EFFECT OF ELECTORAL VIOLENCE AND ITS IMPLICATION ON ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES
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For most developing democracies of the Third World especially, Nigeria, electoral violence is not only a recurrent decimal, its frequency, character and dimension are quite frightening. It is now becoming a national character of the Nigerian state in such a way that both the Nigerian state and her citizens are held hostage by this smashing political reality in which both are unfortunate willing conspirators. From independence to date, electoral violence in Nigeria has improved in sophistry.
According to IFES Reports (2007), there were 967 incidents of electoral violence in the 2007 elections. Cases of abduction and kidnapping, murder and killing ̧ protest, disruption, intimidation and physical attack and well as poster defacing all featured in the incidents. 300 people were killed on issues relating to 2007 elections. Deadly election-related and communal violence in northern Nigeria following the April 2011 Presidential voting left more than 800 people dead.
With the benefit of hindsight and after a pain-staking research, CLEEN Foundation, in its ‘Third Security Threat Assessment’ projected that electoral violence is most likely to occur in 15 Nigerian most volatile and high security risk states during the 2015 general elections (CLEEN in Ibe, 2014).
Interestingly, all the violence linked to elections is mostly perpetrated by the youth who are not only in the service of the politicians but financed by them so long as they do their biddings. With the benefits of their vigour, seeming lawlessness and lackadaisical attitude to the Nigeria Project, the youth are willing ready-made weapons in the hands of the political leaders who think less of the development of the state and more of their parochial interests. Little wonder why the recurrent destruction of the state through electoral violence is of less concern to them.
Electoral violence could be regarded as elections motivated crisis employed to alter, change or influence by force or coercion, the electoral behaviour of voters or voting patterns or possibly reverse electoral decision in favour of particular individual, groups or political party. It could be seen as any violence (harm) or threat of violence (harm) that is aimed at any person or property involved in the election process, or at disrupting any part of the electoral or political process during the election period” (International Foundation for Election Systems, 2011). Electoral violence could be before the election, thus involving all such activities that inflict any form of injury to the democratic system and its constituent and could be during voter registrations, campaigns and actual voting. Such violence could also be a post-election phenomenon which comes consequent on the manipulation of election result, rejection of result etc.
Election related violence according to Ladan (2006) could be categorised into physical and psychological. Physical election violence including physical attack, resulting into assault, battery, grievous bodily harm or death, disruption and other campaign, use of abusive language and other forms of violence inflicted on individuals and groups. Psychological election violence include indiscriminate pasting of campaign posters, chanting slogans (particularly the use of local poets and singers to attack and abuse opponents), intimidation of public servants and businessmen for opposing the status quo or the incumbent administration, use of the media (especially state owned) to inflict psychological violence on the opposition and the denial of access to such media by the opposition parties, reckless driving by those in a procession to campaign rallies, which intimidate other road users and the use of traditional ruler to intimidate the masses into electing particular preferred candidates.
Incidence of Electoral Violence in Nigeria
The incidence of electoral violence in Nigeria is as plethora as they are intimidating. Electoral violence in the First Republic of Nigeria’s civil democratic realities showcases a nation in absolute hostage situation. The NIPSS Report (in Ibrahim, 2007), shows that only the 1959 and 1979 elections had taken place without systematic rigging and outright violence. Those two elections had one point in common: They were held in the presence of strong arbiters, the colonial state and the military, that were not participants and desired free and fair elections. On the 1951 elections, former Governor of Northern Nigeria Mr. Bryan confessed that he was involved in its manipulations so that the Northern Peoples’ Congress could win 90% of the votes (in Okonjo in Iyayi, 2008:6). The 1964 and 1965 elections were not better as violence, manipulations and malpractices hijacked the electoral process. Elections results were violently contested leading to the popular uprising known as “Operation Wetie” in which hundreds of people were killed or wounded.
Western regional elections of 1965 were worse than the 1964 elections. The NNDP which was in power perfected its rigging strategy in such a way that Returning Officers deserted their posts after accepting nomination papers from government candidates. Despite all these, an opposition candidate won, the results were simply reversed, and the government candidate was announced on the government owned radio as the winner (Osinbajo, 2009). The most notorious example of this travesty was the case of a man who won the election in one of the Owo constituencies. His NNDP opponent was declared the victor. He thereupon announced that he had decided to join the NNDP. A few days after this announcement, the Electoral Commissioner declared him the successful candidate and quietly dropped his opponent (Arikpo in Osinbajo, 2009).
Although under the supervision of the military, the 1979 elections were not without electoral manipulations and violence. One may not forget in a hurry, the heat and confusion generated by litigations against it of which the legal interpretations of 2/3 percent of the 19 states of the federation were paramount. The parties, especially the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) was hell-bent on misinterpreting the constitution to its favour. Through its national ‘landslide Victory’ slogan, the ruling NPN taught other political parties in the 1983 elections the bitter lessons of elections through manipulation of voter registration and registers, purchase of voters’ cards, intimidations, monumental riggings, and of course, deportation. Alhaji Shugaba, a strong opponent of the NPN was deported from the country by the government on grounds that he was an illegal alien to create chance for NPN to concretize its return bid. Iyayi (2008) adds that in Modakeke, a suburb of Ife, South-West Nigeria, voter registration jumped from an original 26,000 voters to 250,000 thus, making the voting population there more than the voting population of the whole of Ife.
In the early 80s, the old Anambra State, made up of the present Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi states became a hell of a mess with the return to the country of the former Biafran leader, Chief Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, the Ikemba Nnewi and the subsequent efforts by the ruling NPN to recapture the state from its ruling NPP. Jim Nwobodo was the state governor while Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was the party’s National Leader and Presidential Candidate. First, it became a war of words but later degenerated into indescribable battles fought at different fronts:
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was taunted by the Dr. Alex Ekwueme’s cohorts in the NTA (Nigerian Television Authority), a federally owned news media that in other climes should cater for the well-being of generality of its citizens irrespective of political affiliations. Governor Jim Nwobodo was also taunted as “Ochomma I of Igbo land”-number one fashion governor of Igbo land. Not to be outdone, Chief Nwobodo created the Anambra State Broadcasting Service (ABS) and used it to fire back at his opponents. Chief Christian Onoh was called “ono okpa” and Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was called “edi afu onu”, due to his beard. The politics of 2nd Republic in the old Anambra state was very nasty and full of all kinds of vulgarity. Physical and verbal attacks were the other of the day… Nwobodo’s status as a divorcee was made a campaign issue. His adversaries were saying that “if he cannot rule his family, how can he rule a state” even when Nwobodo has demonstrated in the first term that he could effectively rule the state (Nwokoye, 2009: 3).
With the formation of Jim Vanguard and Ikemba Front, the battle became more violent as mayhem was visited on the state and its people, prominent of which was the famous battle at Nkpor Junction in which lives were lost, people injured and property destroyed.
One is not unmindful of the deadly confrontations between the erstwhile Anambra Peoples Forum (APF) led by the multibillionaire politician, Sir Emeka Offor and the government of Dr Chinweoke Mbadinuju of Anambra State. Different violent confrontations and clashes were recorded, as the government was almost grounded. Rallies and the government’s programmes were disrupted by the APF which almost ran a parallel government. All efforts by Dr Mbadinuju to secure a return ticket were violently punctuated and dangerous weapons indiscriminately brandished and used.
The mayhem unleashed by political thugs on Anambra State following the 2003 elections in which Dr Chris Ngige, a serving governor was confronted and engaged to extent of been kidnapped in an unprecedented political fisticuffs that set the entire state ablaze. Weapons were randomly used without qualms. Subsequently and in broad day light, political thugs invaded Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi destroying whatever was in sight. According to Vanguard (in Edike, Ojeifo and Anayo Okoli, 2004:1);
A band of thugs yesterday went on the rampage in Awka and Ontisha, triggering fresh terror in Anambra State. They torched and bombed public buildings including parts of the state governor’s office and the deputy governor’s office. Also burnt were the three-storey building housing the State Independent Electoral Commission (ANSIEC) where vital electoral materials were stored, two transmitters of the Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) in Onitsha and Enugwu-Ukwu, near Awka. The building housing the State Education Commission was not spared with missiles hauled at it, leaving several parts damaged in addition to several cars parked within the premises and ANSIEC adjacent to it. Many vehicles were vandalised or burnt in Awka metropolis by the hoodlums numbering about 200. They were said to have swooped on the city from the Onitsha end of the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway armed with explosives suspected to be bombs, pump action guns, axes, cutlasses and other lethal weapons. When Vanguard visited the Government House, some unexploded explosives suspected to be bombs were seen in front of the governor and deputy governor’s offices as well as in front of the press unit.
In 2012, two commissioners and an Advisor to Ebonyi State’s governor barely escaped an assassination attempt when they were attacked at a petrol station by gunmen; a bystander was not so lucky and was killed in the gunfire (AOAV & NWGAV, 2013). Sobechi (in Adele, 2011) aptly reported that in Izzi Local Government of Ebonyi State suspected thugs loyal to a political party unleashed terror on St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, Iziogo in the local council. What however snowballed into the violence was that an ANPP Chieftain and the Senatorial Candidate for Ebonyi North Senatorial District, Fidelis Nwankwo went to St. Stephen’s Catholic Church on that Sunday in company of his colleagues, Senator Ucha, the ANPP governorship candidate and Emma Uguru, the House of Representatives candidate for Izzi/Abakaliki Federal Constituency. The thugs broke into the home of the Catechist, burnt his motor cycle, destroyed the yam barn and inflicted cuts on one person. In all, five motorcycles were burnt (Sobechi, in Adele, 2011).
On the eve of the National Assembly elections held on 9 April 2011, a bomb attack at the INEC office in Suleja, Niger State, killed at least 10 people and injured several others (Ploch 2012: 7). There were also bomb explosions in the Northern city of Maiduguri, Borno State, where the Boko Haram Islamic militant group is most active (Bekoe 2011). A few months before the 2011 general elections, over 200 persons had lost their lives in communal unrests in Plateau State (Amnesty International 2011: 6). Furthermore, there were reports of election-related assassinations of political candidates and their supporters, and clashes between party supporters ( Orji & Uzodi, 2012).
Enugu witnessed attack targeted at opponents of the state government. Such attacks by members ranged from disruption of meetings and gatherings, destruction of posters and billboards of aspirants. Former aspirant to Enugu West Senatorial Zone of the PDP, O. A. U Onyema and Chief Anayo Onwuegbu severally had their Billboards and posters destroyed by their opponents. In another development, in the build-up to the battle to control the soul of the PDP between Chime and his opponents, former Military Administrator of old Imo state, Commodore Anthony Oguguo and former Adviser on Local Government Affairs to Chimaroke Nnamani, Chief Sam Ejiofor had their homes invaded by political thugs. (Adele, 2011).