This paper examined electoral processes and security challenges in Nigeria with specific reference to the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections. The data for this study were drawn mostly from secondary sources. Systematically, the paper reviewed the conceptions of electoral violence, perspectives on election related violence and security of lives and properties in Nigeria. The major findings of this study reveal that from the 1950s, elections in Nigeria approximated a war that is often waged to determine political power. All weapons are always available for politicians in Nigeria to use religion, ethnic sentiments, outright bribery, the power of incumbency, corruption, the abuse of electoral processes, etc. to unleash violence and threaten the security of lives and properties in the country in such a way that in such election-related crises, it is estimated that over 10,000 Nigerians have lost their lives, hundreds of thousands have been displaced while properties worth billions destroyed during pre-election, election and post-election period. The study deployed the qualitative historical research method to carry out its analysis, which implied the use of the descriptive analytical tool where data were drawn from secondary sources.
BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Elections are considered as cardinal and indispensable in the practice of modern democracy. According to Nnoli (1990), “it is closely tied to the growth and development of democratic political order that is generally held to be the single most important indicator of the presence or absence of democratic government”. Elections, if properly organized, devoid of rigging and all forms of electoral manipulations and malpractices do not only establish and entrench democracy, but confers legitimacy on the leadership that emerges from the process, the political institutions, policies and programmes that accompany such administration.
Election has been defined as the manner of choice agreed upon by people out of many to occupy one or a number of positions of authority (Nnoli, 2003). Elections have always been the legitimate way of transferring power from one regime to another through elections, popular conduct and participation in public affairs is created in the society (Ugoh, 2004).
The current global emphasis on democratization has made election an inevitable process of leadership choice and succession. Obviously, the success of every conditional democracy is tied to the integrity of electoral process while the quality of a representative government is also linked to the capacity of state to evolve viable, transparent and trusted electoral machinery that will inspire the interest and confidence of broad spectrum of civil society and contending factors of political society (Okolie, 2008).
Regrettably, election in Nigeria since independence has been characterized by violent actions that always result in socio-economic tension and unrest. This has indeed remained a recurring decimal in Nigeria’s political life despites efforts at curbing it. Besides, political violence in the country has been sustained and reinforced mostly by religious, ethnic and tribal diversities of Nigeria. For instance, the political violence that greeted Nigeria’s first and send republics which eventually led to the military intervention and long spell in the country’s government and politics. This had its roots in ethnic and tribal considerations.
The Human Right Watch revealed that between independence in 1960 and 1990, Nigeria produced only two elected governments, both later overthrown in military coups. Nigeria’s military ruled the country for nearly 30 of 40 years of independence. However in 1999, Nigeria made a transition to civilian rule. The 1999 elections, which brought a retired general, Olusegun Obasanjo to power, were blights by such widespread fraud that observers from carter centre concluded that “it is not possible for us to make an accurate judgement about the outcome of the Presidential election”.
Federal and states election in 2003 were again married by fraud as well as serious incidents of political violence that left over 100 people dead and many others injured. Human rights watch found that members and supporters of the ruling party were responsible for the majority of abuses, though opposition parties also engaged in political violence. Most deaths occurred where opposing bands of armed gangs fought each other in an effort to control an area and displace supporters of the opposing party. Human rights watch documented how ruling party politicians in the oil-rich Niger Delta mobilized and funded armed groups to help rig elections. This led to a sustained increase in political violence and criminality in the region.
Despite the abysmal record of the 1999 and 2003 elections, the government did not correct the problems in the next elections. Observers from the European Union described the 2007 elections which brought Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to power, as the worst they had witnessed anywhere in the world. Human Right Watch estimates that at least 300 people were killed in political violence linked to the 2007 elections.
The 2011 general elections process under Atahiru Jega was commended and domestic observers regarding major improvement in areas like voter registration exercise, accreditation and counting phases of the elections. The 2011 presidential elections raised strong domestic expectation, as exemplified by the high turnout rates, especially in the core Hausa/Fulani states of Northern Nigerian, where women living in “KULLE” (a king of Islamic nunnery) were mobilized on religious grounds to vote for Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) (Human Rights Watch, 2011).
However, the whole electoral process has been criticized for number of reasons ranging from under age voting, campaigning during election, intimidation and political violence. The presidential election was marred by allegation of vote buying, ballot box stuffing and inflation of results most noticeable in south eastern Nigeria. Jonathan’s stronghold were official results in the presidential elections in some rural areas recorded close to 100 percent voter turnout and parts of Kanduna, Plateau and Adamawa States with Christian “enclaves”. This was greeted with widespread protest which later turned to violence in Northern Nigeria (Human Rights Watch, 2011).
The 2011 presidential elections had come and gone, but the “credible” elections had been stained by the blood of Nigerians who had their lives in the post-election violence experienced mostly in Northern part of Nigeria. According to Corinne Dufka, a Senior West African researcher at Human Rights Watch, “the April elections were heralded as among the fairest in Nigeria’s history, but were also among the bloodiest”.
Following the announcement of the result of the 2011 Presidential election which saw to the re-election of the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan candidate for the ruling People’s Democratic Party, violence began with widespread protests by the supporters of the main opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) challenging the results. The protest generated into sectarian violence and killings by the Almajiri (Sanghaya School Students) in the Northern States of Bauchi, Adamawa, Bornu, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Nigeri, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara. Relief official estimates that more than 65,000 people were displaced while over 800 people were estimated to have lost their live.
In a bid to forestall future occurrence, two commissions were established in May, 2011 following the elections, to examine the factors that led to the insecurity issues. Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa established a twelve man commission in Kaduna, and nationally, President Jonathan established a 22 person commission headed by Sheikh Ahmed Lemu. The commission’s work was to identify the root causes of the violence, and even identify the perpetrators for possible punishment. But the tracks of past commissions suggested that neither effort will make any headway as the 2015 Presidential elections also surface with its sad parts though not as horrible as that of the 2011 presidential elections.
The 2015 General elections was the fifth to be conducted by INEC in the country’s forth republic. As part of preparations, INEC developed a timetable and schedule of activities for the conduct of the elections. Unlike in the past were elections were staggered in such a way that the Presidential election was usually conducted last, the timetable for the 2015 general elections showed that the presidential and National Assembly elections were paired to hold on February 14, 2015 while the governorship and state houses of assembly elections were to follow on February 28, 2015.
However, insurgency by the Boko Haram sect in the north-eastern part of the country, which had been on since 2009, necessitated a change in the election timetable at the last minute. INEC consequently postponed the elections by six weeks (Suleiman, 2015). This meant that the Presidential and National Assembly elections were rescheduled for March 28, and the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections for April 11, 2005. Similarly, unlike previous elections in the country, INEC introduced the use of permanent voters cards (PVC) containing the biometric details and embossed passport photograph of voters, and smart card readers to verify the authenticity of PVCs presented by voters. The introduction of both items by INEC was aimed at checking multiple voter registration, as only one card was issued to each registered voter, and to prevent multiple voting. This was intended to ensure the integrity of the elections.
Other arrangement for the election was the adoption of the “Remodified Open Secret Ballot System (REMOBS). In the system, voters were to thumb/finger-print on the ballot for the candidates of their choice in secret and cast their votes in open (INEC 2015:8).
The 2015 elections were actually symbolic in Nigeria’s political history as it marked the first time the opposition party successfully dislodged the incumbent party from power at the federal level particularly in a less controversial and peaceful process. Clearly, this interesting development is in contrary to the gloomy picture presented by many analysts in previous elections. The country experienced for the first time in its post-democratic transition history, the emergence of a strong opposition party which had the capacity to displace the incumbent party. This was against all odds, as the election was staged in an environment of raging terrorists violence in the north-eastern part of the country which was not only a major risk to voting, but also possibly affected the electoral chances of the main opposition party, and could result in post-election violence. Also, there was growing public perception of poor preparation by the Electoral Management Body (EMB) and the INEC following problems experienced in the voters registration process which influenced beliefs that the election might be another charade. The electoral process was characterized by a heated campaign process which was anchored on ethnic and religious sloganeering which did not only divide the potential voters along religious and ethnic lines, but also potentially prepared the grounds for another ethno-religious violence.
The conduct of the security agencies indicated bias for the ruling party which increasingly generated fear for the opposition and electorate about electoral security and electoral fraud. The sudden postponement of the elections for six weeks (February 14 to March 28) also increased public distrust of the electoral process (see international crisis group, 2015; Onapajo, 2015).
The study therefore aims at a comparative analysis of the 2011 and 2015 Presidential elections in Nigeria with sole objective of comparing the conduct of the elections as well as the nature of electoral security using its indicators which are divided into three phases-pre-election period, election period, and the post-election period.
1.2 Statement of Problem
The credibility and legitimacy accorded an election victory is determined by the extent to which the process is free and fair (Garuba, 2007; Bagaards, 2007). Free and fair election serves the purpose of legitimizing such government. Elections are therefore considered as vital and indispensable for determining the democratic nature of a political system and for ensuring national security. When election is not satisfactorily managed, it gives room for protest, insecurity of lives and properties, social explosion, doubts about the institutions, etc. Factly, election mismanagement is a real and prolific source of conflicts, violence, insecurity and instability (Hounkpe and Gueye, 2010).
Voters confidence in elections emanate from a combination of the mechanisms and procedures deployed to count and record votes and the election officials competence and integrity. These processes anchored on proactive security to engender confidence. Understanding the outbreaks of election violence is a complex issue and one way of addressing electoral violence is to empower the electoral umpire to secure the process through adequate funding by the state. However, often, the state fails to adequately fund the umpire thereby unwittingly compromising the process. For instance, paucity of funds can affect voter’s turnout due to poor mobilization of voters, this in turn can affect the outcome of the election result leading to conflicts and invariably fragility of the state. To guarantee national security, the electoral umpire should understand the different phases of the electoral process otherwise known as the indicators of electoral process and thus craft the needed strategy to secure each phase. For elections in Nigeria, the electoral cycle can be categorized into three phases namely the pre-election phase, the Election Day and the post-election phase. In the context of Nigeria, most security breaches happen during the post-election phase. The paper therefore focuses on electoral processes and the concomitant security breaches emanating from such processes especially those of the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
This study aims at achieving the following objectives;
1. To determine the causes of insecurity in the 2011 and 2015 presidential post-elections.
2. To evaluate the different strategies that were put in place to secure the conduct of the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections.
3. To recommend the necessary measures to be adopted by INEC in enhancing security of elections at every phase.
1.4 Research Questions
In the course of conducting this study answers will be provided to the following questions:
1. What were the causes of insecurity in the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections?
2. What were the different strategies put in place to secure the conduct of the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections?
3. How can INEC secure the electoral processes?
1.5 Significance of the Study
The study has both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, the study has the potential of contributing greatly to the existing body of literature on electoral processes and national security. This work will provide the students of political science and political history the needed framework for tackling the issues of political violence and insecurity in future elections.
Practically, the research work will be of interest to Nigerian government, especially House committee on election matters, ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) like the independent National Electoral commission (INEC), etc. The findings of this study will also provide valuable information in articulating potential policies that will help address the problems associated with conduct of elections and security breaches.
Finally, to the reader and researchers, this would make useful contribution to any study on some or related topics on electoral processes and national security.
1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study
This study is meant to cover the entire machinery of electoral processes in Nigeria and its implication on national security, drawing a comparison between the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections.
To this end, the research work is limited by financial constraints resulting from the limited resources of the researchers, time constraints arising from the limited period used to conduct the study as well as tendency of not finding enough literature.
1.7 Operational Definitions
The following terms, when used anywhere within this research study will imply such a meaning as given below:
1. Democracy: Democracy is a form of government in which the people have a voice in the exercise of power, typically through elected representatives.
2. Government: Government is a system by which a state or community is governed.
3. Election: Election is a formal procedure whereby a person is elected especially to a political office.
4. Electorate: Electorate are all the people in a country or area who are entitled to vote in an election.
5. President: President is the elected head of a government
6. Phase: A distinguishable part of a sequence of cycle occurring over time.
7. National Security: The safety of a country as managed through the exercise of economic and political power.