CURBING ELECTORAL VIOLENCE IN NIGERIAN POLITICS

CURBING ELECTORAL VIOLENCE IN NIGERIAN POLITICS

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CHAPTER ONE

1.1 Background of the Study

Elections are considered as cardinal and indispensable in the practice of modern democracy. According to Nnoli (1990) “It is closely tried 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 electoral manipulations and malpractices do not only establish and entrench democracy, but confers legitimacy on the leadership that emerged from the process, the political institutions, polices 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 ballot box. Through election, popular conduct and participation in public affairs is created in the society, Ugoh (2004).

The current global emphasis on democratisation has made election an inevitable process of leadership choice and succession. Obviously, the success of every conditional democracy is tried to the integrity of electoral process while the quality of a representative government is also lived 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 factions of political society (Okolie, 2008).

Regrettably, election in Nigeria since political independence has been characterized by violent action that often results in socio-economic tension and unrest. This has indeed remained a recurring decimal in Nigeria’s political life despite efforts at curbing it.


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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 the Nigeria’s first and second republics which eventually led to military intervention and long spell in the country’s government and politics. This had its roots in ethic 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 yrs 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 judgment about the outcome of the presidential election”.

Federal and state election in 2003 were again marred by fraud as well as serious incidents of political violence that left over 100 people dead and many others injured. Human right watch found that members and supporter 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. That 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 Yar’adua to power, as the worst they had witnessed anywhere in the world.


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Human Right watch estimates that at least 300 people were killed in political violence linked to the2007 elections.

The 2011 general election process under Attahiru Jega was commended by international and domestic observers regarding major improvements in areas like voter registration excise, accreditation and counting phases of the elections. The 2011 presidential election raised strong domestic expectations, as exemplified by the high turnout rates, especially in the core Hausa/Fulani states of Northern Nigeria, where women living in “KULLE” (a kind of Islamic nunnery) were mobilized on religious ground to vote for Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) New social media tools like facebook, blackberry, Ipad, twitter and Android has aided in the collection/collation, analysis and dissemination of information (open society foundation 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 allegations of vote buying, ballot box stuffing and inflation of results most noticeably in South Eastern Nigeria, Jonathan’s stronghold where official results in the presidential election in some rural areas recorded close to 100 percent voter turnout and parts of Kaduna, plateau and Adamawa states with Christian ‘enclaves’. This was greeted with widespread protest which later turn to violence in Northern Nigeria (Human Right Watch, 2011).

The Nigerian presidential election has come and gone, but the ‘credible’ election have been stained by the blood of Nigerians who have their lives in the post-election violence experienced mostly in northern part of Nigeria.

According Corinne Dufka, a senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights watch, “the April elections were heralded as among the fairest in Nigeria’s history, but they also were among the bloodiest.


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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 supporters of the main opposition candidate, Muhammade Buhari, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) challenging the results. The protests degenerated into sectarian violence and killings by the Almajiri (Sanghaya school students) in the Northern states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara. Relief officials estimates that more than 65,000 people were displaced while over 800 people are estimated to have lost their lives in the political violence.

Also, for the first time, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members were used in the electoral process, particularly in the presidential elections. The crops members were used during the voter registration exercise and the election proper as ad hoc staff to complement officials of the electoral agency. They played prominent role as the main agents for the organization of the elections. However, the scheme which was designed by the then military government of General Yakubu Gowon to foster national integration through the posting of young graduates to places outside their home states came under thereat as a result of the attack and murder of ten corps members in Giade Bauchi state, this led to calls from different quarters for the scrapping of the scheme.

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 violence. Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa established a 12-person commission in Kaduna, and nationally, President Jonathan established a 22-person commission headed by Sheikh Ahmed Lemu. The commission’s work is ongoing, and findings from either or both have the potential to identify the


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root  causes  of  violence  in  Nigeria,  and  even  identify  the  perpetrators  for

possible punishment. But the tracks of past commission suggest that neither

effort will make any headway.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

What appeared to be a free, credible and peaceful presidential election,

took on a different coloration overnight. The human Rights Watch reported

that the presidential election divided the country along ethnic and religious

lines.  As  election  results  trickled  in  on  April  17,  and  it  became  clear that

Buhari had lost, his supporters who are mostly Almajiri and Islamic clerics

took to the streets of northern towns and cities to protest what they alleged to

be  the  rigging  of  the  results.  The  protests  soon  turned  to  skirmish  which

quickly degenerated into sectarian and ethnic bloodletting across the northern

states. Muslim rioters targeted and killed Christians and members of ethnic

groups  from  southern  Nigeria,  who  were  perceived  to  have  supported  the

ruling party,  burning their  churches, shops,  and  homes. The  rioters  also

attacked police stations and ruling party and electoral commission offices.

In predominantly Christian communities in Kaduna and other northern

state, mobs of Christian youths retaliated by killing Muslims and burning their

mosques  and  properties.  Jega  (2011)  blamed  the  post-election  violence  on

what he termed as “Crisis of Expectation”. In his reasoning.

I regret to say in my view that a lot of post-election violence that we have seen, to a large extent, can be attributed to what i call crisis of expectation. I think so many people expected the election to be so credible, so perfect that in the perfection and credibility it is their candidate who will win, and once their candidate did not win, it was no longer credible and perfect and that I think would have explained, to a large extent, some of the postelection violence.


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Furthermore, he attributed the causes of the election violence to related systemic issues such as poverty and unemployment, illiteracy and lack of proper education, poor political enlightenment and voter education, rather than the actual conduct of election, and even less of ethno-religious factors as opined by some analysts. The study is thus guided by the following research question:

1.    Did the high rate of poverty and level of illiteracy contribute to the post election violence in the 2011 presidential election in Nigeria?

1.3 Objective of the Study

The general objective of this study is to investigate the nature of political violence in the 2011 presidential election in Nigeria; while the specific objective of the study is:

1.     To determine whether the high rate of poverty and level of illiteracy contributes to the 2011 Post Presidential Election violence in Nigeria.

1.4 Significance of the Study

The study has both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, the study has the potential of contributing greatly to existing body of literature on elections and political violence. This work will provide the student of political science and political history, the needed framework for tackling the issues of political violence in future elections.

Practically, this research work will be of interest to Nigerian government, especially House committee on electoral matters, Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) like the Independent Electoral Commission, National Policy think-tank, States independent Electoral Commissions (SIEC) etc. The findings of this study will also provide valuable information in articulating potential policies that will help address the problems of political and electoral violence.


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Finally, to the readers and researchers, this would make useful contributions to any study on same topic or any related topic on elections and political violence.

1.5 Literature Review

Researches on electoral violence are scarce and often times focuses broadly with a mixture of political and electoral violence. Most of the works reviewed includes articles, commentaries, reports and interviews from newspapers and magazines on the 2011 presidential post-election violence. Some scholars have made attempt to conceptualise electoral violence.

Fischer defined electoral violence (conflict) as any random or organized act that seeks to determine, delay, or otherwise influence an electoral process through threat, verbal intimidation, hate speech, disinformation, physical assault, forced “protection”, blackmail, destruction of property, or assassination (Fischer, 2002). Election violence generally involves political parties, their supporter4s, journalists, agents of the government, election administrators and the general population, and includes threats, assaults, murder, destruction of property, and physical or psychological harm (International Foundation for Election Systems, 2011; Fischer, 2002).

This work of Fischer culminated into a comprehensive research by the international foundation for Election Systems (IFES) on electoral violence, which later set the stage for Electoral Violence Education and Resolution (EVER) project that has been implemented in countries across continents including Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Guyana, Iraq, East-Timo and Nigeria. The EVER project is currently been implemented in Nigeria and it presents a comprehensive and robust understanding of the context and concept of electoral violence, within the EVER framework therefore, election-related violence refers.


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Any violence (harm) or threat of violence (harm) that is aimed at any person or property involved in the election process, or at disrupting any part of the electoral or political process during the election period (International Foundation for Election Systems, 2011).

Nweke (2005) define electoral violence as any form of physical force applied to the end of disorganizing the electoral process, ranging from the destruction of electoral materials to the intimidating of the electorate to vote against their wish. It includes physical force aimed at influencing electoral officials to work in favour of particular groups or parties or persons as against an established procedure. Also it is a harmful act targeted at causing disharmony during elections.

Olagbegi (2004) viewed electoral violence as a faceted process not open to a singular explanation but, unfortunately tending to reproduce itself in a series of socially disruptive behaviours. Basically, electoral violence can be said to be any behaviour involving or tending to involve the use of physical force to cause damage to property of maim or kill an individual(s) in order to ensure of prevent electoral gains.

According to IIufoye et al (2005), electoral violence is a limited aspect of political violence that is associated with the process of elections. They reason that forms of political violence occur before, during or after elections.

According to Jegede (2003), there are different manifestations of electoral violence e.g. murder, arson, abduction, assault, and violent seizure and destruction of electoral materials. These acts are perpetuated by individuals and groups with the intention of positions after elections.

Electoral violent mostly occurs in the conduct of an electoral contest before, during, and after elections. Most often they are directed at altering, influencing, or changing, by force, the voting pattern or manipulating the


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electoral results in favour of a particular candidate or particular candidate or political party (Ugoh, 2004).

Igwe (2007) provides more insight on the meaning of election violence. According to him, election violence connotes any forceful act intended to compel a re-direction nor affect the stable course of development of the political system, usually in response to natural or other emergencies, longstanding demands for changes or part of a evolutionary alternation of the system. He maintains that election or political violence may or may not involve actual bloodshed, what is essential to amount to the condition is the effort to coercively carry out changes or the process of governance by means that are outside the normal, stable routine of the conventional legal machinery of the political society.

Election or political violence according to him may also be perfectly legal and provided for within the constitutional order when taken in response to extreme situations demanding the temporary declaration of a marshal law or state of emergency, and the application of extra-judicial measures to return the political pendulum to normalcy.

Noli (2003:104) “violence is necessary because the new ruling class must not only seize the various instruments of state power, it must also suppress the often determined resistance of the deposed ruling class, smash the old state machinery build its own state apparatus under circumstances in which it new and revolutionary values have not widely taken hold in the society and began to build a new society, based on the new values”

“In this regard, it is based on the process of destroying completely one in their place. In the final analysis, a new must replace the old, so this cannot be done without violence”.

Eckstion (1999) asserts that electoral or political violence aimed to change political order, its constitution, common authority and of such


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dimension that its incidence will affect the exercise of authority in the society.

Anifowose (1982)  for  instance  provides  an  all  embracing  definition  of

political.

As the use of threat or physical act carried out by an individual or individuals and/or property with the indentation to cause injury or death to persons and damage or destruction to property and whose objective, choice of the target or victims surrounding circumstances, implementation and effect have political significance, implementation and effect have political significance, that is tend to modify the behaviour of others in the existing arrangement of power structure that has some consequences to political system.

Therefore,  political  violence  is   carried  out  in   the   struggled   for

acquisition of political power, whole in some case; political violence is aimed

at modifying the political behaviour of individuals and groups within political

system for some desire results.

Election  violence  on  the  other  hand,  is  a  limited  aspect  of  political

violence that is associate with the process of elections. This form of political

violence occurs before, during or after elections.

Election violence is a form violence that is associated mainly with the

process of elections in a given society, precisely in a democratic setup or in

the process of democratic translation (Afolabi 2003:79).

Election violence particularly in Nigeria is quintessential elite affairs

arising from the inordinate struggle for places in the structure of power that

have often degenerate into open violence among ethno-communal groups or

individuals who are deceived into believed into believing that their interest is

about to be imperilled.


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Okoro (2011) attributed the 2011 post-election violence to the type of campaign embarked upon by politician and party leaders which incited the people to violence. He is of the view that the immediate cause of the immediate cause of the post-election violence can be traced to the campaign of Congress for Progressive Chang (CPC) in which party leaders, during the presidential campaign urged their members to “protect their votes by all means” and ensure that the elections are not rigged. Therefore, he attributed the cause of the cause of the post election violence to the poor education and religious sentiments which in his view, is inextricably intertwined with political action.

Northern leaders in a conference held in Kaduna agreed that institutional decay, poverty and religious intolerance were the key factor that led to the post-election crisis.

Makarfi (2011) admitted that the failure of the National Assembly to implement Justice Uwais report which recommended a bill to establish electoral offences tribunal which would have served as a deterrent, and the delay in announcing election results by the Independent National

Electoral Commission (INEC) as two factors which led to the post election violence.

Tofa (2011), a former presidential candidate of National Republic Convention (NRC) observed that the violence stemmed from ethnic and religious as well as political thuggery which needs immediate and permanent solution. In his opinion, the government should address the issue of Almajiris in the North and review the national policy that would address influx of children and criminals from neighboring countries.


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Salisu (2011) one time speaker of house of representatives, condemned the violence and singled out the media as one of the core motivators of the riots. According to him, opinion writers and political commentators on the national daily inflamed divisionary opinions that led to the crisis.

Jega (2011), blamed the post-election violence on what he called: "Crisis of Expectation" from people who expected a particular outcome from the elections. The huge expectation between who wins and who loses and the management of this expectation in his view resulte in the post election violence. He further attributed the election violence to the large systemic Issues of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, lack of proper education, poor enlightenment and voter education as the primary causes, while playing down on the ethno-religious factors as opined by some analysts.


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