Project Democracy And Electoral Fraud In Nigeria – An important element of modern representative government is the process of election. Free and Fair Elections have been so closely tied to the growth and development of representative democratic government that they are now generally held to be the single most important indicator of the presence or absence of democratic government. This is because elections belong to the people and the principles for a democratic elections are usually traced to the wishes,
Project Democracy And Electoral Fraud In Nigeria
aspirations and the right of citizens to take part in government and in the conduct of public affairs of their countries, through elections and or mandate as enshrined in article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right and article 25 of the international covenant on civil and political right (ICCPR) (Patrick, 2008). Elections are the institutional technology of democracy. They have the potential to make government both more accountable and more legitimate. Election should sound the death knell to political violence- (Collier, 2009:2).Project Democracy And Electoral Fraud In Nigeria
An election may be defined as the manner of choice agreed upon by a group of people which enables them to select one or a few people out of many to occupy one or a number of authority positions. This manner of choice usually involves rules and regulations designed to ensure a certain degree of fairness and justice to all concerned. It is the most modern form of recruitment of personnel into public offices, and is deemed to be a very crucial aspect of the democratic process; irrespective of the type of democracy that is practiced (Nnoli, 1986:144).
BASIC ELEMENTS OF CREDIBLE ELECTIONS
It should be noted that in whatever context the process of election is used, certain basic elements must be present. An election usually entails the selection of a few people by a larger number to fill predetermined political vacancies. Elections also imply an element of choice in that the electors have an option to select either from a number of individuals or a political parties range of programmes. Lastly, election also implies the fact that each elector exercises his or her right to choose independently of or without consultation with other electors. This is because a genuine democratic election remains the vehicle through which the people of a country freely express their wishes, on a basis establish by law, as to who should have the legitimacy of governance (Thorpe, 2009) Democracy And Electoral Fraud In Nigeria
For election to be genuinely democratic other internationally recognised human right must also be broadly exercised in the electoral context among which include right to associations, expression, opinion and peaceful assemblies and freedom of opposition (Patrick, 2008). In a nutshell, elections not only typify the democratic process, but it also gives legitimacy to those in power. In this context, given the crucial role of election in democracy, a nascent democracy either just emerging from authoritarian rule, or a state trying to “re-democratize in post-military politics” (Hague, et.al, 1992: 470) as in the case of Nigeria must find a means of ensuring creditable elections as basis for democratic consolidation.
Consolidation of democracy has been defined as “the process by which democracy becomes so broadly and profoundly legitimate and so habitually practiced and observed that it is very unlikely to break down” (Diamond, 1988: 69 as quoted in Oche O. (2004) (edited) by Salihu). Juan Linz and Alfred Stephan have identified three interrelated developments that signal a movement towards consolidation, these are: behaviour; attitude and the constitution. Project Democracy And Electoral Fraud In Nigeria
- Behaviourally, when no significant national, social, economic, political or institutional actor in the country spends significant resources attempting to achieve his objective by creating non-democratic regime or by seceding from the state;
- Attitudinally, when a strong majority of public opinion holds the belief that democratic procedures and institutions are the most appropriate way to govern collective life in a society such as theirs, and support for anti-system alternatives is small and isolated; and
iii. Constitutionally, when government and non-governmental forces become habituated to the resolution of conflict within the specific laws, procedures and institutions sanctioned by the new democratic process.
Focusing on democratic consolidation in Africa, Claude Ake is of the opinion that democratic consolidation suppose to make a positive impact or improve the existential realities of Africa i.e. economic empowerment; developmental concerns; state building; and lastly, reduction in the power of the Presidency coupled with a greater balance of power between the three arms of government.
As election is central to democracy, so is credible elections is central to the survival and consolidation of democracy. In other word, a stable political environment with a sound political will and a solid electoral legal framework, based on internationally recognised electoral system, are prerequisites to credible elections and democratic governance, that can contribute to peace and stability of a nation and without which a fraudulent election may lead to chaos and anarchy (Thorpe, 2009). In other word according to Paul Collier (2009), the method of organising election among the bottom billion (backward countries) pressured by United State and Europe is not truly democracy rather it can be seen as democrazy, this is because elections among these countries is mostly a matter of life and death- (Collier, 2009:15). Project Democracy And Electoral Fraud In Nigeria
SURVEY OF ELECTORAL CONDUCTS 1959-2003
A survey of Nigeria’s political history to date with specific reference to the federal elections has shown that the absence of credible elections threatened the existence of the first and second republics in the country. As noted by Oyediran, “election in Nigeria, with the possible exception of the 1959 and 1979 elections have been a recurring source of disputes, strong arm twisting tactics, crises and conflict. Electoral crisis characterized by abuses of the electoral process …. have had deleterious effects on democracy in Nigeria” (Jega: 2007: 1-2). Thus it can be said that a critical challenge of democratic sustainability and consolidation in Nigeria, is that of getting both the electoral process and election administration right” (Jega, 2007:2).
In the words of Anthony Enahoro, Nigeria became the only country “in the entire history of the anti-colonial struggles of our time in which those who fought for independence were not those who had the privilege and the historic duty of meeting the challenges of independence”. In effect, the allegation is that the run up elections of 1959 that were conducted under the Electoral Commission of Nigeria (ECN) were rigged by the British to ensure that they retained control over the life of society in Nigeria (Iyayi, 2006:2).
Similarly, Ademoyega (1981:19) who participated in the January 1966 coup has suggested that: “The elections of December 1964 turned out to be a farce. It was completely boycotted in the Eastern Region, where the NCNC Government used its powers to ensure that no election was held. It was also partly boycotted in the West and North East, The Mid-West and Lagos, with the effect that the election results lacked credit and was nationally unacceptable; however, while the UPGA rejected them, the NPC and its allies of the NNA, which single-handedly carried out the elections, accepted them. There followed a national stalemate. This election and others at regional levels especially the West in 1965 set the stage for the first military coup in Nigeria on January 15, 1966.
In the 1983 elections, the NPN government perpetrated all sorts of electoral atrocities. The voting process, voter registration, and actual vote’s casts were all grossly distorted. To produce the so-called landslides or was it moon slides and bandwagon effects: the order of elections was reversed and voters’ registers inflated. For example, whereas the order of election provided that the presidential elections are held last, the NPN government decided that these elections would come first. In Modakeke, a suburb of Ife, voter registration jumped from an original 26,000 voters to 250,000 voters thus making the voting population there more than the voting population of the whole of Ife. Indeed at the national level, the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) announced that voter registration had increased from 48, 499, 1097 in 1971 to 65, 304, 818 in 1983. Not surprisingly, the results of the elections were rejected by the opposition parties and the ensuing crisis provided the context for the military to stage another coup on December 31, 1983. (Jinadu, 1990:110-112, Ajayi, 2007).
The worst picture of the federal elections came in 2003. A typical example is what Alkasum Abba described as ‘single party victory’. According to him, a new element in the Nigerian electoral politics has been introduced. This is the absolute victory of a single party in a local government area. This is found in Bayelsa State, where the PDP won with wide margins against its rivals at both the gubernatorial and presidential elections. The result of the elections in these Local Governments, namely Brass and KoloKuma/Opokuma shows that every person who voted, voted for the PDP. This is unusual in a plural democracy. Bayelsa is the only state to produce such result in Brass, at the gubernatorial election the PDP obtained the votes of all the 73,706 people who voted on that day. The same number of people voted for the PDP presidential candidate. The same story goes for the KoloKuma/Opokuma Local Government, where the 43, 329 valid votes cast in both the gubernatorial and presidential elections went entirely to the PDP candidates ( Abba, 2003:9).
Moreover, the Justice Development and Peace Committee of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, in its official report on the 19th April presidential and gubernatorial elections, categorically reported boycotts and low voter turnout in Ebonyi, Rivers and Bayelsa State, among other states in the South-East and the South-South (Analysis 2003:9). However, the result of the election shows that there were not only hundred per recent voter’s turnout, but that the ruling party won the elections in all the states (Human Right Watch, 2003).
ELECTION MANAGEMENT BODY
Nigeria has witnessed various electoral management body since 1959 pre-independence election to date. These include:
- electoral commission of Nigeria (ECN) which conducted the Pre-independence election of 1959.
- Federal electoral commission (FEC) established in 1960 which conducted Post-independence federal and regional election of 1964 and 1965 respectably.
- Federal electoral commission (FEDECO) which conducted the 1979 2nd republic and 1983 general election.
- National electoral commission (NEC) which conducted the controversial June 12th election of 1993.
- National electoral commission of Nigeria (NECON) established in December 1995, which conducted a set of local and National Assembly elections that were never inaugurated.
- Independent National electoral commission (INEC) which conducted the 1999, 2003 and 2007 general election in the country. (INEC website)
INEC is claim to be an independent electoral body compare to all the previous electoral body in the country, yet that ‘independency’ has been criticize to exist only by the name. While the government and the INEC leadership claim the body as independent of governmental control and most efficient. (INEC website). Critiques and international observers have accused the body as non independent and it remain the worst of all previous electoral bodies, considering the negative roles it play in all the previous election of 1999, 2003 and 2007 general election. Was more, the 2007 presidential election in Nigeria was rated to be the worst ever election to be conducted in history. (Foreign Affairs, October 2008). A report of the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) indicate partisanship of the electoral body and the security agents. (TMG report, 2007). Thus one may argue from the foregoing submission that non of the electoral management body in Nigeria can claim independent. This is because, for an election management body to be fully independent, it must be completely independent of the contesting parties and their candidates, and as well pocessed within it a legally enforceable mandate and a well defined jurisdiction, composition and term. It must also be fully empowered regarding the performance of it functions. (papoola, 2006).
PROJECT TOPIC Democracy And Electoral Fraud In Nigeria
Most electoral management bodies in the bottom billion (developing world) are not independent, impartial or competent (IFES, 2005:25. Collier, 2009) to be able to conduct a credible election. However, five basic models to an independent electoral body capable of conducting credible election were outlined by the International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES) and they include:
- election office within the Government. This approach works satisfactorily in most advance countries where respects for civil services is maintain but, it is rarely achievable in transitional democracies.
- Election office within a Government ministry but supervise by a Judicial body.
- An independent election commission manned by experts and directly accountable to the parliament. Such a commission can remain credible when the parliament is not one-sided but, can not work with a single party dominating the legislature and silencing the opposition.
- A multiparty electoral commission with a non partisan leadership and composed of representations by the political parties may be a good model that ensure full participation of all. However, too many political parties in a parliament may course the commission unworkable.
- A non partisan election commission composed of distinguished individuals from a list proposed by the presidency and the legislature reduced by a veto by the political parties and selected by a group of judges could have an autonomy and authority depending on the credibility of the body leadership. (IFES, 2005).
Despite all these and other several recommendations on electoral issues in Nigeria, the major predicament is implementation. A good and recent example is the Uwais electoral reform committee report which has been kept hanging with a lost certainty to it implementation, despite an earlier promised made by “Yar’adua in his inaugural address.
SANITIZING THE ELECTORAL PROCESS
A number of scholars in Nigeria have suggested various means by which they think the electoral process could be sanitized and credible election in particular be conducted. Festus Iyayi is of the opinion that this is “the problem of mindsets in general and election mindsets in particular”. He noted that the problem of elections and in fact, the factor that provides the dynamic elections as a problem in Nigeria is the mindset about politics and power in general and election mindset in particular and that unless we change this mindset about elections, power and politics in Nigeria, our elections will continue to be violent, chaotic, and controversial and in the end threaten the very survival of Nigeria as one nation. (Iyayi 2006:6). Although economic factor play a significant role to a successful democracy as argued by Paul Collier. That contrary to the high income world, democracy in the low income world (which he described as the bottom billion) rather increases political violence- (Collier, 2009:49). Democracy And Electoral Fraud In Nigeria
However it is not an impossible task to have free, fair, credible and popularly accepted elections if only we can nurture the right attitudes and mindset to create the proper legal frame work through reformation of the electoral Act, and get in place well trained, motivated and conscientious personnel to handle election administration, we would go very long way towards achieving the desired objective. And that we seem to be practicing democracy without democrats. By and large, discussion about means of sanitizing the electoral process and especially election in Nigeria revolves around emphasis on either the desire of appropriate political culture of Almond and verber’s fashion and more recently Larry Diamond’s representation on the one hand, and the constitutionalist or legalists emphasizing the need to reform the electoral institutions and mechanism through the legal framework (Jega 2004:14). Gaetano Mosca’s “circulation of elites” measured the maturity of a political system by how that system can peacefully remove one group of political leaders and replace them with another group of political leaders without posing a direct threat to the existence of the system. (Moore, 1981:62).
The democratic system in Nigeria’s political history failed in foregoing regard. It is therefore the observation in this thesis that although imbibing and inculcating democratic culture and proper electoral institutional reforms are important in ensuring credible election for democratic consolidation; the way election is approached, organized and carried out could not be independent of the character and interests of the political elites who control state power and the condition of the existing social struggles taking place in Nigerian society. Those who control state power in Nigeria see the state as a ‘spoil system’ the control of which guarantees their continued accumulation of wealth, sustain their existence, survival, and reproduction through primitive accumulation and political clientelism.
The pattern and type of politics which political clientelism breeds is essentially extractive. With the capture of political power, patrons perceive themselves to be in charge of an arena that serves as a source of wealth, benefits, and the disbursement of patronage. This perception of politics encourages a zero sum approach to politics in which the winners take all in order to appease their backers, and to make use of their positions before other patrons take control and divert resources to their own ends. (Oche, in Salihu, 2004).
Now the question is, as far as we see it, what institution or mechanism do we put in place to prevent the party in power especially at the Federal level from rigging the election and continuing in power? The electoral bodies against the popular choice of Nigerians throughout Nigeria’s political history have not been able to be non-partisan. The worst is the present Independent National Election Commission (INEC) in which the chairman of the body is alleged to be the card carrying member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Whether INEC has been independent in 2003 election or not, Nigerians and foreign observers were living witnesses, it has been a terrible disgrace. (Ajayi, Ibrahim, Umar, 13th-14th February 2007)