Political Ignorance: As Buhari Takes New Oath


By Ayo Ologun

Political ignorance in Nigeria is deep and widespread. The current government policies and inactions lays it to bare. Although lots of things has changed and improved, much other recent political controversy, such that allows for solidarity rally for a legislative election meant to take place within the legislative chamber and such that even the would be leaders of Parliament paste posters seeking only what God knows leaves but nothing to desire about the ignorance that permeates the political space.

Democracy is the rule of the people, by the people, and for the people. But in order to rule effectively, the people need political knowledge. If they know little or nothing about government, it becomes difficult to hold political leaders accountable for their performance. Unfortunately, public knowledge about politics is disturbingly low.

In addition, the public also often does a poor job if any in evaluating the political information they do know. This state of affairs has persisted despite rising education levels, increased availability of information thanks to modern technology, and even supposed rising IQ.

It is mostly the result of rational behaviour, not stupidity. Such widespread and persistent political ignorance and irrationality strengthens the case for limiting and decentralizing the power of government.

A recent survey found that only 32 percent of the country’s population can even name the three arms of the government: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. There is also much ignorance and confusion about such matters as which government officials are responsible for which issues

Widespread ignorance is not a new phenomenon. Political knowledge has been at roughly the same low level for decades. But it is striking that knowledge levels have risen very little, if at all, despite rising educational attainment and the increased availability of information through the internet, cable news, and other modern technologies.

Political leaders react to data like the above by thinking that the voters must be stupid. But political ignorance is actually rational for most of the public, including most smart people. If your only reason to follow politics is to be a better voter, that turns out not be much of a reason at all. That is because there is very little chance that your vote will actually make a difference to the outcome of an election.

For most of us, it is rational to devote very little time to learning about politics, and instead focus on other activities that are more interesting or more likely to be useful. As former British Prime Minister Tony Blair puts it, “the single hardest thing for a practising politician to understand is that most people, most of the time, don’t give politics a first thought all day long. Or if they do, it is with a sigh…. before going back to worrying about the kids, the parents, the mortgage, the boss, their friends, their weight, their health, sex and rock ‘n’ roll.”  Most people don’t precisely calculate the odds that their vote will make a difference. But they probably have an intuitive sense that the chances are very small, and act accordingly.

Voting is a lot cheaper and less time-consuming than studying political issues. For many, it is rational to take the time to vote, but without learning much about the issues at stake. This is why our leaders fail and all we do is wail.

There are people who learn political information for reasons other than becoming better voters. Just as sports fans love to follow their favourite teams even if they cannot influence the outcomes of games, so there are also “political fans” who enjoy following political issues and cheering for their favourite candidates, parties, or ideologies.

Unfortunately, much like sports fans, political fans tend to evaluate new information in a highly biased way. They overvalue anything that supports their preexisting views, and to undervalue or ignore new data that cuts against them, even to the extent of misinterpreting simple data that they could easily interpret correctly in other contexts. Moreover, those most interested in politics are also particularly prone to discuss it only with others who agree with their views, and to follow politics only through like-minded media.

All of this makes little sense if the goal is truth-seeking. A truth-seeker should actively seek out defenders of views opposed to their own. Those are the people most likely to present you arguments and evidence of which you were previously unaware. But such bias makes perfect sense if the goal is not so much truth as enhancing the fan experience.

As we journey to begin the end of another era through the taking of oath for a second term of president Muhammadu Buhari, the most obvious way to overcome political ignorance is by increasing knowledge through education. Unfortunately, political knowledge levels have increased very little over the last twenty years of this new democracy even as educational attainment has risen enormously. Rising IQ have also failed to increase political knowledge. This suggests that increasing political knowledge through education is a lot harder than it seems.

Perhaps the solution is a better public school curriculum that puts more emphasis on civic education. The difficulty is that governments have very little incentive to ensure that public schools really do adopt curricula that increase knowledge. If the voters effectively monitored education policy and rewarded elected officials for using public schools to increase political knowledge, things might be different. But if the voters were that knowledgeable, we probably wouldn’t have a political ignorance problem to begin with.

Moreover, political leaders and influential interest groups often use public education to indoctrinate students in their own preferred ideology rather than increase knowledge. Indoctrination was one of the major motives for the establishment of public education in the first place. Isn’t that what the missionaries came to us with and for?

Even if public schools did begin to do a better job of teaching political knowledge and minimized indoctrination, it is hard to see how students could learn enough to understand and monitor more than a small fraction of the many complex activities of modern government. This is not to say that we shouldn’t try to use education to increase knowledge. Incremental improvements are probably possible. But if history is any guide, they are unlikely to be very large.

It can only be of hope that the second term of president Buhari will be devoted to increase the number of out of school children to be enrolled in schools particularly in the north such that we will have less willing hands for insurgents. Hopefully, an increased attention on education through budgeting as prescribed by the United Nations will be a focus of the administration in the new dispensation. No nation grows beyond the awareness of her youth and that can only be made possible through quality education.

Reducing the size of government could also alleviate the problem of ignorance by making it easier for rationally ignorant voters to monitor its activities. A smaller, less complicated government is easier to keep track of and not the many ministers for and of as it has been the practice.

 Costs can be reduced by decentralizing to lower levels of government or to the private sector, and such costs are in any case declining thanks to modern technology.

Political ignorance is far from the only factor that must be considered in deciding the appropriate size, scope, and centralization of government. For example, some large-scale issues, such as global warming, are simply too big to be effectively addressed by lower-level governments or private organizations. Democracy and Political Ignorance is not a complete theory of the proper role of government in society. But it does suggest that the problem of political ignorance should lead us to limit and decentralize government more than we would otherwise.

As we journey on and Bubu takes another oath for a second term, beyond wishing the country well, the president and his team must begin to do things rightly and well.

May the people benefit.

Ayo Ologun is a public affairs analyst, a media practitioner and a columnist with the KAFTAN media group. He writes from Osogbo.

Related Stories

The Nigerians’ New Round Of Economic Pang

By Jerome-Mario Utomi This piece stemmed from three different but related sources. The first has to do with the astronomical increase in the prices of goods and services in Nigeria, a country that is still discussing minimum wage at a time when the global community is focusing on living wage. And a nation where everything heads up except the wages and salaries of workers, particularly the civil servants. The second has to do with the Global Trends in Child Monetary Poverty report recently released by the World Bank, which reportedly stated that 40 million Nigerian children are living in extremely


BRICS and the Global South Cooperation

By Professors Abdullahi Y. Shehu and Maurice Okoli Introduction Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992 ‘the tectonic plates of geopolitics have been shifting’ and with current geopolitical tensions, including the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the Israeli-Hamas war, new alliances and potential rivalry among world powers seeking for influence in Africa and other regions of the world, ‘we may see the world becoming more multipolar’. Despite the plethora of multilateral institutions, multipolarity has become a cliché as member states forge new alliances to address perceived injustices in the existing system. BRICS emerged from the Russia-India-China strategic triangle called RIC. The group


6 AI Tools to Help You Celebrate Valentine’s Day the African Way

Valentine’s Day is one of the most daunting gift-giving holidays. You want to get something for your partner, of course, but also you like to let your friends and family (and even your dogs) know how much they’re loved. It’s a tricky holiday: The perfect Valentine’s Day gift is sentimental but not saccharine-sweet. Genuinely useful but not overly practical. It has a personal touch — but could potentially be replicated for a friend or two (or three). If you need a little help, here are six AI-powered Google tools to help you find the perfect gift. Search (and shop) what


Creating Jobs and Developing Skills is Vital to Sustaining Livelihoods of Communities

By Kuda Mukova Despite the immense developmental gains that sub-Saharan Africa has seen over the past few decades, there is no doubt that much work remains to be done. According to the 2023 Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) at the University of Oxford, some 534 million people live in poverty across the region. We still fall behind on other developmental indices too. Data from the World Bank shows that nearly half the region’s population doesn’t have access to electricity and, according to the World

More Stories

Google Thrills Android Lovers With Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro

By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel It is an exciting moment for Andriod and Pixel lovers as Google is set to reveal its new Pixel 6 and 6 pro phones in a few hours’ time. While the multinational technology company traditionally holds an October hardware event to reveal its new Pixel phones, it is a new thing that it had already announced this year’s innovations to be unveiled. “On October 19, we’re officially introducing you to Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro—the completely reimagined Google phones. Powered by Tensor, Google’s first custom mobile chip, they’re fast, smart, and secure. And they adapt to


Sterling Bank Posts PBT of N9.5bn, EPS of 32 Kobo

By Dipo Olowookere A profit before tax of N9.5 billion has been declared by Sterling Bank Plc for the year ended December 31, 2018. This is higher than the N8.1 billion achieved in the 2017 financial year. On Friday, the lender posted its financial scorecard for 2018 and an analysis showed that the profit after tax appreciated to N9.2 billion from N8 billion declared in the previous year. A total of N125.2 billion was made as interest income during the year under review, higher than N110.3 of the previous year. The amount raked from fees and commission income was N15.2


Ambode Desecrated Office of Governor Attacking Me—Sanwo-Olu

By Dipo Olowookere The main challenger for the Lagos State governorship ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) primary today, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has described the attack on his person by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode yesterday at a world press conference in Ikeja, the state capital, as unfortunate. The Governor had alleged that Mr Sanwo-Olu, who has the support of various party stakeholders in the state, was not fit to govern Lagos State. According to Mr Ambode, his challenger was once arrested in the United States for spending fake American Dollars at a night club and had allegedly been admitted at


Customers to Get Tech Devices on Jumia at Discounted Prices

By Modupe Gbadeyanka From March 21 to April 3, 2022, shoppers on the popular e-commerce platform, Jumia Nigeria, will purchase various tech devices at discounted prices. This offering is through the Jumia Tech Week and during the two-week-long campaign, customers will get the best deals on the latest mobile phones and accessories, TVs, computers, cameras, video games and much more. According to the CEO of Jumia Nigeria, Mr Massimiliano Spalazzi, the Jumia Tech Week allows consumers to buy tech-related items at the best prices. “This year, we have extended the campaign to two weeks to give our consumers more time


Brent Hits 3-Year Peak of $81 as OPEC+ Keeps Output Cut

By Adedapo Adesanya Oil prices climbed to a three-year peak on Monday after the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies (OPEC+) confirmed it would stick to its current output policy as demand for petroleum products rebounds across the world. As a result, the price of the Brent rose by 2.5 per cent or $2.00 to sell at $81.28 per barrel, while the US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) moved up by 2.29 per cent or $1.74 to trade at $77.62 per barrel. After its monthly meeting on Monday, OPEC+ said it would stick to an existing pact for a


Remedies for Wrongful Termination of Employment Contract

By Benita Ayo I have stated before now that the employment relationship between an employer and an employee is mostly regulated by a contract of employment which is a contractual document setting out the terms and conditions of the employment relationship. Like any other contractual relationship, an employment contract may be brought to an end by circumstances which may or may not be within the control of the parties. Wrongful Termination of Employment The termination of an employment contract becomes wrongful when it fails to follow the procedure outlined in the employment contract. For example, it is typical for an


Enugu Disco Explains Reason for Poor Power Supply

By Adedapo Adesanya  The Enugu Electricity Distribution Company Plc (EEDC) has explained that the poor power supply currently experienced by its customers across the Southeast region is beyond it. In a statement signed by the Head of Corporate Communications, Mr Emeka Ezeh, the energy firm said, “The situation is due to low energy generation, which has resulted in a drop in power availability. “The development has resulted in a low generation, leading to a reduction in the quantum of daily megawatt hour (MWH) of energy allocated to distribution companies nationwide, thereby impacting the quality of service to its customers. “We


Nigerian Stocks Close 0.76% Lower on Sustained Selloff

By Dipo Olowookere Profit-taking activities persisted on the trading floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) last Friday, leaving the market to close 0.76 percent lower with the Year-to-Date (YtD) returns finishing at -1 percent. Business Post reports that the All-Share Index (ASI) slipped to the 37,000 region after shedding 290.07 points to settle at 37,862.53 points, while the market capitalisation went down by N105 billion to finish at N13.716 trillion. It was observed that the volume of equities transacted on the last trading day of last week declined by 38.38 percent, while the value shares exchanged depreciated by 65.16

Recent Stories

What Pentecostal Pastors Have in Common With Politicians

By Michael Owhoko, PhD The disparity of roles between ecclesiastics and politicians is generally expected to translate to differences in values, lifestyles and creeds, but this pattern has been disrupted and bridged in Nigeria by materialism.  Moral disconnects, lust and insatiability for money, wealth, fame, influence and power have conspired to bring the men of God to the level of politicians.  This is evident in the Pentecostal ministries where some founding pastors and general overseers {GOs} no longer exhibit ascetic dispositions and restraints from material allures. Men of God are ordained servants positioned to constantly communicate God’s values and the


Ghana’s Central Bank Suspends FX Trading Licence of First Bank

By Aduragbemi Omiyale The foreign exchange (FX) trading licence of FBN Bank Ghana Limited, a subsidiary of FBN Holdings Plc, the parent company of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, has been suspended by the Bank of Ghana. A statement issued on Monday by Ghana’s central bank disclosed that its action was because of the bank’s fraudulent documentation in its forex operations. The country’s banking sector regulator also suspended the FX trading licence of GTBank Ghana Limited, a subsidiary of Nigeria’s GTCO Plc, the parent company of GTBank Limited for the same offence. The notice from the central bank disclosed that


Binance Exits Nigeria, to Convert Naira Balances to UDST

By Adedapo Adesanya Binance will discontinue all services for Nigeria’s fiat currency, the Naira, following the ongoing regulatory onslaught on the firm by the Nigerian authorities. The crypto exchange will automatically convert Naira balances to US Dollar Tether (USDT) from March 8 but will cease support for deposits after today. Withdrawals will become unsupported after March 8 by 12 noon Nigerian time, a statement sighted by Business Post confirmed. The conversion rate for automatic conversions will be pegged at N1,515.13 to 1 USDT, according to an announcement from the website. Other features, including Binance Convert, Binance P2P, the exchange’s Auto


Petrol, Electricity Subsidies Will Gulp 3% of Nigeria’s GDP—IMF

By Adedapo Adesanya The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned the Nigerian government the payment of subsidies on petrol and electricity could take up to 3 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2024. The IMF stated this in a statement released on Monday on the completion of its 2024 Article IV Mission to Nigeria. The lender said that the recent improvements in revenue collection and oil production are encouraging, as “low revenue mobilization constrains the government’s ability to respond to shocks and to promote long-term development.” But it emphasised that, “The capping of fuel pump prices


Deel Buys 100% Stake in African HR Solution Company PaySpace

By Adedapo Adesanya Global human resources company, Deel, has announced the acquisition of African-based payroll and HR solution company, PaySpace, for an undisclosed amount, in one of its largest acquisitions to date. By acquiring PaySpace, Deel will become the first global payroll and Employer of Record (EOR) with its full-stack payroll engine localized in 50 countries and integrated into its offering. PaySpace’s proprietary technology is a cloud-native framework built as a single engine. Its platform allows for easy configuration to add additional countries through localization. These localization projects normally take years to complete, but with PaySpace’s innovative technology, it can


Emotions Pour as Dignitaries Eulogise Late Herbert Wigwe

By Adedapo Adesanya  It was an emotional rollercoaster at the tribute event held on Monday night to celebrate the late group chief executive of Access Holdings Plc, Mr Herbert Wigwe. Dignitaries from government, corporate organisations, and royalty paid tribute to the late titan who died alongside his wife, son, and a former group chairman of the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Group Plc, Mr Abimbola Ogunbajo, on February 9 in the United States. The event which was monitored by Business Post was divided into six segments – Young Hebert, the banker, the entrepreneur, the CEO, the builder and the ambassador. These personalities


Nigeria’s Economic Outlook is Challenging—IMF Declares

By Aduragbemi Omiyale The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has alerted that tough times await Nigerians, though it retained its gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast for 2024 at 3.2 per cent. In a statement on the conclusion of the IMF Staff 2024 Article IV Mission to Nigeria, the global lender said the administration of President Bola Tinubu “inherited a difficult economic situation marked by low growth, low revenue collection, accelerating inflation, and external imbalances built up over years.” However, it praised the government’s approval of an effective and well-targeted social protection system, including the release of grains, seeds, and fertilizers,


Banks Involved in 70% of Economic Crimes in Nigeria—EFCC

By Aduragbemi Omiyale Nearly 70 per cent of financial crimes in Nigeria have the involvement of banks, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has claimed. “Broadly speaking, banking fraud in Nigeria is both inside and outside related. “The inside related fraud comprises outright selling of customers’ deposits, authorising loan facilities, forgery and several other kinds of unhealthy and criminal practices,” the chairman of EFCC, Mr Ola Olukoyede, said while speaking at the Annual Retreat and General Meeting of the Association of Chief Audit Executives of Banks in Nigeria held in Abuja. The EFCC boss, represented by the agency’s Director


Nigerian Air Force Airstrikes Hit Two Illegal Refineries in Rivers

By Adedapo Adesanya The Nigerian Air Force component of Operation Delta Safe, through airstrikes destroyed two illegal oil refining sites in Krakama and Temakiri, Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State, in continuation of efforts to stamp out the activities of crude oil thieves and oil pipeline vandals in the country. This was disclosed by the Director of Public Relations and Information, Nigerian Air Force, Mr Edward Gabkwet, an Air Vice Marshal, saying the illegal oil refining sites were observed actively operating with Cotonou boats sighted nearby with the probable intent to illegally siphon crude oil from the sites. Mr


NGX Remains Catalyst for Economic Growth—Chiemeka

By Aduragbemi Omiyale The acting chief executive of the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited, Mr Jude Chiemeka, has described the bourse as a catalyst for economic growth and development. He said this at the listing of 7.5 billion ordinary shares of Transcorp Power Plc at N240 per unit at the exchange on Monday. The energy firm raised the market capitalisation of the trading platform by N1.8 trillion yesterday. According to him, the inclusion of Transcorp Power into the NGX, the first listing of the year, underscored the pivotal role the bourse plays in shaping Nigeria’s economic landscape. He added that NGX