2015 Elections And Democratic Consolidation In Nigeria’s Fourth Republic

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Elections were first organized and conducted in Nigeria in 1922 by the British colonial government in response to the pressures of the nationalists who were agitating for greater participation in the colonial administration (Enojo, 2010). Following the elections, Nigerians were offered the first opportunity to occupy certain political offices. Though the franchise was restricted and representation limited, it was nonetheless an achievement for the nationalists who were struggling for the enthronement of democratic order as a pre-requisite for greater participation of the people in the process of governance. After 1922, several other elections were conducted in different parts of the country to elect leaders at national, regional and local levels. However, it was the 1959 General Elections that paved way for the emergence of Nigeria as an independent state. Since then, various elections have been held either in transition from one civilian government to another or in transition from military regimes to civilian administration.

Elections in Nigeria can broadly be categorized into three viz: elections organized by the colonial government in 1922, 1951 and 1959; those organized by the military regimes in 1979, 1991, 1993, 1999; and the ones organized by civilian governments in 1964, 1983, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. Among the three categories, the elections organized by the civilian regimes appeared to be more crisis-ridden compared to the other two. The simple explanation for the paradox lies in the fact that both the military and colonial authorities wielded excessive powers in coercing citizens to operate within the bounds of the existing laws and decrees (Odo, 2015).

Since the beginning of the Fourth Republic on 29 May 1999, Nigeria has held five general elections, apart from sundry re-run elections and local government polls. Out of the five general elections conducted, only the 2015 general election met both the local and international standard. But the disturbing trend is that each general election was worse than the preceding one (2003 was worse than 1999; and 2007 was worse than 2003). This trend shows that our country is faring very badly at each passing election as nobody can talk of consolidating democracy in such an environment. This is because the leaders seem to have forgotten that conducting a free and fair election is vital to the growth and development of any democratic process. Also, an average Nigerian voter is interested in immediate pecuniary or material rewards, and will easily trade off his votes when appropriately induced. 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).

The 2015 general elections are indeed symbolic in Nigeria’s political history. They mark the first time the opposition party would successfully dislodge the incumbent party from power at the federal level particularly in a less controversial and peaceful process. Clearly, this interesting development is in contrast to the gloomy picture presented by many analysts in the pre-elections period. For many, the aftermath of the elections may possibly mark the end of Nigeria as a nation, which generated rising tension 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 characterized 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).

Nigeria’s seventeen years of uninterrupted democratic experience cannot in any way be compared with that of United States which is over two hundred years or with Britain over three hundred years. This is because there are still cases of anti-democratic practices, especially in the areas of electoral processes, rule of law and constitutionalism (Kwasau 2013). Also, related to this problem is the fact that electoral malpractices often lead to legitimacy crisis which ultimately erode democratic principles thereby hindering democratic consolidation in the country.

Hence, this research study seeks to examine the 2015 Elections and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Prior to the 2015 general elections, Nigeria had a reputation for the poor management of its elections. In particular, the 2007 and 2011 general elections left a major dent on the credibility of the country’s electoral process due to the magnitude and severity of irregularities recorded during the processes.

Election rigging has been a major threat to democratic consolidation in Nigeria. Unfortunately, politicians who carried out this dastardly act have gone scot free. In as much as politicians are not nailed in their previous manipulation of elections, the future politicians keep re-strategizing manipulations for subsequent elections, thereby making election rigging inevitable in Nigerian politics.

The perennial problem of lack of credible and democratic electoral process has been linked with the phenomenon of “failed, uncaring and unresponsive governance” in Nigeria (Inokoba and Kumokor, 2011:139). No wonder, years of civil rule since 1999 has failed to deliver on good roads, functioning health amenities, quality education, uninterrupted power supply, living wages for workers, effective petroleum sector, genuine electoral reform, equitable distribution of wealth and so on. Hence, Nigeria’s democracy has been described as merely formalistic and devoid of consolidation.

Consolidating democracy in Nigeria as a whole through the conduct of credible elections has remained an albatross. The history of Nigeria’s democratic experiments demonstrates that elections and electoral politics have generated so much animosity which has, in some cases, threatened the corporate existence of the country (such as happened after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election) and in other cases instigated military incursion into political governance, most notably in 1966 and 1983. At the heart of electoral crisis in Nigeria is the lack of credibility for the official results of elections leading to the rejection of such results by a sizeable portion of the Nigerian voting public. It is against this premise that this study seeks to examine the 2015 elections and democratic consolidation in Nigeria’s fourth republic.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The major objective of this study is to examine the 2015 elections and democratic consolidation in Nigeria’s fourth republic.

The specific objectives are:

  1. To assess the effect of electoral irregularities on democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
  2. To explore the effect of electoral rigging on survival of democracy in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic.
  3. To investigate the effect of electoral crisis on the electoral process in Nigeria.
  4. To find out if electoral credibility was a predictor of the outcomes of the 2015 elections in Nigeria.

1.4 Research Questions

This study will be conducted with the following research questions:

  1. What is the effect of electoral irregularities on democratic consolidation in Nigeria?
  2. What is the effect of electoral rigging on survival of democracy in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic?
  3. What is the effect of electoral crisis on the electoral process in Nigeria?
  4. What was the effect of electoral credibility on the outcomes of the 2015 elections in Nigeria?

1.5 Significance of the Study

The outcomes of the study will serve as a useful tool for scholars, who would want to carry out further research in this domain. It would also be useful to scholars inpolitical science. The study would in fact be significant to policy makers and implementers at large, as they will find the results and recommendations of the study very useful in reforming the electoral process in a bid to foster democratic consolidation in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic.

1.6 Scope of the Study

This study encompasses the effect of the 2015 elections on democratic consolidation in Nigeria’s fourth republic vis-à-vis electoral irregularities, electoral rigging and credibility in the electoral process in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic.

1.7 Research Methodology

Research methodology refers to the way in which data is gathered for a research project. It is the blue print for the collection, measurement, and analysis of data in order to achieve the objectives of the research project.

The research study was carried out using qualitative approach. Qualitative research design is best for gathering, organizing, and describing the occurrence of an event or phenomenon. It is being used since the study attempt at describing and exploring the effect of the 2015 elections on democratic consolidation in Nigeria’s fourth republic without any attempt being made to control or manipulate the outcomes of the study. Secondary data was gathered through material sources like from the internet, journals, textbooks, newspapers, seminar papers were sourced from archives of libraries like Lagos State University (LASU) library, University of Lagos Library, and the internet. Content analysis was therefore adopted.

1.8 Limitations of the Study

The researcher faces series of challenges while conducting this research study of which was lack of adequate fund, this points to the fact that the researcher is not yet earning money but rather depend on family supports. Moreover, the study would have been more extensive if more organizations in the public sector were included in the study. This was due to limited financial resources and lack of time.

Another factor that almost marled the success of the study was time factor. The researcher was needed to go to the field, libraries and write the report and submit at the required time also constituted a major constraint to the researcher study.

On the whole, academic stress added to the problems but the researcher made the best efforts in optimizing the available resources and information without allowing the limitations to make the researcher lose sight of the quality of the final output. In essence, these limitations do not impinge on the validity of this work.

1.9 Theoretical Framework: Elite Theory

In order to ensure systematic and logical explanation of the subject matter a theoretical anchorage is needed to serve as guide to this research study. In this respect, this study adopts “Elite Theory” as its theoretical framework.

The Elite theory stresses the concentration of political power in the hands of minority group which according to Mosca (1947:133) “performs all political functions, monopolizes power and enjoys the advantages that power brings.”

Elite theorists often emphasize differences in inherent abilities as a source of elites. All people are not created equal: some are stronger, more intelligent, more artistic, etc. those who have the most of a certain kind of ability constitute a sort of elite. Of course, not all abilities lead to economic wealth or political power. However, those people who have the most of the particular abilities which a society rewards become the elites. In some societies, a talent for corruption maybe a prerequisite for entering the elite class. Abilities are distributed continuously; that is, there is no sharp division between the people who are at the top with respect to a given ability and those who are at the bottom. Pareto (1939:114) who was an elite theorist assumed that abilities were distributed on a smooth curve similar to the distribution of income. In his works on elites however, he divided societies into two discrete groups: the elites and the masses. This cannot be explained by his analysis of abilities. There are other problems with an analysis based on differences in abilities. It is difficult to measure abilities and even when there is some measure, it is difficult to show how that those with the most ability are to be found at the top. Frequently, entire ethnic, racial or sexual groups are absent from elite position. If one assumes that membership in the elite is determined by ability, then one can only explain this by arguing that the excluded groups are inherently inferior.

The Elite theory is used to describe certain fundamental features or organized social life in all societies, whether simple or complex, politics or industrial needs authorities within the system and spokesmen and agents that maintains their values (Mannhein, 1940, in Agbo, 2007:22).

The basic assumptions of the elite theory include:

  1. Society is divided into the few who have power and the many who do not.
  2. Only a small number of persons allocate values for society.
  3. The few who govern are not typical of the masses who are governed.
  4. The Elites are drawn disproportionately from the upper socio-economic strata of the society.
  5. The movement of the non-elite positions must be slow and continuous to maintain stability and avoid revolution.
  6. Only non-elites who have accepted the basic elite consensus can be admitted to governing circles.
  7. Elites share a consensus on the basic values of the social system and the preservation of the system (status quo).
  8. Public policy does not reflect the demands of the masses but rather the prevailing values of elites.
  9. Active elites are subject to relatively little direct influence from apathetic masses.
  10. Elites influence masses more than masses influencing them (Sambo, 1999:13, Dye, 1987:22).

Applied within the context of this study, it is to be observed that the crisis of free and fair elections in Nigeria over the years seem to reflect the fundamental excesses of the elites who seem to influence electoral process to their selfish interests:

This minority social group therefore rules the society, while the group often flies democratic kites, their operationalization is antithetical to their flyer. Thus, their oligarchical conspiracy limits their trumpeted democratic competition and therefore shrinks political choice and alternatives (Adeyemi, 2004:41).

The above scenario depicts the context in Nigeria where activities of the elites seem to be the bane of free and fair elections and consolidation of democracy. This has been demonstrated in occurrences such as electoral violence, moneybags, godfatherism, clientelism etc. all of which negate the value of conducting free and fair elections in Nigeria.

The adoption of elite theory in this study is informed by its aptness in providing a systematic explanation of the basic variables which this study interrogates. It should however be noted that the elite theory has been flawed by some scholars as been unnecessarily conspirational and provocative (Sambo, 1999, Orluwene, 2008). It is conspirational because it assumes functional consensus among members of the elite group; on the other hand it is provocative because it relegates the masses to the background in the scheme of things in society. Despite these inadequacies, the theory is still considered very relevant for the purpose of analysis in this study.

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