VIOLENCE AND THE ELECTORAL PROCESS IN NIGERIA: A CASE STUDY OF THE 2007 GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION IN PLATEAU STATE

VIOLENCE AND THE ELECTORAL PROCESS IN NIGERIA: A CASE STUDY OF THE 2007 GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION IN PLATEAU STATE

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ABSTRACT

The history of human existence is replete with one form of violence or another. Violence is therefore not a recent development. It has occurred and may occur whenever and wherever there is a clash of interest between individuals and or groups. Violence is also used as a weapon by some people to realize or achieve certain ends. This implies that violence manifests in different forms and dimensions. The phenomenon that is associated with the Nigerian electoral process is violence in Nigeria is characterized by thuggery, intimidation, molestation and assassination. Against the prevalence of electoral violence, this research examined the factors responsible for the outbreak of violence in the 2007 Gubernatorial Elections in Plateau State. Specifically, the work examined why for the first time politicians in Plateau State resorted to assassination of an aspirant in the quest for political power. The researcher used the group theory as its theoretical framework because of group and individual interest used in achieving their political ambitions. Data for the research were collected from primary and secondary sources. Relevant information gathered from primary sources involved the use of structured questionnaire and oral interviews were conducted among the politicians. The data from primary and oral interviews were analyzed using frequency tables and percentages. The analysis of the result shows that; ethno-religious consideration, lack of political will by government in implementing committee recommendations have impacted negatively on the electoral process in the 2007 Gubernatorial elections in Plateau State. Based on these findings it is recommended that there should be more enlightenment campaigns to sensitize Nigerians on the dangers of electoral violence.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background to the Study

Violence is an ubiquitous phenomenon in every society and every sphere of

social life. It is not restricted to the political sphere alone. It cuts across every aspect of

human existence. This means that political violence is just a subset of violence. It takes

many forms including kidnapping, assassination, arson, thuggery etc. This shows that

we are in a violent world and the tendency to be violent increases by the day. Violence

has no territorial boundary. It is as universal as it predates modernity. For instance,

Ekiran (2006:286) notes that both the Biblical and Quaranic accounts of creation and the

events that followed in the Garden of Eden particularly Adam and Eve’s refusal to obey

God’s simple instruction, amounts to violence of a sort.

Rejection of a superior’s injunction is tantamount to violent behavior; because

the word violence has its roots from violation or infringement (Ninalowo, 2004; 18). So

when one violates or infringes on a laid down principle, it amounts to violence.

Therefore violence can be described as an unruly behavior perpetrated to express anger

and dissatisfaction over some social issues which the perpetrators felt have affected or

likely to affect them in one way or another (Ekiran, 2006:285). It is an aggressive

behavior which more often than not involves physical combat which could inflict bodily

injuries on both perpetrators and innocent people. It is an ill wind that blows no one any

good.

With some degree of accuracy or certainty one could say that one type of

violence or another is to be found in every human society. In other words, even the

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advanced countries and developing countries alike are not immune to violence. In

Nigeria, violence is commonly used as a political tool to achieve the perpetrators’ selfish

ends. This usually occurs during elections when one government is about to hand over

power to another. The use of violence during elections has become a common feature of

the Nigerian electoral process.

Elections are regarded as the hallmark of democratic governance in every

democratic society. This is because elections are one of the ways through which people

engage in political participation. Elections have become the most acceptable method by

which citizens of an ever increasing number of political systems choose their leaders.

The appeal of elections lies principally in the opportunity that it provides for an entire

electorate to participate in choosing those that should govern them in a simple and

peaceful exercise (Momoh, 2005;31).

Elections also provide the people with the opportunity to indicate their preference

among the policies and programmes presented to them by the rival leadership elements

contesting for political power (Ayeni – Akeke, 2008:27). Elections may also enable the

people to remove unpopular leaders or force elected officials to listen to their

grievances, particularly between elections. Most elected public officers are always

conscious of when their terms are over, they would need to fall back to the people to

renew their mandate. Therefore, the fear that they might be rejected if they fail to heed

to the complaints of the people in non-election years, makes them to pay attention to the

views and aspirations of the electorate.

Of all the functions that elections perform, it is the opportunity that it provides for

the people to choose their leader that is most emphasized. Yet the extent to which it

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provides this opportunity varies from one political system to another. For example, in

totalitarian political systems, election is the means by which the leadership seeks to

confer legitimacy on the regime and government as well as the contestants nominated

to face the electorate for approval (Lipjhart, 1994:48). It also serves as one of the means

by which the government socializes the masses and mobilizes them to support its

policies. In contrast, democratic political systems that permit open competition use

elections to provide the people with the chance to choose between alternative leadership

candidates and policies.    This does not however mean that it is in all open and

competitive political systems that election performs this function effectively and to some

extent the effectiveness of elections as a vehicle of choice for the ordinary citizen is

influenced by various factors e.g. whether the political parties provide distinct

alternative leadership materials and programs etc. (Lipjhart, 1994:48).

The foregoing indicates that elections are a complex set of activities with

different variables that act and feed one another. It involves the participation of the

people in the act of choosing their leaders and their own participation in governance

(T.M.G., 2003:11). Elections are not necessarily about Election Day activities although

it forms an important component. It encompasses activities before, during and after

elections. It involves the legal and constitutional framework of elections which are the

registration of political parties, party campaigns, the activities of electronic and print

media in terms of access; it includes campaign financing, the activities of security

agencies and the government in power. It includes the authenticity and genuineness of

voters register; the independence or lack of it of electoral agencies and organs. It

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includes the liberalism or otherwise of the political process in the country and the

independence of adjudicating bodies of elections (T.M.G., 2003:11).

During the last fifty four years, General Elections have been conducted eleven

times in Nigeria at irregular intervals: 1951, 1954, 1959, 1964, 1979, 1983, 1991/1993,

1997, 1998/99, 2003 (Kurfi, 2005;:xi) and 2007. The first four were conducted under

the parliamentary system while the rest were held under the Presidential system of

government. It is also important to state here that elections in Nigeria have always been

characterized by several irregularities, which have always been politically motivated and

these have led to violence which has taken an appalling toll on human lives and

property.     There have always been widespread administrative failings, procedural

irregularities, and intentional efforts to carry out ballot fraud etc. The result of these is

that the general public’s faith and confidence in the fairness of the country’s electoral

process suffers (TMG, 2003:12).

The General Elections of 2007 were of monumental importance as it marked the

first time in the history of elections in the country when civilian to civilian transition has

ever taken place .It was a situation that the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo,

described as a ‘do or die affair’. The whole electoral processes were that of State

Houses of Assembly, National Assembly, Gubernatorial and Presidential Offices.. Even

though the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) meticulously and zealously

planned for these elections, the election days witnessed confusion and all manner of

electoral mal-practices such that INEC’s preparedness was brought to question. Results

from the entire exercise Were probably the most contentious and most lingering (Yaqub,

2007: 19). Long after the events, there were still litigations after litigations. The

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elections were annulled in certain states of the federation while in others, results remain

controversial.    This was so because those who emerged victorious did so through

irregular activities. i.e rigging and violence. The elections conducted in Plateau State

cannot be said to have occurred without electoral violence. The events which trailed the


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