The Nigerian Voter is a series that seeks to understand the motivations that drive the voting decisions of Nigerians — why they vote, how they pick their candidates, why some have never voted, and their wildest stories around elections.
The subject of today’s The Nigerian Voter is Victor, a 32-year-old energy commodity market analyst in Berlin, Germany. He told us about his reasons for leaving the country, his views on diaspora voting, and many more.
Why did you leave Nigeria?
I left in December 2020 because I won a scholarship to study renewable energy engineering in Berlin, Germany. I wasn’t ready to pass that up because I had worked hard for it for a long time.
Did you consider how leaving the country would affect your ability to vote?
It’s actually not something I thought of at the time. All I knew was that I have a scholarship in Germany and I must go. The election was the furthest thing from my mind, especially since I’ve never voted in Nigeria.
I felt it was a pointless exercise when they’d just rig to get their preferred candidate in anyway. This was until 2020 when #EndSARS happened — people were killed, and so brutally too, without any warning, without any justification. I just felt that omo, we have to be more involved in our country’s politics. If we don’t make any efforts to change the politicians, they’ll stay there and they’ll continue to be more corrupt. This may be cliché, but the power is in our hands big time.
If you were still in Nigeria, would you feel the need to vote in 2023?
Yes, because this is the most crucial point in time for Nigerians to vote. I still follow everything that goes on in the country. Half of the country is flooded and yet our leaders are travelling out. The naira is currently 800 to a dollar and yet the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has decided to redesign our notes. Nothing like a direction, nothing like a plan. Insecurity has engulfed the northern region — everything is going haywire. If we don’t vote right this time, Nigeria will fall as a republic in the next 10 years. Mark my words.
What would you say every voter should consider before choosing a candidate?
Competence, but based on track record.
Let me use an example. Did you know that the Blueline project in Lagos, which was supposed to run from Mile 2 to somewhere on the island, has been under construction for 13 years? They started that project back in 2009 when I was in my second year of university. They’ve spent $1.5 billion on that project for only 27 km. Ethiopia which did the exact same project did theirs to cover 750km in less than six months.
The point I’m trying to make is, there’s a certain bare minimum of competence that Nigerian leaders must have, and we’re always forgetting that bare minimum. Someone who can leave a project hanging for 13 years and spend billions in public funds on this same project doesn’t deserve to be a leader.
What’s your favourite thing about Nigeria’s electoral system?
The adoption of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).
Can you explain BVAS to me like I’m five years old?
BVAS is more or less a machine used to verify voters using their Permanent Voters Card (PVC). It’s meant to know if you’re really a registered voter or not.
It’s my favorite thing because I can remember how things used to be with long manual authentication processes. The BVAS is a welcome change.
What do you dislike the most about Nigeria’s electoral system?
The non-inclusion of diaspora voting. Nigerians in the diaspora contribute a lot more to this country than average Nigerians realize. The diaspora remittance in 2020 — or was it 2021 — was over $20 billion. That’s a lot of money and it goes to show that every Nigerian outside the country has invested interest in this country.
I’ve lived in Germany, Switzerland, and Egypt, but Nigeria is the only place that qualifies as home. I’d do anything possible to go back home when I achieve what I want to achieve here. I know Nigerians here who are just waiting for the right atmosphere, and the right leadership so that they can go and invest all their resources there. I’d rather build my fatherland than build the land of colonialists.
Diasporans should have a say and their voices should be heard. If anyone at home needs urgent ₦2k, it’s us they’ll run to.
Look at Kenya, which has five foreign countries where diasporans can vote. It shouldn’t be rocket science. If you have an international passport, that’s a unique ID. A Nigerian in the diaspora should be able to go to the embassy in their country of residence and vote. Officials can collate the ballots and send them to Nigeria. But instead, we hear that we can’t vote. What’s so difficult there?
Who would you vote for?
Peter Obi for president and Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour for Lagos State governor.
Do you plan on coming back in 2023 to vote for your candidates?
No. The benefit-to-cost ratio for me flying back to add one vote is too low when I can use the same funds to contribute to sensitisation that can mobilise more voters already on the ground.
How do you plan to show your support for the candidates from abroad?
Through sensitisation by engaging with my sphere of influence — family and friends — and monetary contributions.
Generally, what would you change about Nigeria’s electoral system?
I’d ensure there’s no clause that excludes the deployment of BVAS, and also increase the scrutiny of INEC. We should deploy live and visual updates on the electoral process that every stakeholder can see in real-time.
What are the qualities you want to see in Nigeria’s next president?
Competence, one with regard for merit and one with a profound connection with the masses.