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The study examined the link between credible elections and the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria, with focus on the 2003 gubernatorial elections in Anambra state. Specifically, the study evaluated the political and other settings for the 2003 gubernatorial elections in Anambra state. It also examined the political, legal, economic and other problems created by the 2003 gubernatorial elections in Anambra State. Utilizing the theory of post colonial state which, focusing on the Nigeria State as a creation of imperialism and as such, has followed a development strategy dictated by the interest of imperialism and its local allies, highlights the inability of the Nigeria State, as it is presently constituted, to mediate political conflicts in form of conducting credible elections, resolving peacefully post-election disputes and above all consolidating democracy in the country. Relying on observational technique, relevant qualitative data were generated for the study. These were analyzed using qualitative descriptive analysis. On the basis of this, the study unraveled that the conduct of the 2003 gubernatorial election in Anambra State and the events thereafter threw up a number of legal, economic, political and other problems. The study also exposed that political crises that engulfed Anambra state in the aftermath of the 2003 gubernatorial elections in the state posed some implications for the emergence and sustenance of democracy in Nigeria. In view of this the study maintained that power and all resources should be decentralized away from the central/federal apparatus to the constituent governments and ethnic segments. The study also argued that INEC should be granted fiscal autonomy; its funding, rather than being channeled through the presidency, should be charged to the consolidated revenue fund.
1.1 Background of the Study
Modern democracies, the world over, take electoral practice as one of the major fundamental pillars in democratic governance. This is simply because flawed electoral practice has the capacity to mar democratic process. Again, man‟s capacityp for political fraud, intrigues and display of authoritarian/totalitarian political behaviour makes also open or transparently competitive electoral exercise for the purpose of constituting a government extremely inevitable, if society is to experience relative political and socio-economic equity based on the principle of collective accommodation of public will. Therefore, to checkmate man‟s inordinate disposition to acquire and exercise absolute political power, which is a major bane of national/territorial sovereignty, democratic framework and sustainable development. It is imperative that electoral contests be made open and transparent especially now that periodic elections have gained global acceptance in the contemporary liberal democratic dispensation (Omelle, 2005:69).
With respect to Nigeria, however, the popular struggle for direct political representation and rejection of the monopolization of the state power predates the political independence of 1960. Prior to the exit of the colonial masters, the struggle by the people was basically against colonial subjugation, intimidation, domination, exploitation and monopolization of the state power and other paraphernalia of government by foreign rulers and their affiliated local agents. The struggle was also directed towards further demand that the economic products of the country be directly used for the ultimate benefits of the indigenous population rather than utilizing them to meet the needs of the foreign capital (Joseph, 1987: 4). Thus, government through popular representation was central in the anti-colonial struggles.
Regrettably, however, this principle of popular representation or what is normally called representative democracy though enthroned at the twilight of colonial rule in Nigeria, has been so much abused since independence by indigenous regimes that unfulfilled demand for a free and fair democratic process together with the reversal of the equitable sharing of public wealth in Nigeria has continued to render, of great relevance in Nigeria, free and fair democratic theory and practice.
Meanwhile, despite the advantages inherent in democratization and enthronement of democratic principles, the presence of ethnic as well as religious blocs in Nigeria has continuously and consistently made electoral contests fiercely competitive, and sometimes violent. The contest is often complicated by divergences in language, religion and level of economic attainment. All these have coalesced to reinforce the problems besetting the Nigerian State. Thus, the dominant pattern of political behaviour in Nigeria can be defined in terms of endless pressure on the state power.
These pressures on the state power have effectively hampered transparent and crisis-free transition to democratic rule. More often than not, the nature of such transitions are not only from above but at times even follow periods of actual regime collapse due to incessant political, social and economic crisis they often left in their trails. The first and second Republics, for instance, were consumed by the inferno ignited by the 1965 elections and the 1983 general elections respectively. Hence, the character of transitions are such that one finds an element of continuity in terms of elite circulation and re-circulation with little turnover but for the marginalization and exclusion of those identified as the hardliners. It is this authoritarian elite that control the vital aspects of the transition and even the democratization process itself, hence ensuring a behavioural and even institutional continuity with a varied authoritarianism (Transition Monitoring Group /TMG, 2003: 20).
In line with the foregoing, Nigeria‟s history of democratization especially under the military has largely been attempts at bequeathing democracy from above. In fact, aside the Murtala/Obasanjo successful handover to civilian rule in 1979, the transition which brought Alhaji Shehu Shagari to power, other attempts at political transition thereafter especially that organized by General Ibrahim Babangida can best be termed transaction. This was due to the obvious intention of the military regime not to conduct democratic transition in an open and transparent manner, but rather to create crisis situation and through that way pursue and actualize the perpetuation of authoritarian rule. Unfortunately, the agitation led by civil society and other democratic groups led to the forceful exit of the Babangida administration.
The attempt at transition by General Abacha, Babangida‟s successor, was not quite different from that of Babangida in terms of objective. The ontological reality of Abacha‟s 1995 Constitution and transition programme was nothing but the attempt to formalize the rule of one man, that is, General Abacha as an individual, stabilize him, and civilize him (Transition Monitoring Group, 2003: 21). The sudden death of Abacha brought General Abdulsalami Abubakar who from all indications was ready to carry out transition process that differed markedly from his predecessor. His short transition witnessed the reconstruction of electoral body, emergence of relatively free and independent political parties and above all, elections into all levels of government and the ultimate swearingin of an elected president in the person of General (later Chief) Olusegun Obasanjo on May 29, 1999.
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