s a talking point notwithstanding that over 7% of Turkish citizens away from home constituted the winning figures that saw the victor emerge in historic fashion.

Oversea voting is an electoral phenomenon that sees citizens, residing outside a country, exercise their voting rights. Like establishment of an independent electoral body in conducting elections (usually in democratic climes), oversea voting, as a model of election, is promulgated strictly by the law. The law describes the intricacies inherent in such arrangement. This confers its legality. Australia, Germany, the United States, Turkey, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom are countries among others practicing such electoral process. Citizens from these countries in the diaspora go to embassies, Consulates or High Commissions, as the case may be to decide their choice at the polls. While the Turkish constitution provides unrestricted rights to all voting eligible citizens outside the country, the Uniformed & Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) allows certain U.S citizens to register to vote and vote by absentee ballot in federal elections. Group of people covered under the act are: members of the seven Uniformed Services, US citizens employed by the federal government staying outside the US, members of the US Merchant Marine etc. In Australia, citizens outside the shores of the continent enroll before elections.

Oversea voting is usually done, especially when unrestricted, to improve projected low vote turnout. On this premise, oversea voting would not be necessary especially when people back home are conscious & ready to effect change through the polls. Numbers won’t mean a thing. Around 68 million registered voters, according to the Independent Electoral Commission’s statement, make up over 40% of Nigeria’s population. Quite a decent number really but that

doesn’t look too plausible to justify the direct electoral participation of millions of Nigerians around the globe most of whom egressed to seek greener pastures.

Nigerians back home have the sole right to determine who & how they are governed & the elements that run the various institutions of the state. It is their duty.

One is thus inclined to opine that nations of oversea voters’ are usually developed ones with stable economy and matured democracy (asides Turkey’s infant democracy) that makes the epithet ‘working states’ incredibly apt. Sad thing, that, Nigeria & a chunk of Africa are far below the socio-economic totem in this regard.

Africa’s biggest economy just approached the polls to choose who clinches power, I argue that Nigeria do not need extend the ballot boxes outside, moral reasons could play here too. The 1999 military constitution can be amended to avert electoral excesses as well soothe the functions of the independent electoral body towards delivering democratic & credible elections. Need to mention it was pure excitement to watch Nigerians in the UK, on Channels TV election bulletin who were active in simulated situation rooms gathering info from friends & relatives back home. It is the least they think they could as concerned citizens. No one can however deny their rights if they are back on home soil to vote. Valid to say it could amount to waste of precious resources mounting polling units at embassies, consulates & high commissions. Nigerians at home are well able numerically to decide who governs (no prizes for guessing numbers)… and for Africa’s democracy? We might be miles behind crawling compared with West Europe & North America but certainly, Nigeria is on course. I don’t see the readiness to walk such path as violence & systemic manipulation constantly mar elections & the expressed will of the people. Withal, now is the best time to put the proverbial house in order.



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