ELECTIONS AND DEMOCRATIC CONSOLIDATION IN NIGERIA: A STUDY OF 2007 AND 2011 GENERAL ELECTIONS IN NORTH-WEST GEO-POLITICAL ZONE
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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.
- Background to the Study
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). InternationalEncyclopedia 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 individual‟s 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.