CORRUPTION AND ELECTORAL PROCESS
CORRUPTION AND ELECTORAL PROCESS
1.1 Background of the Study
The British colonial authority organised and conducted elections in Nigeria for the first time in 1922 in response to nationalist pressure for greater participation in colonial administration (Enojo, 2010). Following the elections, Nigerians were given the first opportunity to hold specific political positions.
Though the suffrage was restricted and representation was limited, it was a victory for nationalists who were fighting for the establishment of a democratic order as a prerequisite for wider public engagement in the government process.
Following 1922, numerous other elections were held around the country to elect leaders at the national, regional, and municipal levels. However, the 1959 General Elections opened the ground for Nigeria's independence.
Since then, other elections have been held, either to transition from one civilian government to another or from military governments to civilian governance.
Elections in Nigeria are essentially classified into three types: those organised by the colonial authority in 1922, 1951, and 1959; those organised by military regimes in 1979, 1991, 1993, and 1999; and those organised by civilian governments in 1964, 1983, 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2015.
Among the three groups, civilian regime-organized elections looked to be more crisis-ridden than the others. The obvious reason for the paradox is that both military and colonial authorities exerted excessive power in coercing civilians to follow existing laws and decrees (Odo, 2015).
Since the return to civil rule on 29 May 1999, Nigeria has held five general elections, apart from sundry re-run elections and local government polls. Only the 2015 general election passed both local and international standards. However, the alarming tendency is that each general election was worse than the one before it (2003 was worse than 1999, and 2007 was worse than 2003).
This tendency demonstrates that our country is doing very poorly with each passing election, as nobody can talk about cementing democracy in such a climate. This is because the leaders appear to have forgotten that holding a free and fair election is critical to the growth and development of any democratic process.
Furthermore, the normal Nigerian voter is eager in quick monetary or material advantages and will readily barter off his votes if properly encouraged.
This can be explained by the crippling poverty facing the people in the absence of government's provision of the basic amenities required for decent living, as well as their justified distrust of the political leaders (Ebegbulem, 2011).
Indeed, one major element of electoral process is that election must be conducted in a free and fair atmosphere, while electoral results must reflect the wishes of the people. Nigeria's experience in this regard had since independence been contrary to this expectation.
This is because previous and present electoral bodies had conducted elections in a way that favoured the ruling political parties through poor planning,
the device of excluding electorates from voting in places considered to be the strongholds of opposition, inadequate supply of voting materials, and late arrival of electoral officers to polling stations.
The Nigerian presidential election of 16 April 2011 was the fourth in the series of presidential elections conducted since the country's return to civil rule in 1999. Unlike the previous elections which were characterized by fraud and flaws, the 2011 election is regarded by many observers as largely credible and well organized (EU EOM, 2011).
However, post-election violence, in which many people were killed, many more displaced and valuable properties was destroyed, robbed the shine off the electoral success. Although violence has been part and parcel of electoral contest in Nigeria since 1999,
the 2011 post-election violence stands out in terms of its magnitude, severity and consequences (Unom and Ojo, 2010, HRW, 2004; Ladan and Kiru, 2005).
The 2011 post-election violence started in Bauchi and Gombe states, and quickly spread to other parts of Northern Nigeria such as Kano, adamawa, Niger, and Kaduna states.
The 2015 general elections are significant in Nigeria's political history. They mark the first time an opposition party has successfully removed the incumbent party from office at the federal level, especially in a less contentious and calm process. Clearly, this exciting trend contrasts with the bleak image painted by many pundits during the pre-election period.
For many, the aftermath of the elections may signal the end of Nigeria as a nation, causing escalating tensions in the country. Their arguments are founded on the following compelling points: first, the country experienced for the first time in its post-democratic transition history the emergence of a strong opposition party which had the capacity to displace the incumbent party that was strongly resisted by the incumbent using state machinery;
second, there was growing public perception of poor preparation by the Electoral Management Body (EMB) – the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) – following problems experienced in the voter registration process which influenced beliefs that the elections might be another charade;
third, the electoral process was characterised by a heated campaign process which was anchored on ethnic and religious sloganeering which did not only divide the potential voters along religious and ethnic lines but also potentially prepared the grounds for another ethno-religious violence;
fourth, the suspicious process that surrounded the sudden postponement of the elections for six weeks (February 14 to March 28) also increased public distrust of the electoral process (International Crisis Group, 2015; Onapajo, 2015).
Therefore this research study seeks to investigate corruption and electoral process: a comparative study of the 2011 and 2015 presidential election in Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of Problem
Electoral corruption has impaired hard work, diligence and efficiency. It has caused incalculable damages to the social and political development of Nigeria and the electoral process.
It subverts credible voting system and encourages the rise of an unpopular government. Furthermore, it weakens the electoral institutions, which are saddled with the responsibility of holding presidential elections in the country.
Since the country's restoration to democratic governance in 1999, presidential elections in 2011 and 2015 were won and lost under conditions in which electoral malpractices, rigging and violence were prominent, a situation defined by Dauda as “The Slippery side of landslide” (Dauda 2007:102).
Participation in presidential elections in Nigeria is characterized by machine politics which “involves the parceling out of parts of the state including territories to individuals, usually under the leadership of one or two notables … who maintain their prebends essentially by force” (Ibeanu, 2007:9).
Ibeanu further contends that under such circumstances, elections give birth to the primitive accumulation of votes, which he refers to as the “winning of votes by both objective and structural corruption and disregard for the rule of law” (Ibeanu, 2007 :6).
In this kind of atmosphere, there is frequently prolonged rigging which ensures that votes do not count and voters are not counted leading to the lack of credible elections.
Nigeria has had a troubled electoral history with consecutive elections being marked by severe anomalies and controversy- particularly in the conduct of its electoral commission. This has led in some cases to the breakdown of democratic attempts as occurred in 1966 and 1983.
The 2011 and 2015 presidential elections in Nigeria presented a wonderful opportunity to occasion a break with the past and restore public faith in the electoral and democratic process of the country.
However, this was not to be as the elections, according to various local and foreign observers turned out to be the worst in Nigeria's political history (European Union: 2013, Human Rights Watch: 2015, Transition Monitoring Group: 2015).
Like its predecessors, INEC was accused of not being able to create public confidence in the electoral process or stage transparent and credible elections.
Since the conduct of presidential elections of 2011 and 2015, a pattern is already emerging which points to the fact that political elites have not learnt much from the mistakes of the past.
The multiple crises hitting the major parties and developing ones and the different inter-party crisis of the defections in the National Assembly, cross carpeting of legislators and other elected authorities in the country are striking manifestations of this tendency.
This threat has lead to the high level of political abduction, harassment, arson, and assassinations, withdrawal of credible and qualified professionals in the race. Against this backdrop, this research project intends to explore corruption and the electoral process: a comparative analysis of Nigeria's presidential elections in 2011 and 2015.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The study is carried out with the following objectives:
1) To research how electoral malpractices affect the Nigerian electoral process.
2) To study the effect of electoral corruption on the outcomes of the 2011 presidential election in Nigeria.
3) To assess the influence of electoral corruption on the conduct of the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria.
4) To investigate the problems of holding free and credible presidential elections in Nigeria.
1.4 Research Questions.
The study is guided by the following research questions:
1) How do election malpractices affect the electoral process in Nigeria?
2) How did electoral corruption affect the outcome of Nigeria's 2011 presidential election?
3) How has electoral corruption affected the conduct of Nigeria's presidential election in 2015?
4) What are the barriers to holding free and credible presidential elections in Nigeria?
1.5 Significance of the Study
It is expected that the analytical, conceptual, and theoretical analysis would not only help to understand the dynamics of electoral corruption and the survival of democracy in Nigeria, but will also articulate strong policy proposals to promote democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
Overall, the study's findings will be a valuable resource for Benue State University students interested in conducting additional research in this area. It would also be valuable for political scientists.
The study would be significant for policymakers and implementers in general, as the study's findings and recommendations would be quite valuable to work with.
1.6 Scope of Study
This study focuses on corruption and the electoral process, specifically comparing the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections in Nigeria in terms of electoral corruption, rigging, the electoral process, and the issues of free and fair elections under Nigeria's Fourth Republic.
Furthermore, the study's focus is limited to Makurdi Local Government Area (lga) in Benue State, from which a sample would be taken for generalisation purposes.
1.7 Limitations of the Study
The researchers faced a number of problems while performing their research study, one of which was a lack of proper funding, indicating that the researchers are not yet earning money and instead rely on family support.
Furthermore, including more local government regions in the study would have expanded the scope of the research. This was owing to financial constraints and a lack of time.
Overall, academic stress exacerbated the challenges, but the researcher made every attempt to maximise the available resources and information without losing sight of the study's goal. In essence, these limitations do not jeopardise the validity of our study.