IRABOR PETER ODION
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL STUDIES
COLLEGE OF EDUCATION, IGUEBEN, EDO STATE
In the contemporary world of today, elections have become the most accepted means of changing the government. Although history has shown that it is usually difficult to hold elections that are free and fair. But the importance of a good electoral act cannot be underestimated especially in a developing country like Nigeria where elections were reported to be marred by irregularities by foreign and local observers. It is on this basis that this paper critically observed, even with the electoral reforms carried out, the reasons why there were violence after the 2011 general election and recommended that adopting the basic part of the reforms, devolvement of power at the centre are other plausible way forward to true and sustainable democratic system in Nigeria.
The electoral system of any given country plays a fundamental role in sustaining and moulding the political behaviour of its citizens (Okolo,2000). The way and manner election is conducted in a country goes a long way to determine the level of poltical culture, political participation and good governance in the country. These ascertion give a clue to the importance a of good and healthy electoral system in a country.
Since democracy means rule by the people, people are supposedly able to choose politicians they want to represent their interest in the government through election. Although history has it that it is usually difficult to hold elections that are completely free and fair. In 2004, the election that gave victory to former President George W. Bush of the United States were alleged to have been marred by irregularities in the state of Florida (Falana,2009). But that is not to say a country cannot experience free, fair and credible election. At least the election that brought President Obama of United States and late Prof. John Atta Mills of Ghana to power bear testimonies to this. However, we must quick to point here that conducting elections has been the major bane confronting Africa countries. Studies on elections have revealed that transiting from one regime to another is often the problem in most African state (Falana, 2009). The violence that occur before, during and after which the elections must have taken place (post-election violence) often bring about instability in the political system in most Africa countries without excluding Nigeria.
No doubt, election violence has been the major bane of Nigeria democratic sustainability since 1964 general election. Despite with the implementation of the electoral reforms headed by justice Uwais which was saddled with the responsiblity to make recommendations on how to restore sanity to the nation’s electotal process, when all are at rest, the worse ever post-election violence sparked up in major Northern states in Nigeria leading to death of hundred of people and destruction of properties. This is a fundamental pointer to the fact that something must have been wrong with the reform or other ingredients that can make Nigeria experience free and fair election and make her a true democratic country are missing. It on these basis that this paper beam it searchlight on the problems of elections in Nigeria, the weakness of the electoral reforms, the reasons for the violence that occured after the 2011 general election i.e post-election violence and concrete plausible way forward to avoid future violence in subsequent general elections.
To facilitate a better understanding of this work, there is need to give meaning and explanation of some of its important concepts. Thus, we proceed to give meaning to the concept of election and electoral reform. Election is an act of choosen or selecting candidates who will represent the people of a country in the parliament and in other positions in the government. Elections are highly organised channel of popular expression (Aderibigbe, 2006). The meaning of this lies in the fact that it is through the system of elections that the masses of the people express their wishes. Uwagboe (2009) opined that elections are the means by which the people choose and exercise some degree of control over their representatives. It is a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office.
The nature of democracy is that elected officials are accountable to the people, and they must return to the voters at prescribed intervals to seek their mandate to continue in office. For this reason, when elections are called, politicians and supporters will begin to oil the political machines in other to influence policy by competing directly for the votes of the electorates in what are called campaigns. This view is based on the fact that election and democracy are inextricable linked. Princeton (2005) revealed that ''Whatever else is essential to make democracy effective and sustainable, elections are the lifeblood of the system, the constant affirmation of legitimacy for its leaders and the bond that links the leaders with the people''.
This assertion is based on the fact that election have meaning for most people only in a democratic context, because they lead to choice of decision makers by the majority of citizens. The major purposes of elections according to Ejeba (2012) are to;
1. Ensure that voters freely choose those who will repersent them.
2. Enable voters to make choices among the parties, candidates' and programmes.
3. Ensure that elected officials are accountable to the electorate.
4. Promote citizens sense of belonging in government.
5. Promote public confidence, trust and support for government and its programme.
6. Provide the mechanism for collective efforts towards the development
of the country.
All the above listed items are invariably common sing song of democracy. In other words, the democracy of a country started to crawl if such country fail at this preliminary stage of conducting free and fair elections.
Electoral reform describes the process of introducing fair electoral systems where they are not in place, or improving the fairness or effectiveness of existing system. Butler (2004) viewed electoral reform as change in electoral system to improve how public desire are expressed in election results. According to Butler, That can include reforms of:
3.Rules about political parties, typically changes to election laws.
4.Ballot design and voting equipment.
5.How candidates and political parties are able to stand in election.
6.Safety of voters and election workers.
7.Measures against bribery, coercion, and conflict of interest.
8.Financing of candidates'.
Electoral reform is a permanent feature of any healthy democracy. Rafic (2012) revealed that ''Because of the corrupt and dictatorial nature of democracy and its electoral system with it, it is often said that for good and healthy democracy the electoral system must be in a state of reform on a permanent basis''.Electoral reforms seek to make politics work a bit better, a bit sooner. But electoral reforms are often politically painful because such reforms tend to require changes to nation’s constitution to alter balance of power.
Historical Problems of Elections in Nigeria: An Overview
The Nigerian polity over the years had been immersed with endemic electoral violence. Rather than elections to be embraced as one of the important processes that strengthen democratic institution and facilitate peaceful transition of power, they are seen as a violent means of acquiring the spoils of democracy (Sule, 2009). Not only that, electorate’s minds have become manipulated and were meant to belief that the candidate that spends much deserves their vote. Most of these public officials that buy their way in through the display of materials wealth spend virtually half of their tenure in office to cover up for the money they have spent during their heaven and earth campaign promises which hardly come to reality and after that, they begin to oil the political machines in preparation for the next election. Hence, citizens have become more cynical about governance as there seems to be no hope in the functioning of the political institutions in the country (Irabor, 2012) . Thus all the elections conducted after Nigeria became a republic were marked by widespread violence, intimidation, bribery and corruption just to maintained or wrench power.
Historically, Nigeria elections can be traced to the 1964 general election which was the first after the departure of the British colonialists. The genreral election of 1964 was a significant landmark in the political history of Nigeria because of the blow it dealt on the future unity of the country (Nwankwo, 2002). The election was contested between Nigerian
National Alliance (NNA) and Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA). The main cause of the trouble was irregular method of nominating candidates for elections. There were reports that some electoral officers hid themselves and would not be found by UPGA candidates who wanted to file their nomination papers. There was also reports that some UPGA candidates were kidnapped in the Northern and western Regions so that they would not be able to file in their nomination papers (Aderibigbe, 2006). While the UPGA rejected the results, the NNA that single-handedly carried out the elections, accepted the results. There follow a national stalemate.
The elections into Regional government of the West between Action Group and Nigeria National Democratic Party were no less farcical . The election started in Nigeria usual style which is rigging. Although the people clearly rejected Akintola government at the polls and voted massively for the AG party (Iyayi, 2004). The announcement of Akintola as the winner of the election marked the era of post-election violence in Nigeria. The election sparked up violent demostration, confusion and chaos throughout the region. Nwankwo (2002) revealed that ''the situation was desperate and the people resorted to massive destruction, arson and looting. The plain fact was that they did not want the government they had''.The resulting mass revolt by the people who felt rightly that they had been cheated at the polls set the stage for the first military coup of January 15, 1966.
The election of 1979 that was contested between five political parties namely; National Party of Nigeria, United Party of Nigeria, Nigerian Peoples Party, Great Nigerian Peoples Party and Peoples Redemption Party, brought Alhaji Shehu Shagari of NPN to power but was rejected by other parties. The PRP recalled that the FEDECO had on two occasions held that the required 2/3 of the states in the federation was 13 states. The party wondered how FEDECO had now realised that 2/3 of 19 states is 12.2/3 after the NPN legal adviser Chief Richard Akinjide had raised a legal dust of the issue (Nwankwo, 2002). Based on this, other three political parties joined the PRP to reject the declaration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari of NPN on the ground that he did not win 2/3 of 19 states as stipulated in the constitutuion and which they interpreted to mean 13 states. The re-election of Shehu Shagari in 1983 saw the resurgence of several of the rigging techniques of 1964 and 1965. Aderibigbe (2006), recounts that '' the declaration of this result engulfed so many states of the federation in what could be regarded as the highest level of social upheaval in Nigeria''. During that period, it was now clear to the soldiers that the existing political order depended on them and in a quick swift, the military government took over the reign of power. The annulled June 12, 1993 general election was different from many elections that had been held in Nigeria in that, it was at the instance of many international observers and the election was said to have been free and fair. Almost all Nigerians said that it was the best election that Nigeria ever had. The 1993 elections for example, produced the 12 2/3 contoversy which
ensued in 1979 election. But the shocking of the news came when the National Chairman of NEC issued a statement that the commission had suspended all action on the June 12 election because a court order had restrained him from releasing the result of the election. In his words, Iyayi (2004) opined that:
''The election of 1992-1993 were frequently delayed,cancelled, postponed and adjusted to produce a result pre determined by the military. In the event that this did not happened, the results of the June 12, 1993 were brazenly annulled by General Babangida on the excuse that the military was uncomfortable with them''.
The 1999 general election results were pre determined. Acting on the concert with neo-colonial and imperialist interest, the dominant coalition within the local ruling class quickly mobilized themselves to form a ''military led democratic country''. All these process occurred with flawed electoral rules, without legitimate and valid constitutions, with electoral agencies under the firm jacboots of military rulers. Reacting to this, Iyayi (2004) revealed that ''in 1993 as in 1999, the poitical parties were the creatures of the military deposits. They were, as the late Chief Bola Ige characterised them, all leprosy fingers on the same leprous hand''. In his view, Irabor (2012) noted that ''the 1999 general election was marred by several reported cases of myriad electoral fraud and violence, putting to question the credibility of the process. The election was alienating as far as the people were concerned''.
The 2003 general election (including the various party primaries) will go down in history as the most fraudulent and equal only to a coup detat against the people. The following excerpts from the report by the Transition Monitoring Group are indicative of general texture of the 2003 elections:
''Twenty-nine of the registered political parties that either contested or did not contest the elections have variously rejected the results as announced by the INEC declaring the result as fraudulent. Both domestic and international election observers documented massive irregularities that characterised the elections and refused to endorse the elections as free and fair''.
In some locations, the election resulted to violence where people were killed and many more injured. Although government officials had publicly vowed to punish perpetrators of political violence during the election, but little the people realised that this were empty statements. Most of the perpetrators from all sides of the political spectrum have escaped without facing justice. Reacting to this, Human Rights Watch (2004) recounts that:
''The impunity which protected those responsible for violence during the 2003 elections, especially politicians of the ruling PDP, has persisted. By failing to bring to justice those responsible for these crimes, the Nigerian government has effectively sent out the message that violence is an acceptable component of the conduct of elections''.
It would be recalled that the 2007 elections reecked of all manner of chicanery characterised by the brazen attempt to disenfranchise the electorate and announce fictions results in areas where no elections took place, not to mention intimidation of the electorate by the police and military in many places, non-delivery of election materials, hijack of ballot boxes, thumb-priting and even foot-printing of ballot papers, incarceration and humiliation of independent election observers, bribery of electoral officers in order for them to look elsewhere when atrocious acts of perfidy were being perpetrated by party agents which all resulted in a bogus series of elections which both foreign and local observers described as nothing less than a travesty. Without doubt, the 2007 elections was evidence that the cub of
election rigging which was born in 1964 had now become a wild rampaging lion, consuming all it saw and leaving a bloodied and shaking democracy in its wake. The process was characterised by unprecedented electoral malfeasance which led to wide condemnation from local and international observers to the extent that upon inauguration, the then President, late Umaru Ya'Adua condemed the flawed election that brought him to power and decided to set up a committee known as the Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) headed by justice Mohammed Uwais to fashion out a system that would ensure the conduct of credible elections and thereby deepen democracy in Nigeria.
The Reform and some of its important recommendation
The committee traversed the country and gathered a huge cache of materials, 1466 memoranda and public hearings were held in 12 selected states and the FCT at which no less than 907 representation were made. After that, 83 recommendations were made and was submitted to the presidency on December 11, 2008. Part of the important recommendations are:
I.Establishment of three new bodies: an electoral offences to deal with electoral offenders as against the former practice where perpetrators go unpunished, the Constituency Delimitation Commission, a Constituency Registration Commission, and a Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commision, to relieve the INEC of some of its duties
ii.That the electoral body be allowed to draw its finances directly from the federation account
iii. That the INEC be made actually independent which was against the normal way whereby the President appoint all members of the commission. The committee recommended that the appointment of INEC chief and its members should be handed over to the judicial branch.
vi.The chairman and members of the INEC Board may only be removed by the senate on the recommendations of the National Judicial Council, by two-third of the senate which shall include at least ten members of the minority parties in the senate.
v.The committee recommended proportional representation in elections to the Federal and State legislatures and to the Local government.
vi.That section 65 (2) (b) and 106 of the 1999 constitution should be amended to make provision for an individual to run as an independent candidate.
vii.The committee recommended that election cases should be concluded before the swearing in of candidates; putting the burden of proof about the fairness of elections on INEC instead of petitioners, and simplification of procedurer rules that are applicable to election petitions.
viii.Presidential and Gubernatorial elections should be held on a single date and must be held at least six months before the expiration of the term of the current holders of the office.
ix.National and State Assembly elections should be held on a single date and must be held two years after the Presidential and Gubernatorial elections.
x. In order to minimise the filling of frivolous petitions, the electoral Act 2006 should be amended to provide that if a petitioner losses a case, it should be ordered by the court or Tribunal to bear the full expenses of the respondents.
xi.The determination of cases by Tribunals should take four months and Appeals should a further two months, a total of six months.
xii.The committee advocated for the establishment of State Indepededent Electoral Commissions (SIECs).
Reacting to the report Nasir EL. Rufai (2012), revealed that the report contains detailed evidence of the country's democratic flaws and institutional weakness, as well as a presentation of comprehensive reforms and solutions to improve the election process for the benefit of the citizens. The report of the committee raised hopes that the country could conduct better elections in future. The report was widely acclaimed and Nigerians demanded a complete adoption and implementation of the recommendation of the report (Oparah, 2011). But the process began to unravel soon thereafter. Less than 20 months to the general election in 2011, the reform process has stalled. Following its extensive hatchet-job rewritng of the report, thereby removing ten important submissions of the report, including the new proposal on appointing the electoral chief, the executive arm then sent the doctored report
to the National Assembly, where the reform process also met further seback and delays. The legislators first threw out one of the bills that sought to regulate the formation of political parties. Then they ruled that any further review of electoral laws must be part of a wider constitution review process, an open-ended excersise that could drag on for year. Duncan (2010) asserted that:
''The alleged watering down of the ERC recommendations by the presidency did not go down well with many Nigerians and organised group who demanded for the original report of the ERC. This caused anxiety among the civil/society who suspected that government might not be sincere in his quest to reform the electoral system''.
This development gave rise to agitation by individuals and groups calling for the full implementation of the report. The BBC report viewed the decision by the federal government to neglect some important part of the recommentdations as a 'U-trun' and fear for the 2011 general election. Without doubt, this prophesy actually come to reality.
Post-Election Violence: Aftermath of the 2011 General Election
Apart from election rigging, Nigeria's elections has taken another dimension of post-election violence. In 2011 election, Nigerians may not forget in hurry the event that followed April 16, 2011 Presidential election. As observed by the Human Rights Watch (2009), ''the April elections were heralded as among the fairest in Nigeria history, but they are also were among the bloodiest''. After the election, just as people prepared to roll out the drum to celebrate the success of the election, the unfortunate happened. Unprecedented violence gripped many states in the Northern part of the country. In fact, before the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission prof. Attairu Jega announced the result of the election; Bauchi, Kaduna, Kano, and Borno states were caught up in a web of violence. Human Rights Watch was able to assumed the number of people that were killed to eight hundered. The unfortunate events took political analysts by surprise. The followers of political development in the country especially with respect to electioneering watch with ulter disbelief. Hitherto, electoral violence in Nigeria used to be recorded within the period of the exercise. But the ongoing development, political analysts believe it has introduced an ugly trend into the political stratosphere. Reacting to the event, Uwakanma (2011) recount that:
''The announcement of the result of the national poll result was follow by a paroxysm of blood-letting on a scale that some, including the President-elect, has compared to the situation in the 1960s that led first to the exodus of Easterners particularly the Igbo, and then to the civil war''.
The neglection of some important aspect of the ERC has continued to raise issues as one of the main factor responsible for the 2011 election lapses such as inability to conduct a fool proof compilation of the national electoral registered, failure to deliver electoral materials on schedule, sundry examples of incompetences and the appointment of INEC chief which was done outside the recommendation of the ERC, all culminated to post-election violence in 2011 general election. Oparah (2011), have this to say:
''It is business as usual and our so called leaders have realised this dangerous predilection to pay short attention to issues and move on. They are exploiting it to the hilt to further the ends of macabre elections, as we saw in the recently concluded 2011 general election, which is a mere painted sepulcher that merely canonised the newest tactics of election riggers. The handling of the aftermaths of the election in the respective elections have just proved to be an affirmation of same of the same and Nigerians are being made to internalized the ethos of fraudulent elections, presented in several ways. The federal government has gone ahead to tinker with the composition of INEC and has indeed loaded the commission with men who have partisan interest...... and we are back to the partisan INEC we are used to as Nigerians.The depletion this political anomie is bound to wreck on the entire system is all too obvious for all of us to see''.
Indeed the impression that the edited ERC recommendations brings to Nigerians notice and any objective observer is that Nigeria is attempting to practice democarcy without true and committed democrats. At a time when the country is about to get it right, and when the international observers was about to reckon with Nigeria, the ERC recommendations was subjected to several manipulatons and political surgery, something that would have had positive effect of changing Nigeria to a better democratic country.
As subssequent elections will approach, the importance of credible elections in Nigeria cannot be overstated. More importantly, for Nigeria, another failure in subsquent elections could do mortal damage to citizens' faith in democracy and diminish the state's authority and its ability to mediate and resolve the country's many internal conflicts, not to mention further undermining its claims of democratic leadership in Africa and subverting its campaign for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.
Subsequent upon our discussions, it is vitally pertinent to proffer the following recommendations
1.There is need for the government to embrace and adopt the basic ERC recommendations without any further delay. The government would do well to dip into its archives and review the transcript of the ERC recommendations. The ERC recommendations is sufficiently detailed to serve as a good electoral act in waiting.
2.It is pertinent to note that the attractiveness of federal executive power is a function of the immense access to resources that is bestows on those who wield the power. In the same vein, executive power enables the power wielder to subvert the electoral system and to undertake unethical and undemocratic acts in order to preserve access to resources. It is a depressing duo, a perfect melange for political desperation, and the type that can make nonsense of any electoral law or system no matter how well crafted. To avoid this electoral contest for access to resoures, and the desperation and greed that fuel this contests which has contiunes to undermine our electoral system, reducing the attractiveness of the Presidency and of the other elective federal offices through the institution of fiscal federalism, devolvement of power and the devolution of control over resources to regions are also part of the antidotes to Nigeria quest for sustainable electoral system.
3.The general public especially those in the grassroot should be carry along about any electoral laws in the country. This is based on the fact that most of the people in the grassroot hardly get information about government policy on electoral laws and whereas the grassroot are responsible for the major election violence in the country. The point being made is that if the democratic heritage is to be enduring, no effort should be spared to obviate and alienate the local people who accounted for most of the election violence in the country.
This paper has focused on historical problems of elections in Nigeria, the weakness of the edited justice Uwais electoral reform and the post-election violence that occured in 2011 general election. Various electoral fraud in Nigeria include; ballot box stuffing, ballot box hijacking, collusion between electoral staff and party officials and agents, falsification of results, illegal printing of votes cards etc. Varied and divergent approaches and opinions are bound to be expressed about the problems of electoral system in Nigeria. But this paper availed us some of the lasting solutions to these menace. For the purpose of ensuring better governance and ensuring popular welfare, this paper recommended for the adoption of the basic ERC recommendations, the devolvement of power, and the devolution of control over resources to regions. This paper also recommended that government policy on electotal laws should promptly and timely get to the grassroot level where most electoral violence are being
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