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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. 

 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.

Elections are central to the existence, stability and development of democracies; and political parties plays significant role in such democracies. This is evident, because a free and fair election promotes and ensures democracy. In the last 54 years, election has been held in Nigeria 13 times; intermittently as follows; 1951, 1954, 1959, 1964, 1979, 1983, 1991, 1993, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. (Mgbachi et al 2014). In all these election, representative democracy was fully exercised to determine political power. Regular election constitutes a pre-condition for representative democracy. Equally, participation, accountability, transparency and responsibility constitute the major hub in representative democracy. Elections therefore, are conducted periodically to achieve the goals of democracy. (Abbass, 2008). Taking a look at the democratic history of Nigeria, it is observed that electoral violence has adversely affected the country to the extent of causing major political upheaval and terminating democracy Ugiagbe (2010) highlighted that Electoral violence has regularly been reported in Nigeria and manifests in the three (3) electoral stages, namely pre-election, during election and postelection in various forms. Electoral violence in Nigeria has two broad dimensions, physical and psychological. Electoral violence ranges from acts of assault, arson, ballot box snatching and stuffing to murder/ assassination. He further observed that electoral violence amongst other forms has claimed more than 11,000 lives in Nigeria between 1999 and 2006. The paper will therefore examine the 2015 presidential election as it is pertinent to understanding of how elections lead to electoral violence and its implication to democratic sustenance. Politically speaking, violence has affected democratic foundation of the country. Although, it is an acceptable fact that violence is an indispensible factor in the human existence (Ayene Akeke 2008) According to Iwu (2010) Nigeria with acknowledged resilience and reasonable economic strength, many decades of existence under dictatorship, with the unrestrained primitive accumulation of wealth that went with military regimes left the society with powerful political interests and cleavages which could easily undermined the processes of electoral democracy, if care was not taken. He further posited that electoral violence has been one of the major impediments to the conduct of free and fair election in the country. However, sustenance of democracy in Nigeria has always been challenged by crises, uncertainty chaos, fears, terror and insecurity challenges. It is an acceptable fact that within 54 years in which 13 times election have been held, conflict reading situation have featured prominently in those elections. (Mgbachi, et al 2014). Quoting copiously, Abbass (2005) Election in Nigeria since independence has turn out to be a serious political liability, causing serious political turmoil and threatening the survival of corporate Nigeria. Abbass (2008) quoting Ake (2001), Adekaye (1989), Nnoli (1987) further posited that with unprecedented political thuggery and uncontrolled violence, characterized by wanton destruction of lives and property, election period in Nigeria are best described as warfare. It is also documented by Kolaowole (1988) that the near state of anarchy which prevailed in the country in 1965 and 1967 was as a result of unprecedented electoral violence in the western region perpetrated by the intra-party squabble within the Action group (AG), houses were burnt, property destroyed, human beings were murdered in cold blood and there was complete breakdown of law and order. Thus, this became the immediate cause of the military first incursion into the nation’s politics.


 The major problem faced by the sustenance of democracy is the existence of electoral violence. This violence negates peaceful co-existence, law and order in addition to security concerns; it militates against the consolidation of democracy. this in turn impact on the social and economic well being of the nation and creates imbalances or instances of structural violence (Galtung 1969; 167-191) that could lead to escalated conflict as was the cause with the Biafran war. Iwu (2004) observed that electoral violence occur when electoral process is perceived as unfair, irresponsive, or corrupt that its political legitimacy is compromise and stakeholders are motivated to go outside the establish norms to achieve their objective. Critical scholars and political commentators like Kolewale (1988), & Duley (1979) have tenaciously observed that the history of electoral politics in Nigeria have not been encouraging. Electoral politics has always been a source of unrestrained resentment, irrational actions and political instability. In other words, elections have also invariably been accompanied by breakdown of political regime. Furthermore, often mention among these challenges is the negative and devastating effect that came out from this electoral violence which equally affects sustainability of democracy. Moreover, Pruitt and Kim (2004; 109) stated that acts of electoral violence are likely to result in hostile goals like; the desire for revenge in political opponents which could lead to conflict escalation. This perhaps explains why almost all political parties in Nigeria are involved in electoral violence.


 The broad objective of this study is to investigate electoral violence and sustenance of democracy in Nigeria; a critical appraisal of 2015 presidential election. The specific objective includes:

 1. To determine the extent of electoral violence and sustenance of democracy. 2. To examine the root of electoral violence and its implication to democratic stability.

3. To evaluate the forms of electoral violence in Nigeria.

 4. To proffer strategies of curtailing electoral violence in Nigeria.


The significance of this research work is at two levels; it has both theoretical and empirical significance. Theoretically, the research will contribute to academic and the advancement of knowledge. The study is expected to contribute to the knowledge by adding to the existing literature, electoral violence and sustenance of democracy thus investigating and stimulating further research from students and scholars. Empirically, the study will help policy makers and stake holders in the political and election process. It will have a great utility to the government, the independent national electoral commission (INEC). The findings of the study will serve as a veritable, credible and functional policy input for the government as it will help to provide strategies of improving electoral process in Nigeria.


 Operationally, this study covers electoral violence and sustenance of democracy in Nigeria, with its major focus on the critical appraisal of 2015 presidential election.

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