ELECTIONS AND DEMOCRATIC CONSOLIDATION IN NIGERIA: A STUDY OF 2007 AND 2011 GENERAL ELECTIONS IN NORTH-WEST GEO-POLITICAL ZONE
In contemporary times, political systems are undergoing qualitative transformation from authoritarian to participatory regimes. This worldwide trend known as democratization has made the issue of election a crucial political imperative. Nigeria's experience with electoral politics has over the years been characterized by high incidence of electoral malaise manifesting in the prevalence of electoral rigging, violence and other forms of malpractices which tend to erode established electoral standards and defy the prospects of free, fair and credible elections in the country. It is against this backdrop that this study examines the relationship between politicians and challenges of conducting free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria with particular reference to 2007 and 2011General Elections. The location of this study is North-West geo-political zone which comprises of seven States but four states were sampled using a simple random sampling technique. The four selected states are: Kebbi, Kaduna, Kano and Zamfara States. In each of the selected states, a multi-stage cluster sampling procedure was used in sampling population for this study. First, clusters of local governments in each of the selected states were randomly selected. Secondly, clusters of political wards in each of the selected Local Government Areas were randomly selected. A total of six hundred questionnaires were distributed across all the selected areas to elicit information on the subject matter but three hundred and two were retrieved. Similarly, a total of twelve respondents were interviewed across the study areas to elicit data on the subject matter. Both quantitative and qualitative methods of data analysis are adopted in this study. First, descriptive statistical tools of tables and percentages are used and secondly qualitative analysis is also used. The major findings of the research are: most voters are induced with money by politicians both those in power and those seeking to be in power to influence voters choice of candidate or political party in order to retain or capture political power during elections, the 2007 and 2011 general elections were to a large extent fraudulent as they did not largely reflected voters choice due to inflation of election results figures, multiple voting especially during 2007 elections, falsification of election results, delay in commencement of voting, result manipulation and wholesale subversion of the will of people which were largely perpetrated by the incumbents. Also, the challenges of conducting free and fair elections in 2007 and 2011 general elections were to a large extent due to partisanship, partiality, and incompetence of the Independent National Electoral Commission. The study also found that the 2007 general elections have lower democratic quality and higher credibility deficit as compared to 2011 general elections. In addition there was high incidence of violence during and after the 2007 and 2011 general elections as well as intimidation of voters by massive deployment of police and armed forces which frightened and threatened voters and which consequently undermined the credibility of the elections. Lastly, the study also found that the level of voters turn out during presidential and national assembly elections is higher than during gubernatorial and state assembly elections which poses a challenge to democracy at grass root and the degree of rigging, malpractices and irregularities was higher in presidential and national assembly elections than in gubernatorial and state assembly elections.
Throughout the World today, political systems are undergoing qualitative transformation from authoritarian to participatory regimes. This worldwide trend, otherwise known as democratization (Elekwa, 2008:iv) has made the issue of election a critical political imperative.
Election as a democratic practice refers to the system whereby the citizenry (organized as electorate) consciously choose people into civic roles through a competitive selection process (Raymond, 2000:164). International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences vol.5 defines election “as a procedure of aggregating preferences of a particular kind”. The two features of this definition are procedure and preferences. By procedure, the concept is used to describe a special way of doing something while preference connotes choice between alternatives.
Election can also be described as a procedure that allows members of an organization, community or a nation to choose representatives who will hold positions of authority within it. According to Givinn and Norton, (1992) election is the formal process of selecting a person for public office or accepting or registering a political proposition by voting. They state further that an election is one of the means by which a society may organize itself and make specified formal decisions, adding that where voting is free, it acts simultaneously as a system for making certain decisions regarding the power relations in a society and as a method for seeking political obedience with a minimum of sacrifice of the individuals freedom. The essence of a democratic election is a freedom of choice. During elections, the electorate is given the opportunity to choose between alternative programmes of contestants. Elections also promote public accountability. The threat of defeat at the polls exerts pressure on those in power to conduct themselves in a responsible manner and take account of popular interests and demands when they make their decisions. There is no one accepted procedure of election. In ancient Greece, various types of procedures were used. These include voting by show of hands, written votes and ballots.
In the old Roman Republic, elections of principal officers were by a plurality of tribes. In the medieval church, the election of superiors was by a small electorate consisting of those next in rank. However, with the emergence of liberal democracy in the seventeenth and eighteenth century in Western Europe, the concept of election took new meaning anchored on the principles of consent franchise and representation. In effect, election not only serves to provide the voter opportunity to exercise his choices or preferences on political leadership but also provides the basis on which elected political leaders assume legitimacy of their positions (Elekwa, 2008:6).
The place and vitality of election in democracy cannot be over-emphasized. In this regard therefore:
Elections have the potential to confer legitimacy, moderate dissent, engender compliance and heighten citizen efficacy. Elections are especially crucial for eliciting consent from those citizens who would prefer alternative rules and policies within the political process (Elekwa, 2008:7).
Ideally, election is a means of determining the will of the people regarding their choice of political leaders and regime types. In essence, both the process and the outcome of the election should reflect the consent and aspirations of the people as organized electorate (Olu, 2003:18). This implies that apart from being a routine periodic democratic exercise, election must be competitive, transparent, free and fair as well as credible in order to live up to its democratic essence and merit.
In Nigeria, the issue of election has been a problematic endeavor over the years. Ironically, election in Nigeria has been bereft of democratic ideals, much as it has been characterized by untoward circumstances. According to Ibeanu, (2007:3);
The Electoral process as currently constituted in Nigeria is psychologically alienating for the vast majority of the people who are largely outsiders and are only periodically inserted in the process when they cast votes. At the same time this alienation is underscored by the fact that even when these vote casters have completed the ritual of voting, the outcome bears little semblance to what they chose in their ballots.
Besides, there have been problems of electoral violence and fraud, bulk of which may arise from the excesses of the politicians in their desperate bid to consolidate, capture or control state power. In the face of this therefore, electoral experiences in Nigeria so far have left much to be considered.
The centrality of competitive, credible, free, fair and acceptable elections
in democracy cannot be over-emphasized. However contrary has been the experience in Nigeria as over the years elections were characterized by high incidence of electoral malaise manifesting in the prevalence of electoral rigging, fraud, violence, and other forms of electoral malpractices and irregularities which tend to erode established electoral standards and pose challenge to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in the country. It is against this background that this study examines the challenges of conducting free and fair elections in Nigeria. The study will investigate the challenges encountered during conduct of elections which do not augur well to democratic governance in the country. As election is considered to be a critical element of modern representative government which is closely linked to growth and development of democratic political order and as the most singular indicator of democracy. Elections also offer the electorate the freedom of choice, power to hold elected leaders accountable and to provide protection against perpetuation of arbitrary rule.
In effect therefore, the study will seek to provide answers to the following fundamental questions:
This study aimed at achieving the following grand objectives:
Nigerias experience with elections over the years has thrown up a number of issues pertaining to the processes, conduct and outcome of election. So far, enough scholarly works have not been done to address these issues. Given the increasing relevance and topicality of election in Nigerias current democratic dispensation, more researches such as this are certainly needed to examine challenges of conducting free and fair elections in Nigeria. In fact, the flawed general elections of 2007 and 2011 have threatened the fragile democratic experiment in Nigeria due to irregularities associated with the elections. Here lies the rationale for this study. It is also expected that the salient issues raised and addressed in the course of this study will help to provoke further studies and academic discourse on relevant aspects of the subject matter towards cumulative advancement of knowledge.
The thrust of analysis in this study will be premised on the following assumptions:
This study addresses its subject matter within the confines of Nigerias democratic dispensation with particular reference to the 2007 and 2011 General Elections. Within this context and timeframe, the study focuses on the impact and implications of political office holders as it relates to the question of free and fair elections in Nigeria. The need to concentrate on 2007 and 2011 General Elections alone is as a result of the concern to investigate a clearly delineated political situation which has a contemporary relevance.
It is pertinent to discuss some of the limitations of this study. One of the limitations of this study is the issue of accessibility. Some of the personalities selected to be interviewed proved difficult to get and elicit their views on the research. Secondly, it is that of paucity of financial resources which affect the journeys slated by the researcher in order to generate data and also conduct the field work. Lastly, is associated with the field work. The researcher administered questionnaires on the broad spectrum of Nigerians. And the retrieval of these questionnaires constituted a problem towards the completion of the research given the attitude of most Nigerians to research enterprise.
Below are definitions of concepts in the context used in this work.
Challenges – means difficulties associated with conduct of acceptable, free, fair and credible democratic elections. These difficulties include issues like malpractices and irregularities, logistics, security, neutrality and independence of the electoral body, violence, inducement of voters etc (Musa, 2009:11). In a nutshell, challenges in the context of this work refer to the difficulties associated with free expression of will of people during elections.
The relationship between politicians in Nigeria and challenges of conducting free, fair and credible elections is that the politicians who are minority, powerful, influential, well respected and who control a lot of resources tend to influence elections in their favour which tend to erode established electoral standards and therefore defy the prospects of free, fair and credible elections in the country.
General Elections – means nation-wide elections to choose leaders and representatives at national and state levels. Such elections include Presidential Elections, National Assembly Elections, Gubernatorial Elections as well as State House of Assemblies Elections (INEC, 2007:37).
Geo-political Zone – means political divisions of Nigeria into zones to ensure relatively fair or equitable distribution of important national political offices and positions among various parts of the country. The geo-political zones in Nigeria are: Southwest Geo-political zone, Northwest Geo-political zone, South-south Geopolitical zone, North-central Geo-political zone, South-east Geo-political zone and North-east Geo-political zone (Electoral Reform Network 2005:5-6).
This research study is arranged into seven chapters. Below are the chapter titles and contents.
Chapter One: General Background to the study
As a preliminary chapter, the chapter introduces the study, statement of the research problem, objectives of the research, justification for the study, assumptions of the research, as well as outline of chapters.
Chapter Two: Review of Relevant Literature and Theoretical Framework.
This chapter reviews r elevant scholarly writings and debates on issues pertaining elections. A thematic approach is adopted in the review of literature in order to provide a clear and rigorous review of the ideas and opinions of scholarson elections. Similarly, the chapter will provide the theoretical framework guiding the research study.
Chapter Three: Research Methodology
This chapter will devote attention to research methodology used in carrying out this study. The chapter explains the methods and procedures that are followed in the conduct of the research. It encompasses the description of the study areas, types and sources of data used in gathering information on the subject matter, techniques or instruments of data collection, sampling procedures as well as method of data analysis.
Chapter Four: Challenges of Party politics in Nigeria
This chapter will provide an explanation on challenges of party politics and electoral politics in Nigeria.
Chapter Five: An Overview of General Elections in Nigeria
This chapter will provide an overview of General Elections in Nigeria which include pre-independence and post-independence elections in the country. The chapter will also provide statistics of election results in Nigeria showing performances of political parties and candidates.
Chapter Six: Data presentation and Discussion of Results.
This chapter presents, analyses and discusses both quantitatively and qualitatively data generated from questionnaires, interviews and discussions. Descriptive analysis using Statistical tools such as tables and percentages, will be adopted and utilized so as to analyse the challenges of conducting free and fair elections in Nigeria with emphasis on 2007 and 2011 general elections.
Chapter Seven: Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations.
This chapter would provide summary, conclusion and general recommendations on the basis of the research findings. The chapter would also cover the references, appendixes and other concluding remarks.
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