Imperatives for Electoral Reform in Nigeria

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CHAPTER THREE
IMPERATIVES FOR ELECTORAL REFORM

3.1INTRODUCTION

In the context of a weak electoral body, a perverted electoral process and undemocratic political parties, the stage is set for flawed elections. Thus, the 1999 and 2003 elections, like virtually all the preceding elections in Nigeria’s post-colonial history, were classic cases of electoral fraud. In broad terms, there have been two kinds of elections in Nigeria’s post-colonial history. These are the ‘transition’ and ‘consolidation’ elections[1]. The transition elections are those organized by a departing political authority, which include those organized by the departing colonial authorities in 1959, and those organized by military regimes in 1979, 1993 (aborted) and 1999. Consolidation elections are those organized by a civilian regime and are intended to consolidate civil rule. These include the 1964/65, 1983 and 2003 elections. While virtually all these elections have been contested, the elections of 1983 and 2003 stand out as the most corrupt and fraudulent. The shared characteristics of all elections in Nigeria, include massive electoral frauds, the conception and practice of politics as warfare, the lack of continuity in the political platforms used by members of the political class, high levels of opportunism and thus a low level of commitment to the different variants of right-wing political ideologies that characterize the political class, the objectification of politics, and the mobilization of ethnic identities as the basis for defining the legitimacy of claims to political power[2].

Elections in Nigeria have been fraught with violence, massive rigging, voters intimidation and fraud. There is also a deliberate attempt by the ruling party to contrive and monopolize the electoral space, engineer grand electoral fraud, as well as hatch a deliberate plot to move the process towards a one party dominant democratic order in favour of the ruling party[3].

3.2CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR ELECTORAL REFORM

There is the urgent necessity for fundamental electoral reform so as to set a solid foundation for a stable democracy in Nigeria. The challenges and opportunities for electoral reform in Nigeria include:

a) POLITICAL VIOLENCE: This has been aggravated by the unwillingness of politicians to play by the rules of the game. The rising spate of unemployment and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons have increased this phenomenon. More often than not, law enforcement agents who are ill-equipped and ill-trained to handle outbreak of political violence contribute to the problem.

b) COMPETIVE RIGGING AND ELECTORAL PARTICIPATION: Nigerians do not have a voice and choice in elections. The pervasive culture of impunity and executive lawlessness in governance has nourished and intensified this phenomenon of competitive rigging thereby affecting participation in elections. More so, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is only independent in name

c) POLITICAL PARTIES / PARTY SYSTEM: Contemporary political parties do not seem to belong to the people, they lack ideology and respect for the party constitution, they also lack transparency and accountability in the management of ifunds, etc. Thus there is no internal democracy.

d) ELECTORAL ADMINISTRATION/ MONITORING: There are various flaws in the electoral laws, unwholesome delay in the determination of petitions at the Elections Tribunals, INEC has been inefficient in election administration; the late release of election monitoring guidelines by INEC, lack of funding and late preparations have hampered past monitoring exercises.

e) POST-ELECTION DISPUTES: This has been the case in Nigeria where parties/candidates who have lost do not accept the results for obvious reasons.

However despite some of the challenges highlighted above, Nigeria has grown stronger in the conduct of peaceful elections, as vital...
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