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VIOLENCE AND THE ELECTORAL PROCESS IN NIGERIA

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ABSTRACT

The history of human existence is replete with one form of violence or another. Violence is therefore not a recent development. It has occurred and may occur whenever and wherever there is a clash of interest between individuals and or groups. Violence is also used as a weapon by some people to realize or achieve certain ends. This implies that violence manifests in different forms and dimensions. The phenomenon that is associated with the Nigerian electoral process is violence in Nigeria is characterized by thuggery, intimidation, molestation and assassination. Against the prevalence of electoral violence, this research examined the factors responsible for the outbreak of violence in the 2007 Gubernatorial Elections in Plateau State. Specifically, the work examined why for the first time politicians in Plateau State resorted to assassination of an aspirant in the quest for political power. The researcher used the group theory as its theoretical framework because of group and individual interest used in achieving their political ambitions. Data for the research were collected from primary and secondary sources. Relevant information gathered from primary sources involved the use of structured questionnaire and oral interviews were conducted among the politicians. The data from primary and oral interviews were analyzed using frequency tables and percentages. The analysis of the result shows that; ethno-religious consideration, lack of political will by government in implementing committee recommendations have impacted negatively on the electoral process in the 2007 Gubernatorial elections in Plateau State. Based on these findings it is recommended that there should be more enlightenment campaigns to sensitize Nigerians on the dangers of electoral violence.

 

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1  Background to the Study

Violence is an ubiquitous phenomenon in every society and every sphere of social life. It is not restricted to the political sphere alone. It cuts across every aspect of human existence. This means that political violence is just a subset of violence. It takes many forms including kidnapping, assassination, arson, thuggery etc. This shows that we are in a violent world and the tendency to be violent increases by the day. Violence has no territorial boundary. It is as universal as it predates modernity. For instance, Ekiran (2006:286) notes that both the Biblical and Quaranic accounts of creation and the events that followed in the Garden of Eden particularly Adam and Eve’s refusal to obey God’s simple instruction, amounts to violence of a sort.

Rejection of a superior’s injunction is tantamount to violent behavior; because the word violence has its roots from violation or infringement (Ninalowo, 2004; 18). So when one violates or infringes on a laid down principle, it amounts to violence. Therefore violence can be described as an unruly behavior perpetrated to express anger and dissatisfaction over some social issues which the perpetrators felt have affected or likely to affect them in one way or another (Ekiran, 2006:285). It is an aggressive behavior which more often than not involves physical combat which could inflict bodily injuries on both perpetrators and innocent people. It is an ill wind that blows no one any good.

With some degree of accuracy or certainty one could say that one type of violence or another is to be found in every human society. In other words, even the advanced countries and developing countries alike are not immune to violence. In Nigeria, violence is commonly used as a political tool to achieve the perpetrators’ selfish ends. This usually occurs during elections when one government is about to hand over power to another. The use of violence during elections has become a common feature of the Nigerian electoral process.

Elections are regarded as the hallmark of democratic governance in every democratic society.  This is because elections are one of the ways through which people engage in political participation.  Elections have become the most acceptable method by which citizens of an ever increasing number of political systems choose their leaders.  The appeal of elections lies principally in the opportunity that it provides for an entire electorate to participate in choosing those that should govern them in a simple and peaceful exercise (Momoh, 2005;31).

Elections also provide the people with the opportunity to indicate their preference among the policies and programmes presented to them by the rival leadership elements contesting for political power (Ayeni – Akeke, 2008:27). Elections may also enable the people to remove unpopular leaders or force elected officials to listen to their grievances, particularly between elections.  Most elected public officers are always conscious of when their terms are over, they would need to fall back to the people to renew their mandate.  Therefore, the fear that they might be rejected if they fail to heed to the complaints of the people in non-election years, makes them to pay attention to the views and aspirations of the electorate.

Of all the functions that elections perform, it is the opportunity that it provides for the people to choose their leader that is most emphasized.  Yet the extent to which it provides this opportunity varies from one political system to another.  For example, in totalitarian political systems, election is the means by which the leadership seeks to confer legitimacy on the regime and government as well as the contestants   nominated to face the electorate for approval (Lipjhart, 1994:48).  It also serves as one of the means by which the government socializes the masses and mobilizes them to support its policies.  In contrast, democratic political systems that permit open competition use elections to provide the people with the chance to choose between alternative leadership candidates and policies.  This does not however mean that it is in all open and competitive political systems that election performs this function effectively and to some extent the effectiveness of elections as a vehicle of choice for the ordinary citizen is influenced by various factors e.g. whether the political parties provide distinct alternative leadership materials and programs etc. (Lipjhart, 1994:48).

The foregoing indicates that elections are a complex set of activities with different variables that act and feed one another.  It involves the participation of the people in the act of choosing their leaders and their own participation in governance (T.M.G., 2003:11).  Elections are not necessarily about Election Day activities although it forms an important component.  It encompasses activities before, during and after elections.  It involves the legal and constitutional framework of elections which are the registration of political parties, party campaigns, the activities of electronic and print media in terms of access; it includes campaign financing, the activities of security agencies and the government in power.  It includes the authenticity and genuineness of voters register; the independence or lack of it of electoral agencies and organs.  It includes the liberalism or otherwise of the political process in the country and the independence of adjudicating bodies of elections (T.M.G., 2003:11).

During the last fifty four years, General Elections have been conducted eleven times in Nigeria at irregular intervals: 1951, 1954, 1959, 1964, 1979, 1983, 1991/1993, 1997, 1998/99, 2003 (Kurfi, 2005;:xi) and 2007.  The first four were conducted under the parliamentary system while the rest were held under the Presidential system of government.  It is also important to state here that elections in Nigeria have always been characterized by several irregularities, which have always been politically motivated and these have led to violence which has taken an appalling toll on human lives and property.  There have always been widespread administrative failings, procedural irregularities, and intentional efforts to carry out ballot fraud etc.  The result of these is that the general public’s faith and confidence in the fairness of the country’s electoral process suffers (TMG, 2003:12).

The General Elections of 2007 were of monumental importance as it marked the first time in the history of elections in the country when civilian to civilian transition has ever taken place .It was a situation that the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, described as a ‘do or die affair’.  The whole electoral processes were that of State Houses of Assembly, National Assembly, Gubernatorial and Presidential Offices.. Even though the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) meticulously and zealously planned for these elections, the election days witnessed confusion and all manner of electoral mal-practices such that INEC’s preparedness was brought to question.  Results from the entire exercise Were probably the most contentious and most lingering (Yaqub, 2007: 19).  Long after the events, there were still litigations after litigations.  The elections were annulled in certain states of the federation while in others, results remain controversial.  This was so because those who emerged victorious did so through irregular activities. i.e rigging and violence.  The elections conducted in Plateau State cannot be said to have occurred without electoral violence.  The events which trailed the Gubernatorial Elections in Plateau State form the focus of this research.

1.2     STATEMENT OF RESEARCH PROBLEM

Elections are the central processess of democratic representative government because in any democracy the authority of government derives solely from the consent of the governed.  The principal mechanism for translating the consent into governmental authority ideally is by holding free and fair elections. In Nigeria, elections have become an avenue for legitimization of bad governance. This assertion hinges on the fact that incumbent government holds on to power at all cost while opposition parties in a bid to capture state power, resort to all manner of irregularities. The result of this is usually violence of one sort or the other.

Events which unfolded in Plateau State during the last election show that the most contentious issues about the election have to do with electoral violence which hitherto, is unheard of in Plateau State politics. The political atmosphere in the state became unusually tensed while many interest groups emerged with the intent to capture power. The result of these was a bitter warfare that ensued between these factions, leading to allegations, killings, kidnappings, etc that were politically motivated, In fact a gubernatorial candidate, Jesse Aruku, of the Action Congress was assassinated on July, 2nd 2006. This was the first in the history of Plateau State politics when a gubernatorial aspirant was killed; the incident also typifies the increasing rate of electoral violence in the state.

Presently the problem in Plateau State seems to have assumed a different dimension. For instance, one group of politicians have continued to accuse the other on various issues. One of such issues is about the legitimacy of the present crop of leadership. Presently, the ruling party in the state has two factions referred to as ‘PDP ONE’ or state PDP while the second is called ‘PDP TWO’ or Abuja PDP. One group blames the other for lack of transparency in the electoral process as their reason for emergence.

The overall consequence of these developments is that the political atmosphere in Plateau State remains tense. Politically, Plateau State is like a ticking time bomb and a political catastrophe waiting to be unleashed. This work therefore sets out to examine the factors responsible for the outbreak of violence in Plateau State politics. Furthermore, this work also examines the challenges which these developments pose for Nigeria’s electoral process and democracy.

1.3     RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The research questions are follows:

i.  What are the factors that generated violence during the 2007 Gubernatorial Elections in Plateau state?

ii.  Did  Ethnic and Religious considerations influence the electoral process in

Plateau state?

iii  What are the ways of reducing electoral violence in Plateau State?

1.4     AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF RESEARCH

The specific objectives are as follows:

i.  To examine factors responsible for the outbreak of violence in the 2007 elections in Plateau state.

ii.  To identify and discuss the reasons why politicians in Plateau State resorted toiolence in the quest for the governorship seat.

iii.  To appraise the 2007 Gubernatorial Elections in Plateau State with a view to identifying its challenges to Nigeria’s electoral process.

iv.  To proffer workable recommendations on ways of improving the electoral process in Plateau State and Nigeria in general.

1.5    RESEARCH ASSUMPTIONS

The following propositions are hereby put forward:

Ethno- Religious considerations contributed to the spate of violence in the 2007 Governorship Elections in Plateau State.

Lack of political will by government in implementing committee recommendations have affected the electoral process in Plateau State.

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