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Prior to the last Students’ Union elections which ushered in a new crop of individuals as pilots-elect of the University of Ibadan student community, Facts Count set out to hear the opinion of the electorate on a wide range of matters from gender preference for presidency to endorsement of candidates by certain entities. Below is what we discovered.
SEX OF RESPONDENTS
More male respondents partook than female. This is understandable if we go by the university statistics of 2012 which states that out of the new entrants, 52% were male while 48% were female. In this survey as well, 53.3% were male while 46.7% were female. This shows that both genders are more or less equally inclined in favour of political participation and concern for the students’ union. All the participants were however undergraduates.
RESPONDENTS’ HALLS OF RESIDENCE
Here is the breakdown of the respondents according to their hall of residence: Mellanby (6.7%), Sultan Bello (16.7%), Kuti (6.7%), Queen Idia (13.3%), Queen Elizabeth II (6.7%), Obafemi Awolowo (16.7%), NnamdiAzikiwe (10%), Independence (6.7%), Alexander Brown (3.3%) and Off Campus (13.3%).
ON THE ADOPTION OF ELECTRONIC VOTING FOR UNION ELECTION
73.3% of the respondents were in favour of the introduction of e-voting for the students’ union elections, while 26.7% voted in opposition. In other words, a larger percentage of students are more opened to new innovations. The Electoral Commission through its decision, however, apparently did not share the affirmative sentiment of the majority. The commission reportedly unanimously rooted against a change in the status quo after it was approached by students of the Computer Science department who were willing to take up that project.
Interestingly, e-voting had already been successfully used in some halls, departments and faculties in the university. It has also been used by other universities prominent among which is the University of Ilorin. Perhaps, the same reason why some stakeholders in the university take objection to the system is why some lecturers see no need for a strictly online mode of course registration already in vogue in other institutions.
FEMALE STUDENTS’ UNION PRESIDENT
When thrown the idea of a female president through the question whether they think they could vote for one, 56.7% of the respondents said they can while 43.3% said otherwise. It should be noted that the male participants among the respondents do exceed 53.3%, and so female students too must have accounted for the 56.7%. In a world that is generally thought to be patriarchal though, this may be viewed as a gradual dissension from the norm. this also shows that the gender of a candidate does not affect the chances of winning and other factors contribute towards eventual victory.
MALE STUDENTS’ UNION VICE PRESIDENT
On the other hand, when respondents were asked if they could vote for a male as union vice president, 80% said yes they can while a meagre 20% replied in the negative. This proves more clearly that the entire society is tilted more in favour of the men for leadership roles, even in an academic environment. It is intuitively presumed that the post of the President is designed for the male students or the male students are designed for it while female students are only suited as deputy. But there is nothing wrong if a male is as well occupying both seats. We believe in a truly egalitarian society (we are not suggesting this is the best), respondents would have voted yes for both questions.
INFLUENCE FROM ENDORSEMENTS OF CANDIDATURE
In the poll, 33.3% of the respondents agreed that their decisions at the poll are influenced by whether or not a candidate is endorsed. This shows the weakness of the act which has now become quite habitual, a routine culture. It also shows that the bulk of the respondents (66.7%) may be considered independent-minded, and they perhaps do not trust their leaders enough to rely on their decisions.
VOTING BASED ON RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION
In the history of student politics in the university, desperate candidates have been observed to play the sensitive religious card in order to win elections. They go to fellowships and similar religious gatherings to canvass for support, they get religious leaders to declare support for them and some even cast aspersions on their rivals by saying he should not be voted for due to religious inclinations or expressions.
When asked if they would vote for a candidate because of religious affinity, 33.3% of respondents said they would while 66.7% replied in the negative. It is unclear if those latter still see it as a factor though or whether they just do not perceive it as a sole determinant.
VOTING BASED ON TRIBAL AFFILIATION
Furthermore, when respondents were thrown the question of whether they would vote based on tribal affiliation, 86.7% said they would not while 13.3% said why not? Relatively, this shows tribal connections are weaker than religious sentiments and that, in the academic environment at least, ethnic divides are gradually waning. Nevertheless, emotions still get the better of some members of the electorate who cannot fathom why someone from a different tribal background would hold a leadership position in their homeland.
FEMALE AS SPORTS SECRETARY
In the poll, 73.3% of respondents said they would/could vote for a female as sports secretary while 26.7% replied in the negative. Over the years, it has been the culture for a male student to occupy the position of the Sports Secretary for even generally sports are seen as a male affair. In the concluded elections however, a female (one of the best sportswomen on campus) was bold enough to stand for that office. Though she did not win, she sent a clear message to all and sundry. We can therefore conclude that are loss was due to other factors excluding are sex.
WHAT IS EXPECTED IN A PREFERRED ASPIRANT
Given the choice between physique, competence, affiliation and wealth, the largest percentage of respondents said they look for competence (86.7%) when deciding who they would like to vote in. Others did not quite agree with that decision, 6.7% said they look for affiliations, 3.3% replied wealth while again 3.3% said for them the selling point is the physique.
PREFERED TYPE OF THE UNION LEADER
Respondents were also asked what type of union leader they prefer and look forward between a radical (one who focuses on altering social structures through revolutionary means and changing value systems in fundamental ways) and a gradualist (one who believes in advancing toward a goal by gradual, often slow stages). Not surprisingly, the majority (60%) rooted in favour of radicalism while 40% said gradualism is the way. The student community in Nigeria, ever since the pre-independence era, have been familiar with the act of protests and radical means of making demands. It is expected however that as time passes, this notion will reduce further (as it has already started doing).
SYMPATHY VOTE FOR CANDIDATE CONTESTING REPEATEDLY
The University of Ibadan Students’Union has witnessed aspirants standing for the same office consecutively (there was JohnNexto, and then more recently, KCent). The mere fact that a candidate is vying a second time has been shown to influence the decision of some of the electorate, in this poll some being 13.3%. 86.7% replied that they care not if that is the case. Those who are sympathetic to the plight of such candidates must have factored the huge expenses student union electioneering has become characteristic of. But, it should be noted also that this disposition may be linked to the perception of politics as a form of business where profit-making is the aim or one of the goals.