THE ROLE OF CREDIBLE ELECTION ON THE CONSOLIDATION OF DEMOCRACY, NIGERIAN FOURTH REPUBLIC
The place of election as a signpost of democracy is not in contention since democracy means first and foremost the process through which citizens freely choose their representatives. However, democratic practice in many developing countries are still regarded as electoral democracy because attentions are shifted away from the substance of democracy to focusing on conducting elections only as means of power transition and/or legitimation. The major challenge of democratic consolidation in developing democracies can therefore be linked to election administration which is a compass for any democratic process. Though, Nigeria has been able to maintain a viable set of periodic and regular elections since the return of party politics in 1999, the political values of that attainment is questionable. Against this backdrop, this paper examines the different contours Nigeria’s electoral democracy has experienced since the enthronement of the present fourth republic and findings situate them within the contradictions of electoral administration. While studies on the challenges of electoral administration in Nigeria have focused on regime analysis, this study attempts a holistic view of Nigeria’s contemporary democratic practice since 1999. The methodology of research is both descriptive and analytical.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
In every democracy, election is the essential ingredient that allows transition from one regime to the other. It is the means and process by which the electorate decides who and which group administers the affairs of the country based upon their perceived conviction on the agenda and programme presented by the group (Aniekwe and Kushie, 2011). In today’s world, election is serving great purpose both in war torn, authoritarian as well as democratic societies. It serves as a means of transition from bitter experiences of war to civility in former war torn states. It provides opportunity for freedom in previous authoritarian regimes and offer citizens the space for free expression. It offers a government a unique opportunity for legitimacy and is a recognized way of building trust in former authoritarian states and also a way to validate negotiated political pacts (Brown, 2003; Sisk, 2008).
Election also serves as a transitory process in stable democracies and a way of strengthening an already assumed perfect system (Majekodunmi and Adejuwon, 2012: 44). However, the history of elections in Nigeria has been characterized by threats to statehood based on the manipulation of ethnicity as divisive mechanism for the acquisition of political power by political actors; the fragile nature of political cum democratic institutions is acquainted with poor democratic culture among Nigerian citizens (Omodia, 2012; Ojukwu and Oni, 2016). Nnamani (Cited in Onu, 2005) and Suberu (2007) assert that the fact that elections in Nigeria since inception of the fourth republic have continued to recycle in a ferocious violence and unthinkable manipulation especially from the political elites has attracted the attention of both local and international community. According to Yagboyaju (2011), Nigeria’s present democratization, which culminated in the country’s Fourth Republic on May 29, 1999, started amidst great hope and expectations. He observed that though the military regime that mid-wived the process could not significantly convince the generality of the citizens on its success, a huge section of the populace still believed it could herald the dawn of good governance in the country.
The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria confines election administration within the purview of an independent electoral body known as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Despite the fact that Nigeria has witnessed five general elections in this fourth republic from the Military conducted election of 1999 to the recently concluded 2015 general elections, the incumbency factor from the holders of power still remains a stumbling block to democratic consolidation (Nnamani, 2014). The alarming high handedness displayed by the ruling political party in manipulating the 1999, 2003 and 2007 electoral process, leading to political killings, religious bigotry, industrial actions, insecurity and other socio-economic malady (Ayoade, 2008) did not go unnoticed.
However, the 2011 elections were indications that democracy is a pre-condition for good governance. Experiences before and after the elections suggested that Nigeria’s democracy moved to a greater height through the exercise, for instance, Nnamani (cited in Vanguard Newspaper 10 January, 2012) observed that the governorship and Senatorial elections that brought Governor RochasOkoracha of Imo state and Senator Chris Ngige of Anambra Central senatorial district to power in 2011 were clear testimonies that peoples vote can count in Nigerian elections despite all odds. The ground breaking feat achieved by the electoral umpire under the headship of Professor AttahiruJega towards reforming and completely overhauling Nigeria’s electoral body was another attempt at institutionalizing democratic consolidation. It was in this regard that the services of academic Professors were employed in all the polling centers nationwide as collation and returning officers. This was to sanitize the rot in the electoral body, thus, bringing the invaluable role of competent and unbiased umpire in election administration as a harbinger of democratic consolidation to the front burner. This essay therefore examines the interface of election administration and democratic consolidation in Nigeria’s fourth republic with reference to aspects of the electoral process constituting threats to democratic sustenance in Nigeria’s contemporary democratic practice.
1.2 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
i. The objective of the study is to ascertain the extent to which democratic consolidation has enhanced democracy in Nigeria.
ii. To ascertain the level to which political parties are functioning towards the achievement of democratic consolidation in Nigeria, especially in the fourth republic.
iii. The objective of this study also is to adumbrate the role of political parties have aided democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
1.3 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study seeks to obtain is purpose through the following significance:-
1. To facilitate adequate and ideal democratic consolidation in Nigeria’s political development.
2. To help political parties reshape their political education, communication, and orientation processes towards the achievement of participant political culture in Nigeria.
3. The significance is to enhance the prospect for political parties in Nigeria and understand their political stagnation role amongst Nigerians toward achieving peaceful electoral and democratic process.
1.4 SCOPE/ ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY
Since the topic of this study is limited to the role of credible election on the consolidation of democracy, our scope of study is therefore limited to the Nigerian fourth republic in line with its issues and perspectives. The study is organized into sections and subsections. (From section one through section four).
ISSUES AND PERSPECTIVES