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1.0 Introduction

All over the world, democracy have been embraced, while principles have assumed as the main pillar in selecting political leaders in a democratic society. In West Africa, undoubtedly, the most appropriate platform for selecting leaders is through elective principles. This process of selecting leaders has been in use, in the selected West African Countries: Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia. Historically, these three West African States have many things in common: located in the same region: experienced similar colonial political framework: have similar election process yet they have different ways and modes of selecting leaders.

Subsequently, Nigeria like other West African countries included Ghana and Liberia have chosen elective principles as a way forward to popular participation and good governance. The process of which this popular participation and good governance are consolidated is through election. Election has been seen in a democratic society as a formal decision making venture, of which the people in a particular geopolitical entity choose individuals, equip with a legitimate mandate to hold and manage public offices1, such public offices like legislative, executive and judicial institutions which are often determined by the majority head count.

The most important elections in the countries of the study are aimed at selecting leaders for the local, state and national governments. The chance to decide who will govern at this level of government serves as an opportunity for the public to make choice about the policies, programmes and future direction of government actions. At the same time election promotes accountability and responsibility by the government to the people’s quests.


In most country of the world, electoral bodies are vested with the responsibility to decide on electoral matters without the intervention of any arms of government. This means that, electoral bodies have the supreme audacity to operate on a full-scale of autonomy. Such institutions in the study area, controlling and managing elections affairs are Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Nigeria. In Ghana, there is Electoral Commission of Ghana, and in Liberia, the body is known as National Electoral commission (NEC). The electoral bodies in the selected states are supposed to manage the elections’ affairs without any bias, in partiality or indiscriminately favour to any political party or parties’ contestants. To this end, what is often observed in the actions of the various electoral bodies is perfunctorily contradictory to what is expected from them.

The essence of this study is to look and compare election process in countries of the study. The study looks at process of election in the countries under the study. This is by undertaking a comparative study of the agencies entrusted with the election process. The study will evaluate the success of the electoral bodies of the selected countries in conducting free and fair elections.

1.1 Statement of the Problem

Many literatures have been written on election process of Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia. Even many writers have dwelled much upon status of the electoral bodies of the countries under the study. They wrote on how constitutionally, electoral body of each of these three countries is allowed to conduct elections independently without been subject to control of any arm of government. However, it comes to be significant that hands were not laid much on comparison among the three countries under the study in the process of conducting their elections. As a result of this, the work is intended to fill the vacuum that created in this case by checking into the


process of conducting elections in the country mentioned, and to see whether there is any similarities and differences in the way their elections are been conducted. In order to address this problem as it supposes to be addressed, the following questions are hereby perceived to be focused:

a.  Why are there irregularities in the conduct of elections in the selected countries?

b.  To what extend have this selected countries conducted free and fair election?

c.  How far have the principles of election produced good governance in the selected countries?

d.  To what length have elective principles ensured popular participation, political tolerance and freedom of association in the area of study?

1.2 Aim and Objectives

The major aim of this work is to undertake a comparative study of election process in

Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia. Specifically it intends:

a.  to make a general survey of election process in the countries of the study.

b.  to identify and discuss major principles of conducting elections in Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia.

c.  to analyze the similarities and differences in the process and means of conducting election in the countries of study.

1.3 Scope of the Study

The countries that this research project intends to look into their similarities and differences in the process of selecting leaders are Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia. In comparing the process of selecting leaders in these countries, this research work will cover period from 1992 to 2012. The beginning of this period marks the time when these three countries make a significant


effort and process to return back to constitutional democratic system of selecting political leaders. Meanwhile, these countries had found themselves under the brutal military rules which suspended democratic election process of selecting leaders by the people.

However, when these countries returned to democratic dispensation, election process of selecting leaders was introduced. A number of elections have been conducted in each of these countries consecutively at the end of their political tenure. For instance, in Ghana, elections were conduced in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2011, while in Nigeria, elections were organized in 1993, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011. In Liberia the conduct of elections was implemented in 2005 and 2011.

1.4 Research Methodology

In carrying out this research work, the techniques used in the collections of data were secondary information. Hence, written works relevant to the topic were used in this regard. Some of the data that are currently available in literature that are used for this work include Government Reports and Publications, Journals, Seminar Papers and Online Monographs.

All of the above mentioned materials have been given systematic thorough analysis in order to determine to what extent the principles of elections have been embraced by the selected countries in leadership selections. The data obtained presented enough information about the process of conducting elections in the countries of the studies between 1992 and 2012. They give a wide insight on the principles and protocols constitutionally provided in these countries to be followed in organizing elections. They also discussed extensively on how extent the provided principles have been embraced to guide the process of conducting elections. As a result of this, this study relies much on data drawn from those Literatures, Reports, Journals and Online


Monograph. Using these materials, the study further assesses the similarities and differences that exist among the countries under the study in the process of conducting their elections.

Finally, the presentation was concluded with some recommendations that if followed will enable Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia pursue an assertive process of conducting elections. The analysis of the data gathered for this work was mainly descriptive information whether relevant writing works were used in line with the focus of the study to make an empirical comparative analysis among the countries of the study in their process of conducting elections.

Literature Review

Many works have been written to appraise elections in West Africa, inform of reports, texts, articles, journals, magazine and dissertations. Most of literatures on election matters in West Africa are much more concerned about irregularities that have proved the process to failure. While some are more concerned in weighing the relatively successes recorded in the electioneering processes of different countries of West Africa. Others step up to look into consequences that will be a reward to the regularities and irregularities of the conducts to an election. A critical observation and the analysis of studies will be kick-off to this study.

In the report presented by Akwasi Aidoo and his colleague members in the Opened Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), it was noted that free, fair, transparent and credible elections are key conditions for legitimate and suitable political government in the West African region. OSIWA also went further in expressing the motion that it supported advocacy for the adoption of the African Charter on Democracy, Election and Good Governance; and increase assess to information with the understanding that it is a prerequisite for transparent and

democratic republic governance with need to be guarantee by law1.

In the report presented by OSIWA, it was expressed therein that the electoral process held in Benin, Cote d’ivoire, Liberia, Guinea, Niger and Nigeria during 2010 and 2011, were conducted in an atmospheric free and fair2. It shows that the demonstrating a commitment to the competitive politics was also an evidence of a continue need to straighten non-state institutions, citizens and civil society groups committed to the democratic free and transparent elections.

The report furthers its expression to bring into memory of 2011 as the year when West African experience more free and transparent elections than in any other year. It mentions that many countries to include Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia went a noticeable notch up in status on the skill of electoral integrity3.

Finally, the report explains further more that, however, West Africa continues to face daunting challenges to the full realization of open society’s goals, values and practices4. Deep seated social and economy inequality remain, democratic institutions remain fragile in many countries, and civil society organizations continue to struggle to acquire the needed resources and capacity for effective and concerted advocacy that can guaranty accountable and transparent governance5.

A report presented by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) views that elections are important instruments in the democratic process. According to the Heywood “the conventional view is that lessons are a mechanism through which politicians

1.  Akwasi Aidoo et al, OSIWA 2010/2011 Annual Report, Comparative Study of Education Management Bodies in West Africa, West Africa Passing the Test of Elections, 2011.
2.  Ibid.
3.  Ibid.
4.  Akwasi…, OSIWA 2010/2011 Annual Report, Comparative Study of…,

5.  International IDEA, Reforming Electoral Process,2009, p.295


can call to account and forced to introduce policies that some how reflect public opinion.” He also laments that “elections are means through which government and political elites can exercise control over their population, making them more quiescent, malleable and ultimately governable.”6

With the above view conceptualized by Heywood one can say that elections or electoral systems are seen as important element of any democracy. Democracy is an institutional arrangement, an instrument for actualizing people’s democratic preferences in the form of government control by the victorious political party or parties, and a means of competitive policies to fill public offices (in the legislature and the political executive) whereby the electorates decides on who should represent them, rule or make policies and take decision that organize an impact on public affairs.

Finally, the report presented by IDEA makes a further point that elections have at least seven major functions such as to:

a.  Recruiting politicians

b.  Making government

c.  Providing representation

d.  Influencing policy

e.  Educating voters

f.  Building legitimacy

g.  Strengthening elites.7

6.  Ibid.

7.  International IDEA, Reforming Electoral Process,2009, p.295


Omodia reveals in his analysis about electoral process that: “democratic process had been several times as result of political topsy-turvy arising from poor electoral process….” He dwells

much on the perception that the problems facing Nigeria on elections are multifaceted. He said these problems include ethnicity, lack of independence in the operation of the judiciary and the electoral body, poor political culture, among others. Omodia need a juxtaposition that in order to enhance democratic survival in Nigerian Fourth Republic, it is important to discern the hyphen and buckle that exist between elitism, partism and election in Nigeria.

According to Kwame, it has been convinced that elections in any democratic consolidation are an important approach to which best selection of political leadership can be done. The elections should not just be nominal or tentative elections, but real elections that free from irregularities. This is the only way through which a state can also reach its peak of glory. Kwame expresses his feel that: “a multi party system and free and faire elections are generally regarded as the hallmark of a democratic society.”8 He further agues that merely conducting free and faire elections at regular intervals should not make a country democratic. Of paramount important is the quality of the elections that are held as well as the meaning attach to them. Base on this Kwame concluded that elections are structured on the two bases such as quality and meaning of elections. Any election that is conducted on the structure of these two bases has become a major institutional pillar of democracy in any democratic state9 like Ghana.

David brought to the fore that there have been gross electoral malpractices in both Nigeria and Ghana. He puts that for the leaders of the outgoing military regime-Rawlings to win election, he contested the presidential election with the ruling junta- the Provisional National

8.  Kwame B.A. Democracy An Stability in West Africa: Ghana Experience, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University and Nordic Africa Institute Uppsala, Claude Ake Memorial Papers No.4 2008, p.13

9.  Ibid, p.14

Defense Council (PNDC) which he transformed into political party to manipulate election. The

party, National Democratic Congress (NDC) provided him with means to contest a presidential

pole  of  1992.  The  result  of  this  election  was  disputed  by the  oppositional  parties. They

maintained  that  the  election  was  reached  and  that  is  why  they  boycotted  the  subsequent


David went ahead and said that the sources of Acrimony in the elections of 1992 in

Ghana included a perceived bloated electoral register, which the PNDC’s deliberated in favour of

the NDC. However, he puts further that the subsequent election of 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008

were largely describe as peaceful and generally free and fair election11.

This electoral situation was not limited to Ghana only. Similarly David talked about

Nigeria elections. He noted that since the end of military rule in 1999, Nigeria according to many

observers has only added to its history of fraudulent elections as oppose to effort to make any

significant progress towards the consolidation democracy. The 1999 election which brought

Olusegun Obasanjo to the power was said to be marred by such wide spread fraud. This is in

accordance with the report presented by the observers from the US based Carter and National

Democratic Institute. It further reported that, “it is not possible for us to make an accurate

judgment about the presidential election.”12

David noted in the report presented that Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) that in the Nigeria 2003 elections, why the voters waited and persevered in the polling stations to cast their votes, a political class and the political parties had different ideas. The voters wanted their votes to determine the winner of the elections why the political class wanted to corrupt the process and rig their ways into elective officers.13

10. Kwame B.A. Democracy An Stability in West Africa: Ghana Experience, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University and Nordic Africa Institute Uppsala, Claude Ake Memorial Papers No.4 2008, p.13

11. Ibid, p.14

12. Kwame B.A. Democracy An Stability in West Africa: Ghana Experience, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University and Nordic Africa Institute Uppsala, Claude Ake Memorial Papers No.4 2008, p.54

13. Ibid.


According to David’s view, one will observe that, the elections in both Nigeria and Ghana have been always rigging by the electoral bodies who subject their sovereign integrity to the control of the politicians. The history of election administration in Nigeria is a history of electoral fraud and violence. Given the historicity of problematic and controversial election administration, Nigeria’s democracy is yet to be consolidated. What makes differences in the conduct of elections by Nigeria and Ghana as said by David, account for Ghana’s ability to consolidated his democracy and Nigeria’s inability to do the same.

In their contribution to this field of study, Ismaila Madior Fall and Mathias Hounkpe view that elections are the backbone of democracy that can support popular participation in decision-making process of the West African countries14 to which the countries the study are included. Having reasoned about the statement of Ismaila and Mathias it can be emphatically accepted that, undeveloped democratic states in African like Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia can only survived their political stability through consolidating the principle of elections. It is this that free and fair elections have to be allowed as a prerequisite process towards the consolidation of democracy and good governance.

Matthias observed that, however, in West Africa, elections are often contentious and triggers of violence. The two writers mentioned about examined both similarities and differences have been taking place in the process of conducting elections in the countries under the study. They carried out their assessment by measuring the extent to which election principles have been consolidated in the West African countries to which Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia are the main target in the discussion. Two of these writers assessed how level Electoral Commission of each state has free to perform its duties judiciously and independently.15 How electoral principles,

14. B.A Kwame. Democracy An Stability in West Africa: Ghana Experience…, p.56

15. Ibid. p.56


norms and standard have been embraced in the process of conducting free and fair elections are also part of the issues debated by the two writers mentioned about.

Elections are seen as generally acceptable ways in the leadership selection. They create avenue through which leaders cam be peacefully elected without intimidation, harassment, molestation and astronomical tension. The absence of these can lead to the existence of free and faire elections. This is necessary for the purpose of good governance and political stability. Political security is virtually absent in a situation where by a state imposes its will on the people without their consent or even consulting them in selecting leaders.

Yusuf Abdullah observed that a situation whereby the voters are not allowed to enjoy the popular sovereignty is frequently occurring in Nigeria process of selecting leaders. He said that this has already reach the extent to which people popularly votes a candidates into power but the state rigs, or support a party to rig, or even cancels the elections against the individuals and wish of the majority. He furthers that, at elections, sometimes, some popular candidates are kidnapped or detained.16 They are released only when the elections are over.

From the foregoing discussion, it is observed that election is just an avenue through which good political leaders can be selected. The purpose of selecting leaders through this process accounts for the aim to improve the progress and political development of the selected countries under the study. The question here, is that to what length the process yield the production of the good leaders in the selected countries under the study; and how the leaders have been able to be succeeded in ruling their people according their people’s political interest? Have they succeeded in the provision of maximum security to protect people’s life and properties and

16. M. Ismail et al. Electoral Commission in West Africa, A Comparative Study, Second Edition, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 2007, p.3

also created a conducive environment for the progress and development of economy?

In lieu of the above conception, Yusuf viewed that, the Nigeria government failed to perform a distinguish action in running the peoples affairs. He put that, those who have the responsibility of managing the affairs of state tend to constitute the greatest danger to its economic security by satisfying their selfish interest at the detriment of the state. In Nigeria, forces are used against the majorities at election in favour of the interest of those few that managed affairs of the state. This was evidence in the killings and threatening the lives of innocent souls, especially during and after the 2011 presidential elections.17

Moveh David Omodia emphasizes on the structure and functions of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of Nigeria. He maintained that the structure of Nigeria election administration system is embodied in the INEC. As he stated, INEC was established by section 153 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.18 It is formed as a corporate body with perpetual succession, and may sue and be sued in its corporate name. According to Moveh, the part one (1) of the third schedule of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria, in sub-section 15, INEC has the power to:

a.  Organize, undertake and supervise all elections to the offices of the President and Vice President, the Governor and Deputy Governor of the state and to the membership of the Senate, the house of Representatives and the house of Assembly of each state of the federation;

b.  Register political parties in abundance with the provision of the constitution and act of

the National Assembly;

17. Yusuf A.Y Democracy and Political Apathy in Nigeria (1999-2011), Department of Political Science, ABU Zaria, European Scientific Journal, September Edition, Vol.8 No.20, p.9

18. Ibid.

c.  Monitor the organization and operation of the political parties, including their finances;

d.  Arranged for the annual examination and auditing of the funds and accounts of political parties, and publish a report on such examination and audit for public information;

e.  Arranged and conduct the registration of persons qualified to vote, and prepare, maintain and revise the register of voters for the purpose of any election under the constitution;

f.  Monitor political campaigns and provide rules and regulations which shall govern the political parties;

g.  Ensure that all electoral commissions, electors and returning officers take the oath of office prescribed by law;

h.  Delegate any of its powers to any resident electoral commissioners;

i.  Carry out such other functions as maybe be conferred upon it by an act of the National


Abbass Bashir and Ahmad Baba, why assessing the process of conducting elections in

Nigeria at three local government areas such as Bale, Jalingo and Ibi, related that there is a general believe among the respondents that both Taraba State Independent Electoral Commission (TSIEC) and the government in office only connive to twist the electoral process in favour of the ruling party. He went ahead to give example that about 73.9% of the people interviewed are of the opinion that party primaries to nominate candidates for local council election were hardly held in any local government, especially by the ruling party, rather candidates are nominated through what was described as compromised among parties’ stake-holders who also incidental are some kind of godfathers to some contestants. He said the candidates supported by these godfathers were eventfully emerged as winners.20

19. M.D Omodia, Election and Democratic survival in the Fourth Republic of Nigeria, Department of Political Science. Nassarawa State University, Nassaraws State, Nigeria, p.36
20. M.D Omodia, Election and Democratic survival in the Fourth Republic of Nigeria, Department…,p.37.


Elections have become do or die affair in the selected countries. In fact, the opposition parties have to take an unnecessary patient in bidding for the power. Jephias as a result of this, maintained that, it is a time for the oppositions to endure all that comes with an uneven political playing field as harassment of opposition political leaders and there members as well as abuse of state machinery. In the position of electorate at elections, Jephias felt that the period of elections is a times when they have to be fed on a diet of lies, misconceptions and falsehoolds akin to falktales.21

A view of the above conception, it is noteworthy to say that, election time is a period when war time escaped are revealed to the populace to impress upon the electorates and to remind them that political emancipation comes at a price and should therefore, not be handed over to opponent on a silver platter. This intimidation is at times direct and at times indirect war cry by those whose liberation war credentials are constantly referred to during such times.

In such, a time for election represents the time of unpredictable events in Africa, majorly in the selected counties under the study. It represents a time when one wonders whether he or she would weakness the next day. Hence the election time, in a real sense, supposes to be time if rejoice for the hope to man a new strategic phase for the development in the selected countries. With the present look of the things, these hopes have become hopeless as it proves itself a matter of impossibility for development but for retardation.

Broadly speaking, the process of selecting leaders in the selected countries has been riddled with grossly electoral malpractices. Politicians, political parties and electoral bodies are

21. B. Abbas. et al, Challenges of Democratization at the Grassroots in Nigeria: Case Study of Taraba State, Department of Geography, Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola. 2012. P.61


struggling for their own survival at the expense of the less privileged people. For them to survive, they engaged themselves in political manipulation such as assassination of one another, decampment, money bags, intimidation, disenfranchisement of others, manipulation of demography, kidnapping and so forth.

However, it is recently analyzed that Ghana has made a good recommended position in accommodating political tolerance in the process of selecting leaders. This situation, therefore, leads to the important development that Ghana have been able to attain in some of its sectors like power supply, good and well treated water supply and others. This affects the living standards of its people greatly. Unlike Nigeria where backwardness at election consolidation leads to the amputation of the progress in many of its sector such as, electricity sector, water supply, textile industries. This also adversely affects the living standards of its people. Liberia is also on the part line. Through a great effort it has made, it is at a peak to overcome calamity caused by the war time.

By and large, most of the literatures revealed provided an insight about the process of elections in the countries of the study. But they where not dwelled much upon the comparative analysis in making general assessment on how extent each of these countries has been able to conduct free and fair elections with one another. Finally, the work justifies the need of my research in which various events have been discussed to reflect and examine the similarities and differences occur in the electoral process of the selected countries.

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