PROJECT TOPIC- POLITICAL VIOLENCE AND THE CHALLENGES OF 2007 ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA – PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS
The problem of political violence has reached an alarming stage in Nigeria to the extent that the smooth and successful conduct of the 2007 elections is increasingly doubtful. Presently, many people are wondering where Nigeria is heading to and what the future holds for Nigeria. Nigerians see the elections period as time when the odds must happen in order for one to capture political power. To this end, elections period in Nigeria is also seen as a time when friends turn to enemies and indeed, time full of uncertainties. A critical look at past elections conducted in Nigeria, proved this assertions to be true. This is because the fact that the same issue or story of political violence has continued to repeat itself. Qualitative method was used by the researcher to analyze the facts which in no small way have yielded results. Historical method also played a significant role in analyzing the data collected to assess and ascertain that political violence is the problem and greatest challenges to the conduct of the forthcoming 2007 elections in Nigeria. The research findings show among others that:
- There is a wide spread of political assassination across the country which will make the 2007 elections to be the survival of the fittest rather than consolidation of democracy in Nigeria.
- The essence of the power tussle over who captures political power in the 2007 elections is to satisfy mainly personal/ethnic interests and selfish considerations.
- The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lacks the competence to control, manage, harness, harmonize and successfully conduct a sound elections void of political violence in the forthcoming 2007 elections in Nigeria.
Based on the findings, the researcher made some vital recommendations among others to:
- The political parties
- The Independent National Electoral Commission
- The government and security forces
- Foreign governments and intergovernmental organizations.
- BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The quest to conduct a genuine political violence free election has been the greatest challenges facing Nigerian democracy. Right from independence in the year 1960, problems of electoral violence have been the greatest threat of stable democracy in Nigeria. This sad history of electoral violence has serious implications for our democratic future because the phenomenon is growing rather than declining.
In fact, as the elections go by, the principal forms of electoral violence are increasing and are being perfected in successive elections since 1961, 1963, 1979, 1983, 1999, and 2003. The result is that elections have become turning point for which the outcome had been the subversion of the democratic rules and principles rather than its consolidation. Electoral violence has been one of the salient features of Nigeria elections. In the passage below, I quote exhaustively from Bayo Adekanye’s review of some of the highpoints of electoral violence/fraud in Nigeria.
- There was the Northern Regional Election of May 1961 which gave the then Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) a sweeping victory of 94% of seats in the regional assembly, while eliminating the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) as an opposition. The regional ruling party had achieved that sweeping electoral assembly using in part all forms of electoral chicanery, political intimidation and even coercion, including arrest and imprisonment of opposition leaders.
- Similar methods had been employed in the Eastern Regional Elections, also held in 1961 by the then ruling party of the Eastern Region, the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroun (NCNC) turning the Eastern part of the country into a uni-party dominant region. The election was also marked by persecution of all dissident minority opposition parties operating along the periphery.
- The Mid-Western Regional Elections of October, 1963 and January, 1964 turned the then newly created region into what one writer at the time called the “cockpit of Nigeria” which took place in the region a fierce struggle for supremacy among the three majority parties: NPC, NCNC, and the by now politically emasculated Action Group (AG), all of them deploying every man, money and material considered necessary for capturing that region of the federation.
- The first independence Federal General Elections took place in late December, 1964 through early January, 1965. They were fought between two large political coalitions, i.e. the Nigerian National Alliance (NNA) and the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA). The Nigerian National Alliance (NNA) comprised the NPC and the newly contrived Nigeria National Democratic Party (NNDP) while UPGA was made up of the NCNC and AG. NNDP was a break-away party from the former AG that the NPC had helped to keep in power in the old West. Marked by countrywide electoral malpractices, political intimidation, and violence, the December, 1964 elections were climaxed by last-minute boycott by one of the coalitions of parties. This resulted in a serious constitutional crisis as Nigeria was for three days characteristically governed without a government during which loose talk about Eastern Regional plan to secede or form an impending army-organized putsch filled the political air.
- Dust from the matter had scarcely settled when Nigeria found herself preparing for yet another election i.e. the Western Regional Elections which did actually took place in October, 1965. They proved to be one of the most farcical elections to be conducted in the independence Nigeria, as the results were heavily rigged against the dominance of interests and in favour of the break-away NNDP’s usurpation. Nor could the latter regime be saved by subsequent counter-measures by its supporters of the NPC-dominated Federal government such as “flooding the West with troops of the bloody violence from the last event, resulting de facto in the break-down of law and order, was threatening to engulf the whole federation when the army through the coup of January 15, 1966 struck. And, most recently. (Adekanye, 1990:2).
Equally in the second republic, the massive rigging that guaranteed Alhaji Shehu Shagari and NPN landside victory in 1983 left the nation in a state of hopelessness. Thus, the 1983 elections had a special place in the history of political violence in Nigeria as “all sorts of strategies and stratagems including manipulation of the ballot or ‘rigging’ were employed in order to win elections. Each of the opposition parties used its local power to retain power and/or to improve its position vis-à-vis other contenders…” (Kurfi, 2005:97).
The abortion of the third republic by the General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (rtd) led military junta was as a result of the imperfection of the Nigerian electoral processes. In the fourth republic, especially during the conduct of the 2003 general elections, the high rate of violence and manipulation that characterized the elections have undoubtedly shown that the problem of instituting a sound political violence free and fair elections is truly the greatest challenges of democracy in Nigeria.
It is in this dimension that this study on “political violence and the challenges of 2007 elections in Nigeria: problems and prospects”, becomes very pertinent. So as to systematically articulate, analyse and unravel the impact of political violence on the 2007 elections and appraise and offer solutions.
PROJECT TOPIC- POLITICAL VIOLENCE AND THE CHALLENGES OF 2007 ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA – PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Elections in Nigeria have continued to be problematic over the years and more importantly now, in our quest to build a stable democracy. As a result of this, instituting or conducting a political violence free and fair elections has been a mirage and thus the greatest threat and challenges to our democratic consolidation as we match towards 2007 elections in Nigeria. Many factors have contributed to this problem.
Many politicians are willing to do anything humanly possible in order to win elections. This has contributed to the many cases of political violence we have experienced in this country. Again, use of state agencies, forces, individuals and hired assassins to intimidate opposition parties, candidates and their supporters before, during or after elections by the party in power is anti-democratic. It does not promote a sound and violence free elections which is a threat to democratic stabilization in Nigeria. Also, the use of excess money in elections as a result of so many loop holes in the electoral bill. Consequently, the following research questions which yearn for immediate answer.
This study will base its question on the following pertinent questions:
(1) What are the prevailing political violence and practices as it concerns the conduct of elections in Nigeria?
(2) Why do many politicians in Nigeria constantly agitate or seek to gain power by all means?
(3) What are other reasons behind the political violence witnessed in Nigeria?
(4) To what extent did the government/electoral bodies contribute to this ugly trend?
(5) What are the negative effects of political violence on the efforts to build a stable democratic system in Nigeria?
(6) To what extent has political violence solved or reduced the socio-political and economic problems of Nigeria?
(7) Is political violence the only or even the best means for the attainment of power vis-à-vis democratising the government process?
(8) What are the socio-political implications of political violence in Nigeria?
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The central objective of this study aims at taking a retrospective look at political violence as it concerns elections in Nigeria with the view of unravelling its problems and challenges to 2007 elections in Nigeria.
To this end, the broad objectives of this study include the following:
(a) To assess the problems of political violence in Nigeria.
(b) To understand the rationale behind the constant and persistent agitation for political power by Nigerian politicians.
(c) To understand the underlying political and socio-psychological factors of political violence in Nigeria.
(d) To critically analyse/review political violence in Nigeria since 1960 till data vis-à-vis appraise and establish its impact on the 2007 elections in Nigeria.
(e) To proffer solutions to the problem in order to stabilize and consolidate democracy in Nigeria.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The significance of a well co-ordinated research work cannot be over-emphasized.
(a) This study is significant because of the fact that it would reveal the major threats of democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
(b) Again, the study also will equally be significant to the extent that it would affect the lives of the entire citizenry, as it is in accordance with national priority.
(c) Indeed, this study if properly articulated by Nigerians, it will guide and cause the fourth coming 2007 elections to be the freest and fairest/political violence free elections ever in Nigeria.
(d) Nevertheless, in academic field, it will be theoretically relevant, documented and serve as a spring-board or guide to further researchers in the field.
1.5 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This work is aimed only at establishing the problems of political violence and challenges of democracy in Nigeria. This is done through the assessment of the past elections that involved political violence and their impact or challenges to the 2007 elections in Nigeria.
The study covers the entire federation as those past elections took place in all part of the federation.
1.6 THE LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
The research studies only the problems of political violence and the challenges of 2007 elections in Nigeria.
There is no sound and complete research work without some impediments and problems encountered by the researcher which directly or indirectly limits the study.
Thus, this study was limited by some factors which include among others:
- My inability to co-operate at first, posed a great problem in the effort of developing or carrying out this research study.
- Indeed, my inability to get sufficient data, which in turn was one of the problems that is constituted with political violence and the challenges of 2007 elections in Nigeria. Hence, there were no sufficient data in the local, state and federal government too.
- Again, time and financial constraints were among the greatest problems encountered by the researcher, as a result of lack of adequate finance to boost my morale for embarking on a research study and the fact that there was no time to really embark on a thorough research, due to tight school schedule or activities and other circular programmes.
- DEFINITION OF KEY CONCEPTS
According to Iyiogwe, S. O. (2002:81), “an operational definition is not a textbook definition, which is usually general and theoretical. It is a specific definition that should be provided by the researcher himself to permit the observation and measurement of the variables in the study”. Thus, it is a fact that perceptual ability differs from one individual to another. Consequently, a study of this magnitude obviously needs to make the meanings and usage of the key concepts clear.
This is because the researcher may be misinterpreted and faulted on the ground of “non-uniformity” in conceptualization. Consequent upon this, this section would be devoted to operationalizing the key concepts/terms that comprised the research study.
Some of the concepts/terms that would be defined here are:
- Political violence
- POLITICS: This is the act of behaving in a certain way, in order to get what one wants at a particular period of time.
- POLITICAL VIOLENCE: These are all forms of illegalities, manipulations and killings in order to secure political power at all cost.
- CHALLENGE: This is the demand to improve on what is currently/had been in practice in order to get what we need for the stabilization and consolidation of democracy in the nearest future in Nigeria.
- ELECTION: This is the system of selecting leaders and political representatives in a state through campaign and votes.
- NIGERIA: This is a loose geo-political state where anything is obtainable, including the good, the bad and the ugly, all at its apogee.