THE ROLE OF FOREIGN ELECTORAL OBSERVERS ON ELECTION CREDIBILITY IN NIGER
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1.0 Background of the Study
Nigeria’s politics right from the 90s is usually characterized by violence. It has always been a case that if a candidate loses, he and his party members will take to violence to alleviate their dissatisfaction over the election results. The past (military) and present government have contributed in encouraging this unnecessary means of reacting to election results (Babatunde, 2007:54). From that time still date, Nigeria election is usually known for many irregularities and violence which have affected the economic, social and political stability of the country.
Elections globally are very important practice for both developed and developing country, as it serves as one of the means for sustainable development of a country(Attahiru. J. 2011:5). It encourages the practice of democracy, giving the citizens chance to participate in the governance of their country.
Nigeria’s 2015 general election was an election that can never be forgotten in the history of Nigeria. It was an election that left Nigerians in fear of what might be its possible outcome, as the Nigeria environment was really tensed. The absence of war after the 2015 general elections is a good sign that Nigeria will forever stand united, as there were many speculations from international observers and even from Nigerians that the outcome of the election might possibly lead to war. These fears were very obvious bearing some reasons in mind: first being that there was a strong opposition party that had bounced back stronger to take over from the ruling party of which they succeeded, second being that the economy of the country was under serious attack from the Boko Harams in the northern part of the country which could discourage voters and finally, it was crystal clear that the electoral body (INEC) was really unprepared as there were noticeable lapses in their conducts; coupled with the postponement of the election from 14th February to 28th March (Onapajo, 2015). Bearing the above points in mind, it was difficult for anyone to expect peaceful elections across the country that was why there were comments from international observers about the 2015 election. The 2015 general election was characterized with the opposition party taking over power from the incumbent president, which has never happened in the history of Nigeria.
Over some decades now, international observers have been witnessing elections in Africa and reporting to the global community on how it went in their host community (Obi and Abutudu, 1999:22). Election monitoring in Africa has gradually been adopted by almost all African countries as a way of strengthening their political processes(Geisla, 1993:56-57). International observers are usually seen as being objective and non-partisan, and this is why their presence is highly needed in the assessment of the performance of the activities of a country during her election.
International observers are not only seen in Africa during elections, but also other western countries of the world (Stack, 1993:22-23). International observers include governmental and non-governmental institutions like Economic Communities of West African States (ECOWAS), United Nations, etc.
The presence of international observers has been witnessed during elections in Nigeria, and the last election which was held in 2015 was not an exemption. According to INEC, 107 observant were accredited to monitor the 2015 elections. Examples of the group includeInternational Republican Institute (IRI),theEuropean Union Election Observation Mission and National Democratic Institute (NDI). The leader of one of the groups, NDI to be precise commented on how participatory Nigerians were in enfranchising their rights; directly upholding the tenets of democracy. He pointed some of the challenges faced during the election and urged the necessary bodies saddled with fixing such challenges to look into it. One of such challenges was the one tied to the card reader machine, as it was able to read some people’s card and in most cases the reverse was the case. This group equally pointed out the lapses caused by INEC in the delivery of election materials to polling units on time.
Another report from a different international group observer,theEuropean Union Electoral Observation Mission reported that the 2015 elections were peaceful and the security personnel were at their best in ensuring it was peaceful. Though Ambassador John Campbell (former) had a different view as regards the credibility of the 2015 elections; he was of the opinion that the polling at the 2015 elections was credible, but counting of the cast votes were not credible (sahelblog, 2011). He added that religious and party sentiments played a greater role in the 2o15 elections.
This is why this study is carried out to find out the role of foreign electoralobservers on election credibility in Nigeria; with a closer look at the recent 2015 elections.
1.1 Statement of the Problem
Elections in Nigeria have been characterized by so many irregularities. Irregularities resulting from the body saddled with the responsibility of conducting elections (INEC). Most especially the 2015 election were we have cases of card reader malfunctioning, late delivery of election materials, snatching of ballot boxes, high level of insecurities, and destroying of lives and properties. All these have always greeted the Nigerian electoral process, thereby limiting the growth of democracy in Nigeria.
In addition, results announced from elections in Nigeria are usually falsified in most cases. As a result of this, many Nigerians are discouraged to vote during elections as they have this mindset that their votes are not counted.
1.2 Objectives of the Study
The major objective of this study is to examine the role of foreign electoral observers on electoral credibility in Nigeria (a case study of 2015 general elections).
Other specific objectives include:
- To determine the significant relationship between foreign electoral observers and electoral credibility.
- To determine the effect of electoral credibility on the sustainable development of Nigeria.
- To examine if 2015 election was the freest and fairest election ever held in Nigeria.
- To examine how objective foreign electoral observers are in monitoring elections in Nigeria.
- To examine if the presence of foreign electoral observers reduces electoral fraud.
1.3 Research Questions
- What is the role of foreign electoral observers on election credibility in Nigeria?
- Is there a significant relationship between foreign electoral observers and electoral credibility?
- Is there an effect of electoral credibility on the sustainable development of Nigeria?
- Does the presence of foreign electoral observers reduce electoral fraud?
1.4 Research Hypotheses
H0:Foreign electoral observers play no role on election credibility in Nigeria.
H1:Foreign electoral observers play roles on election credibility in Nigeria.
1.4 Significance of the Study/ Justification of the study
This study is meant to educate, inform and enlighten the general public, government and policy makers.
It is important to the general public because it will help encourage them to exercise their franchise and to know why it is important to have foreign electoral observers come witness our elections.
To the government, it will bring to their knowledge that for Nigeria to practice true democracy, those challenges that were pointed out by foreign electoral observers must be tackled, in other to avoid subsequent occurrences.
Also, this study is important for policy makers, as they will have to promote the need for credibility in Nigeria elections.
This study will be of immense benefit to other researchers who intend to know more on this topic and can also be used by non-researchers to build more on their work. This study contributes to knowledge and could serve as a guide for other work or study.
1.6 Scope/Limitations of the Study
This study is restricted to the study on the role of foreign electoral observers on election credibility in Nigeria, with 2015 general elections as a case study.
Limitations of study
- 1. Financial constraint– Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
- 2. Time constraint– The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.7 Definition of Terms
Role: This is the function assumed or part played by a person or thing in a particular situation.
Foreign Electoral observers:Is the observation of an election by one or more independent parties, typically from another country or a non-governmental organization (NGO), primarily to assess the conduct of an election process on the basis of national legislation and international election standards.
Credible Elections: Are characterized by inclusiveness, transparency, accountability, and competitiveness. Inclusive elections provide equal opportunities for all eligible citizens to participate as voters in selecting their representatives and as candidates for election to government.
INEC (INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION): It was set up in 1998 and is the electoral body which was set up to oversee elections in Nigeria.