Security and management of election in Nigeria
The risk of violence is present in nearly every election. It can inhibit voter turnout, limit political campaign movements and push candidates to drop out-all of which call into question the credibility of an electoral process. This is particularly true of emerging democracies as they navigate new processes and challenges.” 25 Years Supporting Democracy, IFES 2012 Annual Report, Page 21. The role of theory and research in stimulating strategic responses to issues and in cultivating best approaches and practices cannot be ignored except at the peril of good outcome. Really, a theory is comparable to search light under darkness. It illuminates and makes one to see well. Of course, theories assume some relationships between phenomena. A set of assumptions are also embedded while outcomes are anticipated. Even a lay person rarely ventures into something or an activity without a set of expected outcomes and some assumed relationships between key variables.
Security is indispensable to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections. From the provision of basic security to voters at political party rallies and campaigns to ensuring that result forms are protected, the whole electoral process is circumscribed by security considerations. In view of the scale of general elections, the number of people involved, election materials that need to be moved, difficulty of the terrain to be traversed, as well as the physical locations that need to be protected, such an operation is complex. It represents logistics and planning challenge that require a wide range of stakeholders, processes, locations, and issues in time and space. Whether we are talking of electoral staff, voters, or other stakeholders such as candidates and their agents, in planning, coordination and deployment matters pertaining to electoral processes, well-coordinated security is a fundamental requirement for success. Adequate security ensures the free movement of electoral staff, voters, candidates, observers and other stakeholders on Election Day, which, in turn adds to the credibility of the electoral process. Similarly, adequate security is an important per-condition for the deployment of valuable electoral assets and sensitive materials to registration and polling sites. Adequate security increases the level of participation of political parties, candidates and voters in an election. It also enables a more objective coverage of events by the media and easier circulation of voters’ education, message and materials.
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Political power remains highly prized in Africa. Outside of government related activities, there are limited opportunities or other profitable pursuits. It was for this that Kwame Nkrumah counseled that seek ye first the political kingdom and all other things will be added. In a country where oil rents are highly centralized, being out of government and its related institutions might be akin to being condemned to a life of penury and despondency. This is the logic that dictated the almost insatiable quest for power through coup d’etat and counter coups in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s up to the late 1990s in most of Africa. In response to national and global pressure for political reforms, the forces of democratization are taking root in most of Africa. The tempo differs from country to country but the force cannot be denied now nor swept under the carpet. The clamours for reforms from below in spite of excruciating poverty of the majority underscore the universal nature of the quest for human freedom and its centrality to development. This was the theoretical pre-occupation of the work by Amartya (1999) in his book Development as freedom. And free, fair and credible elections are significant expressions of freedom.
By March 2013, Kenyans trooped out again in large numbers to express their preferences of political leadership and social policies. The resilience of the people of Cote d’lvoire in agitating for political reforms should also not be in doubt. In spite of formidable obstacles, Alasanne Ouattara finally reclaimed his mandate. The doggedness and consistent determination of the people of Nigeria to actualise their aspirations about good governance are impressive. They remain confident in a better tomorrow and had so far refused to advocate or canvass for a military alternative to the present political challenges and insecurity occasioned by acts of terrorism in parts of Nigeria. Nigerians may not be as trusting of their social institutions as Kenyans and Ghanaians but they nurse high expectations about the future of democracy, even though in the first decade, democratization had not resulted in a life more abundant (See Erinosho, 2010:59-90). Democracy is not just about bread and butter but also about the intangibles. Democratic institutions such as the Judiciary and the Media hold out good promises. Indeed, ‘support for democracy has not waned’ (Maettig, 2010:242) in Nigeria in spite of challenges remaining. This explained why Nigerians stood and spoke against the third term agenda in 2007. Nigerians stoutly spoke against tenure elongation in 2007. The-occupy-Nigeria demonstration of January 2012 was to be understood in this context.
Performance of INEC
INEC’s responsibility for security could be captured in three broad areas; Agenda setting, Planning, and Strategic Coordination (non-operational). To a fair extent, INEC acted proactively to set the agenda for election security management. The ICCES was a novel initiative that provided a
Performance of Security Agencies
In the wake of the post-election violence, the performance of security agencies had been as widely criticized as it has been commended. Some observers rated their response as inadequate and perhaps reflective of insufficient reading and anticipation of the coming crisis, some kind of “intelligence failure” However, in view of the several monumental systemic challenges ranging from deficiencies in logistics, numerical strength and ineffectual communication against the backdrop of the large and widespread scale of incident occurrence; such assessments may not be fair. As already noted, the fact that subsequent polls could still hold even though it had to be shifted by some days in a few states is a testimonial to the stellar performance of our security forces. An objective assessment of their performance in my view should blame observed lapses on more fundamental systemic deficiencies external to them which include but are not limited to the very nature of our polity, socio-political and cultural pre dispositions. This is however not to exonerate the security agencies from culpability in some of the avoidable lapses and deficiencies in tactics and other aspect of operations which this presentation has not concerned itself with parts of the country. These actions are clearly outside INEC’s statutory mandate. With elections apparently still far away in 2015, even the leverage of its institutional clout may not command the same threshold of attention from the public or other stakeholders. Nonetheless, INEC needs to begin the process of engagement with relevant stakeholders now and do so with sufficient and robust empirical clarity. To do this, there is need to significantly upgrade the capacity of the organic security function within INEC to reflect the growing proportion of security planning and coordination responsibilities the electoral management body is likely to be saddled with.
Looking ahead to 2015
The elections in 2015 may seem far away but the ambient conditions that will shape them especially as it concerns security are already been shaped. The evolving security situation, along with other pertinent socio-political developments that will culminate in the security atmosphere for the 2015 elections indicate very frightful, indeed grave prognosis. The actions that are needed to avert the danger that looms in 2015 are still in the conclusions and recommendations of the 2010 workshop. Serious and fundamental security sector reforms which are essentially outcomes demanded by the 2010 workshop recommendations must be undertaken urgently to allow for an atmosphere in which elections can be conducted. This of course is in addition to conclusive resolution of prevailing national security challenges with terrorism in some
On the part of the security agencies, what is required is a rigorous internal process of re-orientation. The traditional mindsets on which the agencies were run must change to reflect the uniqueness of the security threats that now confront us. Yesterday’s solutions have obviously not solved today’s problem. Today’s thinking therefore cannot address tomorrow’s challenges. A strictly regimented traditional mindset in engaging with political superiors for instance would no longer suffice. After all, if such mindsets with their warped notions of loyalty are retained, we may soon find that we have no country and political masters to serve. The security community needs to become more involved in the salient task of demanding institutional reforms that will make their operations particularly during elections more professional, impartial and effective. The greatest threat is the possible loss of public confidence in the ability of security agencies to be impartial arbiters in the bitter contest for political power which elections broker. This is the threat that all stakeholders in the Nigerian project must guard against. The consequences are too grave to contemplate.
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Since April 2011, both security services and the Commission has made significant strides in dealing with security challenges to the electoral process. I wish to register the Commission’s gratitude to security services for their active participation in the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) that we collectively established in the last quarter of 2010. For the first time in the history of election security in Nigeria, we have a common platform responsible for the coordination of security matters and polling of scarce resources, particularly personnel in dealing with common security challenges. Through ICCES, security services have promptly intervened and forestalled potential crises situations that could have gotten out of hand across the country. It is important to continue to strengthen the operations of ICCES and ensure its effectiveness at the state and especially the Local Government Levels.
However, election security is an issue that cannot be left to Security Agencies and Electoral Management Bodies alone; all other stakeholders such as the media, the National Orientation Agency, Community Leaders, CSOs etc. have a significant role to play in the task of securing the electoral environment.
INEC’s experience since 2011 General Elections has shown that some of the most serious challenges to election security have been associated to deployment of security personnel. While there were tremendous strides in deployments in 2011 compared to previous elections, there is still room for further improvements. Issues such as early and adequate deployments to polling units, the provision of escort/protection for election officials and sensitive election materials, preventing violence between supporters of one political party and another, the presence/influence of thugs and militia groups in certain parts of the country as well as attacks on electoral personnel are outstanding issues which need to be urgently
Towards a Robust Election Security Management
We have come a long way since the April 2011 General Elections. In many important respects, we have been addressing election security challenges in a more coordinated fashion than has been the case before as indicated in the continuing improvements in the security arrangements in the various re-run elections across the country from the Kogi (December, 2011) to the Kebbi (March, 2012) Governorship Elections. Paradoxically, some of the security challenges we have been addressing seem to be recurring. A major challenge we face is on how to prevent re-occurrence of addressed issues. Another challenge is how to balance the imperative of securing the electoral process with the need to allow voters unfettered opportunity to come out and cast their votes without fear or intimidation as a result of the presence of security personnel.
The key challenges of election security over the next two days, we need to generate ideas on how to make the 2015 General Elections more secured than the 2011 Elections. We should also come up with implementable recommendations with immediate effect. While 2015 may seem a long way down the line, it is in reality just round the corner, and we cannot afford the luxury of waiting any longer. There is no doubt that starting to organize and plan early to meet the challenges of election security would go a long way to guarantee successful and peaceful conduct of free, fair and credible elections come 2015.
Olurode, L. (2013). Election security in Nigeria: Matters Arising. Eddy Asae Nig. Press
Election security in Nigeria: Matters Arising (2014). Retrieved from https://https://www.https://www.projectwriters.ng on 2nd June, 2014.