Background of the Study
The process of election administration in many “new democracies” continues to generate a lot of controversy; particularly with regards to the level of independence of Election Management Bodies (EMB’s), their professionalism and the acceptability of the elections they conduct. In Nigeria-Africa’s largest “democracy project”, the election administration process since the country gained political independence from the British has always resulted in controversy and crisis, arising mostly in part from the perceived collaboration of EMB’s with the successive military and civilian regimes of the country’s post-independence era. The implication is that, the history of election administration in Nigeria has been a history of controversy engendered by electoral malpractices.
A total of six (6) different EMB’s were established at various times to conduct the successive elections that have taken place in Nigeria’s post-independence history. Indeed, as Agbaje and Adejumobi (2006) notes: “over the years, the autonomy and capacity of EMB’s in Nigeria have been suspect as reflected in its endless renaming and restructuring by successive governments”. In 1959, the Electoral Commission of Nigeria (ECN) conducted the first nationwide elections which ushered in Nigeria’s first republic. The ECN which was composed of largely expatriate British administrators was replaced in 1964 with the Federal Electoral Commission (FEC). Following a highly contested general election conducted by the FEC in 1964/1965, and other existing political problems, the first republic was toppled in a military coup in 1969 and the FEC was dissolved. By 1978, another Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) was established by the outgoing military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo. FEDECO conducted the 1979 elections that ushered in Nigeria’s second republic. However, FEDECO was also dissolved in 1983 by the military administration of General Muhammadu Buhari following a highly controversial election conducted in 1983. By 1987, the Babangida administration also dissolved FEDECO and established the NEC. In what was described as a “transition without and “NEC conducted the 1992/1993 elections but was also dissolved in 1993 following the annulment of the 1993 Presidential election results and the exit of the Babaniga administration in 1994, the Abacha administration established the National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON). NECON conducted elections from the local governments up to the national assembly level; but was also abolished following the death of General Abacha and the emergence of the General Abubakar administration in 1998. The General Abubakar Abdulsalami regime established the current Independent National electoral Commission (INEC) which has conducted an unprecedented number of five quadrennial general elections in Nigeria from 1999 to 2015. While INCE is the longest serving EMB in Nigeria’s political history, the elections it has conducted has generated varying degrees of controversy and violent conflicts, particularly at the presidential level.
The 2015 Presidential elections conducted by INEC was historic for two major reason. First, the introduction of an electronic accreditation process inspite of challenges encountered, seemed to have remarkably increased the credibility of the country’s election administration process. Secondly, it was the first time in the history of the country that an incumbent President will lose elections and conceded defeat to the opposition. Yet, the 2015 general election administration process as in the previous four (4) general elections held from 1999 to 2011 was not without controversy. Political campaigns in the pre-election period were often heated and non-issue based. In several states across the country, the pre-election period therefore recorded varying degrees of election related violence. Indeed, the election was generally, described as the most keenly contested election in the history of Nigeria. The INEC itself came under severe criticisms for the decisions to introduce an electronic accreditation process which critics described as too premature, given the country’s poor state of infrastructure particularly with regards to power supply.
Against the foregoing background, a number of issues concerning INEC’s performance in the administration of the 2015 general election are germen. What are the basic steps in the election administration process? Which of these steps have been the most controversial and problematic aspects of the elections conducted by INEC from 1999-2011 and how has INEC fared in the administration of the 2015 general elections? Interrogating these issues are critical for understanding the trajectory of election, administration in Nigeria and the role of INEC is playing in the consolidation of democracy in the country.
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