Clement Ndidi Oligie
Department of Political Science and Public Administration
University of Uyo, Uyo, Nigeria. P. O. Box 4262, Uyo
This paper assessed the capability of ICT to enhance electoral participation in Nigeria, with focus on the 2011 and 2015 general elections. Using the mobilisation, normalisation/reinforcement and cyber-pessimism theories which, respectively, supports, doubts and rejects the use of ICT for electoral participation, the paper examined whether or not the deployment of ICT during the 2011 and 2015 Nigerian general elections was useful in enhancing electoral participation, particularly in the areas of election management; election observation; political campaign, communication/enlightenment and contacting; and voting. The paper revealed among others that whilst negative use of the Internet and social media, poor broadband Internet penetration and coverage, and malfunctioning of some ICT like card readers reduced the overall success of the initiative, the initiative produced remarkable benefits especially in election management, election observation, and political campaign, communication/enlightenment and contacting, but was less successful for voting as the two presidential elections, especially 2015 election, witnessed low total votes cast and poor voter turnout compared with previous presidential elections since 1999, despite having the greatest voting age population. Nevertheless, given the remarkable impact of ICT on the areas mentioned, the paper concluded that the argument of the mobilisation theory is more realistic and compelling because the benefits of the initiative during the two general elections outweighed the problems it created, which were limited and could not ruin the whole electoral processes. The paper recommended among others that greater co-operation among election stakeholders, procurement and sustainable use of high quality ICT for elections, and improved training of INEC permanent and ad hoc staff used for elections on how to utilise ICT maximally for election purposes, will enhance the use of ICT for electoral participation in Nigeria.
Key words: general elections, electoral process, information and communication technology (ICT), independent national electoral commission (INEC), electoral participation.