THE ROLE OF FOREIGN ELECTION OBSERVERS IN DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA

THE ROLE OF FOREIGN ELECTION OBSERVERS IN DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA

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ABSTRACT

The paper is about the foreign observers inpresidential Election in Nigeria for 2015. Its conduct and general outcomes. It elucidates on its preparation, campaign promises, party manifestoes of the two major contesting parties — the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). Information from the electoral umpire — the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) puts the number of registered voters at 68.8 million, but only 28.2 million were actually accredited during the elections, and exercised their franchise. The INEC took democratic consolidation a notch further by the introduction of new technologies like the voter’s card reading machines employed to authenticate the bio-data of the bearer; replacement of temporary voter’s card with the permanent voter’s card. By all indices, the election was adjudged free and fair — this much was attested to by international election monitoring teams that monitored the exercised and confirmed that despite few glitches, the exercise met with international best practice.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Nigeria’s politics right from the 90s are usually characterized by violence. It has always been a case that if a candidate loses, he and his party members will take to violence to alleviate their dissatisfaction over the election results. The past (military) and present governments have contributed in encouraging this unnecessary means of reacting to election results (Babatunde, 2007:54). From that time still date, elections in Nigeria are usually known for many irregularities and violence which have affected the economic, social and political stability of the country.

Elections globally are very important practice for both developed and developing country, as it serves as one of the means for sustainable development of a countries(Attahiru, 2011:5). It encourages the practice of democracy, giving the citizens chance to participate in the governance of their country.

Nigeria’s 2015 presidential election was an election that can never be forgotten in the history of Nigeria. It was an election that left Nigerians in fear of what might be its possible outcome, as the environment was really tensed. The absence of war after the 2015 presidential elections was a good sign that Nigeria will forever stand united, as there were many speculations from foreign observers and even from Nigerians that the outcome of the election might possibly lead to war. These fears were very obvious bearing some reasons in mind: first being that there was a strong opposition party that had bounced back stronger to take over from the ruling party of which they succeeded, second being that the economy of the country was under serious attack from the Boko Haram insecurity in the northern part of the country which could discourage voters and finally, it was crystal clear that the electoral body (INEC) was really unprepared as there were noticeable lapses in their conducts; coupled with the postponement of the election from 14th February to 28th March  (Onapajo, 2015). Bearing the above points in mind, it was difficult for anyone to expect peaceful elections across the country that was why there were comments from foreign observers about the 2015 election. The 2015 presidential election was characterized with the opposition party taking over power from the incumbent president, which has never happened in the history of Nigeria.

Over some decades now, foreign observers have been witnessing elections in Africa and reporting to the global community on how it went in their host community (Obi and Abutudu, 1999:22). Election monitoring in Africa has gradually been adopted by almost all African countries as a way of strengthening their political processes (Geisla, 1993:56-57). Foreign observers are usually seen as being objective and non-partisan, and this is why their presence is highly needed in the assessment of the performance of the activities of a country during her election.

Foreign observers are not only seen in Africa during elections, but also other western countries of the world (Stack, 1993:22-23). Foreign observers include governmental and non-governmental institutions like Economic Communities of West African States (ECOWAS), United Nations, etc.

The presence of foreign observers has been witnessed during elections in Nigeria, and the last election which was held in 2015 was not an exemption. According to INEC, 107 election observers were accredited to monitor the 2015 elections. Examples of the group include International Republican Institute (IRI),theEuropean Union Election Observation Mission and National Democratic Institute (NDI). The leader of one of the groups, NDI to be precise commented on how participatory Nigerians were in enfranchising their rights; directly upholding the tenets of democracy. He pointed some of the challenges faced during the election and urged the necessary bodies saddled with fixing such challenges to look into it. One of such challenges was the one tied to the card reader machine, as it was able to read some people’s card and in most cases the reverse was the case. This group equally pointed out the lapses caused by INEC in the delivery of election materials to polling units on time (Andreassen 1993).

Another report from a different international group observer,theEuropean Union Election Observation Mission reported that the 2015 elections were peaceful and the security personnel were at their best in ensuring that it was peaceful.

Nigeria, like most post independent African states is mired in the crisis of under development. The crisis manifested itself in economic, social and political terms. The nation’s politics has become characterized by a winner takes all attitude resulting in violence, corruption, and the entertainment of what is known or called antidevelopment politics. Agreed that military and successive civilian administrations have contributed to this parlous state of affairs, yet the behaviour of Nigerian politicians leaves much to be desired (Babatunde, 2007:53). Indeed, it can be emphatically asserted that between1999-2015, there has been an absence of the politics of relevance in Nigeria. That is, politics geared towards the development of the nation and improvement in the material well-being of the generality of the people. This led to a clarion call for change instead of continuity of the Peoples’ Democracy Party that ruled the country for sixteen years. The change can only come about through free and fair election under the watchful eyes of local and foreign observers. The 2015 presidential election was very important because of the global ramification. It is interesting to know that elections which normally is a scheduled routine event in which citizens select those who take decisions on their behalf, have become almost the defining events in the Nigeria national life. That Is, elections in Nigeria today are defined in terms such as “do or die”, the “capture” of offices by all means. Yet, this is not unique to Nigeria. Globally, elections have acquired an iconic character and elections have become one of the most visible occupations across the global village (Attahru 2011:4) International election observer’s criss-cross the world today and increasingly intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations are actively engaging in election activities.

The need to study the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria is important because of the position the country occupies in Africa and the interest and respect which the international community have for the state. Also, the need to ascertain whether the independent national electoral commission has improved on the lapses that occurred during the last 2011 presidential elections. The 2011 election provoked massive anger, condemnations and allegation of electoral fraud of the polls. The study of 2015 the presidential election is very vital in the sense that, it is proper to know whether the measures like card readers machines, permanent voters card, and computerized voters registered list (updated) actually reduced the incidence of electoral fraud in Nigeria. Also, to what extend the election was free and fair as well as conform to the international standard as adjudged by the foreign observers. Above all, the role, action and assistances which the foreign observers rendered toward the success or failure of the election (Stack 1993).

This is why this study is carried out to find out the role of foreign electoral observers on election credibility in Nigeria; with a closer look at the recent 2015 elections.

1.2 Statement of the Research Problem

This study is an investigation of the role of foreign observers in the 2015 presidential elections. The voting pattern of people in elections is a very important aspect of their political culture or behavioural pattern towards politics. Every political environment, including that of Nigeria, provides within its context one or more peculiar factors that underscore the behaviour of people in elections, and understanding these factors will give us better understanding of the nature of elections and politics in that political environment. Which include bribery, ethnicity and the rest of them, which begs for the use of foreign observers to put elections in check.

This study therefore investigates the extent to foreign observers participate in managing elections in Nigeria, their roles and challenges.

1.3: Research Questions

The research questions of this study are:

i.     What role did foreign observers play in the 2015 presidential elections in Nigeria?

2. What are the challenges faced by foreign election observers in carrying out their duties?

ii.   What effect doeshaving foreign observers on election grounds have on the conduct of elections?

1.4: Research Objectives

The objectives of this research are:

1. To identify the role foreign observers played in the 2015 presidential elections in Nigeria.

2. To identify the challenges faced by foreign election observers in carrying out their duties.

3. To identify the effectofhaving foreign observers on election grounds have on the conduct of elections.

1.5 Research Significance

Many researches have been conducted on the topic Nigerian elections as well as foreign observers in elections, still exist some gap in knowledge with regard the role foreign observers played in the 2019 presidential elections. This work serves as a reference material for researchers in understanding the nature of voting behaviour in a place where bribery, ethnicity and favoritism takes the order of voting, where violence and election thuggery is the order of elections, as well as the role foreign observers play in shaping the voting behaviour of electorates and publicizing the conduct of the elections.

1.6 Scope and Limitations of the study

This study cobvers eight states in Nigeria, where election violence is known to be high, these atates were chosen for the purpose of this work.

This project was conducted within the period of one academic session. This research was based on a sample size representing the entire population of Nigeria electorate, so that the views and responses of these sampled respondents can be considered to be the views of the entire country. However, standard sample size formula was adopted to arrive at a ±8/8% error. Also another limitation, the inability of illiterate respondents to read and give answers to the questionnaire, was overcome by using trained personnel with proficiency in the respondents‟ local languages in questionnaire administration.

1.7 Study organization

This paper is organized into five inter-related sections, section one is the Introduction. Section two Literature review and Theoretical underpinning, section three is about Research methodology that is the sampling methods and data gathering technique. Section four focuses on result obtain during the conduct of 2015 presidential election in Nigeria, findings of the foreign observers, general discussion about the elections,the implications of Nigeria 2015 general for African states democracy and the Research Practice in particular. Section five is on conclusion of the study and suggestion on the way forward. The last section is on the future research studies on African politics and democratic consolidation.         


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