The Role Of Foreign Election Observers In Democratic Elections In Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

The Role Of Foreign Election Observers In Democratic Elections In Nigeria


Abstract


This paper is about the role of foreign election observers in democratic elections in Nigeria: a case study of the 2015 presidential elections. The conduct of the 2015 Presidential election in Nigeria recorded mixed outcomes. Although fears that Election Day would be marred by serious violence were allayed to a large extent, some instances of technical hitches, vote buying and other forms of electoral manipulations were recorded in some parts. However, these electoral hitches were not sufficient to alter the expected outcome of the election. For the first time in Nigeria’s political history, an incumbent president lost power in a general election. Has Nigeria’s democracy consolidated satisfactorily? The burden of this paper is to examine the trajectories of the 2015 presidential election relying on both qualitative and quantitative methods of research. The paper concludes that much has to be done if Nigeria’s democracy is to scale the second turn-over test Huntington establishes as the bench mark which if a new democracy survives two turnovers of power, then it has consolidated satisfactorily. By all indices, the election was adjudged free and fair, this much was attested to by international election monitoring teams that monitored the exercised and confirmed that despite few glitches, the exercise met with international best practice.


Chapter One


Introduction

Nigeria’s politics right from the 90s are usually characterized by violence. It has always been a case that if a candidate loses, he and his party members will take to violence to alleviate their dissatisfaction over the election results. The past (military) and present governments have contributed in encouraging this unnecessary means of reacting to election results (Babatunde, 2007:54). From that time still date, elections in Nigeria are usually known for many irregularities and violence which have affected the economic, social and political stability of the country.

Elections globally are very important practice for both developed and developing country, as it serves as one of the means for sustainable development of a countries(Attahiru, 2011:5). It encourages the practice of democracy, giving the citizens chance to participate in the governance of their country.

Nigeria’s 2015 general election was an election that can never be forgotten in the history of Nigeria. It was an election that left Nigerians in fear of what might be its possible outcome, as the environment was really tensed. The absence of war after the 2015 general elections was a good sign that Nigeria will forever stand united, as there were many speculations from international observers and even from Nigerians that the outcome of the election might possibly lead to war. These fears were very obvious bearing some reasons in mind: first being that there was a strong opposition party that had bounced back stronger to take over from the ruling party of which they succeeded, second being that the economy of the country was under serious attack from the Boko Haram insecurity in the northern part of the country which could discourage voters and finally, it was crystal clear that the electoral body (INEC) was really unprepared as there were noticeable lapses in their conducts; coupled with the postponement of the election from 14th February to 28th March (Onapajo, 2015). Bearing the above points in mind, it was difficult for anyone to expect peaceful elections across the country that was why there were comments from international observers about the 2015 election. The 2015 general election was characterized with the opposition party taking over power from the incumbent president, which has never happened in the history of Nigeria.

Over some decades now, international observers have been witnessing elections in Africa and reporting to the global community on how it went in their host community (Obi and Abutudu, 1999:22). Election monitoring in Africa has gradually been adopted by almost all African countries as a way of strengthening their political processes(Geisla, 1993:56-57). International observers are usually seen as being objective and non-partisan, and this is why their presence is highly needed in the assessment of the performance of the activities of a country during her election.

International observers are not only seen in Africa during elections, but also other western countries of the world (Stack, 1993:22-23). International observers include governmental and non-governmental institutions like Economic Communities of West African States (ECOWAS), United Nations, etc.

The presence of international observers has been witnessed during elections in Nigeria, and the last election which was held in 2015 was not an exemption. According to INEC, 107 election observers were accredited to monitor the 2015 elections. Examples of the group include International Republican Institute (IRI), the European Union Election Observation Mission and National Democratic Institute (NDI). The leader of one of the groups, NDI to be precise commented on how participatory Nigerians were in enfranchising their rights; directly upholding the tenets of democracy. He pointed some of the challenges faced during the election and urged the necessary bodies saddled with fixing such challenges to look into it. One of such challenges was the one tied to the card reader machine, as it was able to read some people’s card and in most cases the reverse was the case. This group equally pointed out the lapses caused by INEC in the delivery of election materials to polling units on time (Andreassen 1993).

Another report from a different international group observer, the European Union Election Observation Mission reported that the 2015 elections were peaceful and the security personnel were at their best in ensuring that it was peaceful.

Nigeria, like most post independent African states is mired in the crisis of under development. The crisis manifested itself in economic, social and political terms. The nation’s politics has become characterized by a winner takes all attitude resulting in violence, corruption, and the entertainment of what is known or called antidevelopment politics. Agreed that military and successive civilian administrations have contributed to this parlous state of affairs, yet the behaviour of Nigerian politicians leaves much to be desired (Babatunde, 2007:53). Indeed, it can be emphatically asserted that between1999-2015, there has been an absence of the politics of relevance in Nigeria. That is, politics geared towards the development of the nation and improvement in the material well-being of the generality of the people. This led to a clarion call for change instead of continuity of the Peoples’ Democracy Party that ruled the country for sixteen years. The change can only come about through free and fair election under the watchful eyes of local and international observers. The 2015 presidential election was very important because of the global ramification. It is interesting to know that elections which normally is a scheduled routine event in which citizens select those who take decisions on their behalf, have become almost the defining events in the Nigeria national life. That Is, elections in Nigeria today are defined in terms such as “do or die”, the “capture” of offices by all means. Yet, this is not unique to Nigeria. Globally, elections have acquired an iconic character and elections have become one of the most visible occupations across the global village (Attahru 2011:4) International election observer’s criss-cross the world today and increasingly intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations are actively engaging in election activities.

The need to study the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria is important because of the position the country occupies in Africa and the interest and respect which the international community have for the state. Also, the need to ascertain whether the independent national electoral commission has improved on the lapses that occurred during the last 2011 general elections. The 2011 election provoked massive anger, condemnations and allegation of electoral fraud of the polls. The study of 2015 the presidential election is very vital in the sense that, it is proper to know whether the measures like card readers machines, permanent voters card, and computerized voters registered list (updated) actually reduced the incidence of electoral fraud in Nigeria. Also, to what extend the election was free and fair as well as conform to the international standard as adjudged by the international observers. Above all, the role, action and assistances which the international observers rendered toward the success or failure of the election (Stack 1993).

This is why this study is carried out to find out the role of foreign electoral observers on election credibility in Nigeria; with a closer look at the recent 2015 elections.

1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
This study is an investigation of the role of foreign observers in the 2015 presidential elections. The voting pattern of people in elections is a very important aspect of their political culture or behavioural pattern towards politics. Every political environment, including that of Nigeria, provides within its context one or more peculiar factors that underscore the behaviour of people in elections, and understanding these factors will give us better understanding of the nature of elections and politics in that political environment. Which include bribery, ethnicity and the rest of them, which begs for the use of foreign observers to put elections in check.
This study therefore investigates the extent to foreign observers participate in managing elections in Nigeria, their roles and challenges.


1.3 Research Questions

The research questions of this study are:

  1. What role did foreign observers play in the 2015 presidential elections in Nigeria?
  2. What are the challenges faced by foreign election observers in carrying out their duties?
  3. What effect does having foreign observers on election grounds have on the conduct of elections?

1.4 Research Objectives

The objectives of this research are:

  1. To identify the role foreign observers played in the 2015 presidential elections in Nigeria.
  2. To identify the challenges faced by foreign election observers in carrying out their duties.
  3. To identify the effect of having foreign observers on election grounds have on the conduct of elections.

1.5 Research Significance

Many researches have been conducted on the topic Nigerian elections as well as foreign observers in elections, still exist some gap in knowledge with regard the role foreign observers played in the 2019 presidential elections. This work serves as a reference material for researchers in understanding the nature of voting behaviour in a place where bribery, ethnicity and favoritism takes the order of voting, where violence and election thuggery is the order of elections, as well as the role foreign observers play in shaping the voting behaviour of electorates and publicizing the conduct of the elections.


1.6 Scope and Limitations of the Study

This study cobvers eight states in Nigeria, where election violence is known to be high, these atates were chosen for the purpose of this work.

This project was conducted within the period of one academic session. This research was based on a sample size representing the entire population of Nigeria electorate, so that the views and responses of these sampled respondents can be considered to be the views of the entire country. However, standard sample size formula was adopted to arrive at a ±8/8% error. Also another limitation, the inability of illiterate respondents to read and give answers to the questionnaire, was overcome by using trained personnel with proficiency in the respondents‟ local languages in questionnaire administration.


1.7 Study Organization

This paper is organized into five inter-related sections, section one is the Introduction. Section two Literature review and Theoretical underpinning, section three is about Research methodology that is the sampling methods and data gathering technique. Section four focuses on result obtain during the conduct of 2015 presidential election in Nigeria, findings of the foreign observers, general discussion about the elections, the implications of Nigeria 2015 general for African states democracy and the Research Practice in particular. Section five is on conclusion of the study and suggestion on the way forward. The last section is on the future research studies on African politics and democratic consolidation.


Chapter Five


Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Conclusion

The 2015 presidential elections has come and gone, the memory will chalked up linger on in mind of political parties, local and foreign observers and particularly the Nigerian voter that made the election free and fair. This is not discounting the roles played by the Independent National Electoral Commission and International Monitoring Observers that came to observe the election and ascertain its conformity with international best practice and credibility. Their effort, action and roles are commendable. Their overseeing the election and the acceptance of the results without rancor and acrimony, has chalked up Nigeria’s stature in the African Continent.

The Foreign observers role made Nigeria Government realize that the state cannot compromise with democracy while democracy and good governance are sine quanon for Nigeria’s growth and development. To a reasonable extent, the Nigeria 2015 presidential elections did conform to tenets of democracy such as ‘Transparency’, free conduct of elections, freedom of movement during the election, counting of votes and announcement of result, and choice of contesting the election result at the Elections Tribunal. The Foreign observers role shows that they are partner in progress and their action and assistances are commendable in the history of democracy and election management in the continent.

On the whole, Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC) has done well, likewise, the national security operatives. Also, Nigerians that troop out to vote enmas and made change possible deserve commendation for the success of the 2015 Presidential elections. And, the foreign observers for a job well done for taking their time, energy and courage to travel around the country and ensure that the election was actually free and fair in line with tenents of democracy. The Electoral Commission should be praised for new ideas introduced into the electoral process, especially the Smart Card Reader and the replacement of Temporary Voters Card with the Permanent Voters Card. This also added value to the electoral processes. The culture should be sustained in the 2019 Presidential election. Above all, kudos go to the former President Gooodluck Jonathan for conceding defeat and congratulating the president elect, General Muhammedu Buhari. Finally, election shape the destiny of a nation and determine the way changes and progress flow, under the watch of international observer, it deserves to be taken serious. Therefore, Nigeria as a member of international Community cannot ignore the comments, observations and report that emanates from foreign observers because they are umpire that gives verdict to the credence of democracy around the world.


5.2 Recommendations

This paper proffers some recommendation to stretching the practice of democracy and consolidation in Nigeria under three sub-heading namely: Political parties, State, INEC and Foreign observers role.

Political Parties Membership Enlightenment:

The behaviour of political party’s members still leaves much to be desired, hooliganism, thuggery and destruction of public property still happened in 2015 presidential election. Therefore, political parties need to educate voters and parties supporters on how to behave and conduct themselves during the political campaign.

State and Federal Government Support:

The state government need to work in tandem with local government areas to ensure that voters registration list is ready and submit the same to the state electoral office before the electoral commission deadline. This will minimize pressure on the INEC in preparing the master list for election. The Federal Government of Nigeria should also ensure that budget prepared by the electoral commission is approved and fund released to the organization six months before the elections commence.

INEC Action:

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) need to take cognizance of the constraints encountered in the conduct of 2015 presidential election and put in place measures to forestall the mistakes of the future presidential elections.

Registration of Voters:

This should be a continuous process as people become eligible for universal adult suffrage.

Collection of PVC’s:

More centres should be created in the states for easy collection of the permanent voters cards (PVCs). It should be every year and collection within two weeks.

Employment of Ad-hoc Staff for Election:

There is need to employ more staff to cope with the General conduct of Election. The Electoral Commission should organize training for them at least six weeks before the election date. This would enhance their competence and performance during the election.

Readers Machine:

The INEC office should ensure that it is tested before being dispatched to the polling stations.

Security of INEC Personnel and Election Materials:

In the future elections, military Police should be engaged at the polling units and collation centres instead of Nigerian Police.

Collaboration with International Organization:

To ensure credibility of national election in Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) need to work with International Monitoring team and Implement their advices on genuine election in Nigeria.

Funding of Election:

The national government should ensure that budget for the presidential election is approved and released in time for the electoral commission.

Electoral Reform Law:

The national assembly needs to fortify the electoral commission by approving enabling bills that will make the organization truly independent and remove it from the control of the presidency. The Nigeria Electoral Law Reform Panel recommendations headed by Justice Muhammed Uwais should be looked into with a view put into use in the future election.

Advance Dialogue and Peace Pact:

Democracy has now become a dominant theme in the international discourse while the role of the international observer is also a first to reckon with therefore the international monitoring team most encourage political gladiators to dialogue and sign a peace pact towards free and fair election.

The Way Forward:

Charting the way forward, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) need to take cognizance of the constructs encountered in the conduct of 2015 presidential election and put in place measures to forestall the mistakes of the future presidential elections.

Registration of Voters:

This should be done one to two years ahead of the election.

Collection of PVCs:

More centres should be created in the states for easy collection of the permanent voters cards (PVCs). It should be every year and collection within two weeks.

Voters Education:

Sustainable, continuous civic and voters education in local languages in the rural areas is necessary and important.

Employment of Adhoc Staff for Election:

There is need to employ more staff to cope with the General conduct of Election. The Electoral Commission should organize training for them at least six weeks before the election date. This would enhance their competence and performance during the election.

Card Reader Machine:

The INEC office should ensure that it is tested okay before dispatch to the polling stations.
Security for INEC Personnel and Election Materials: In the future elections, military Police should be engaged at the polling units and collation centres instead of Nigeria Police.

Collaboration with International Organizations:

To ensure credibility of national election in Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) need to work with International Monitoring team and implement their genuine advices on election in Nigeria.


Future Research Studies

Party Politics, Elections and Democratic consolidation has become and International issues and concern of the global village. Nigeria 2015 presidential elections has revealed that some gap still need to be filled in the field of African politics and democratic consolidation. The areas that require astute attention of political scientists in future are:

  1. Parochial culture towards politics and new participation by the middle class in Nigeria.
  2. The Electoral reform Acts to strengthen the independence of National Electoral Commission in Nigeria, and conduct of fraud free elections.
  3. The use of National Election to promote National Integration in Nigeria, and the • Money Politics and God fathomism sub version of Democracy in African states.

Future research studies will go a long way in finding durable solutions to political crisis associated with Election and democratic consolidation in African states and Nigeria in particular. It will ensure credible election and promote national development.


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