A Study Of Election Violence In Nigeria, 1983-2011

Project and Seminar Material for History

A Study Of Election Violence In Nigeria, 1983-2011

Chapter One:

The 1983 Election: The Ondo Debacle


The electoral process in Nigerian has been characterized by violence. However, recent manifestations of electoral violence have assumed an unprecedented magnitude and changing form and character, with negative implications for democratic stability and consolidation. Examples include disputed and violent elections in Nigeria where the attendant search for redress through official and unofficial responses has, altogether, been largely trapped in deepening contradictions 1

As a concept, electoral violence basically has to do with all forms of organized acts or threats, physical, psychological and structural aimed at intimidating, harming, blackmailing a political stakeholder before, during and after an election with a view to determining, delaying, or otherwise influencing an electoral process.2 The import of this is that electoral violence is multidimensional, having physical, psychological and structural dimensions. The physical elements include assassination of political opponents, arson, looting, shooting, kidnapping and hostage taking, forceful disruption of campaign rallies, armed raids on voting and collating centres, including snatching of ballot papers and boxes at gun point. The psychological dimension relates to official and unofficial actions that create fear in the people, which may be a product of physical violence. These include threats to opposition forces by security agents or through phone calls or text messages. This structural dimension of electoral violence seems much more pronounced, being a product of structural imbalance, including coercion of citizens by government to register or vote, unequal opportunities for political parties and candidates, abuse of power of incumbency, falsification of election result, as well as the politicization of security and electoral officials 3

It is also evident that electoral violence, like an election itself, is not restricted to Election day alone. It can happen before, during and after the elections. Pre-election violence any include acts threats against electoral stakeholders during voter’s registration or electioneering campaigns. Election day violence includes the snatching of ballot papers or boxes, assaults on opposition parties or agents, and harassment or intimidation by security agents. In the aftermath of an election, electoral violence may take the form of violent protests against electoral rigging, whether real or imagined, and of the state’s deploying its apparatus of force in response to the protest, thereby further fuelling the violence. In addition, electoral violence is a form, perhaps the most deadly form of electoral fraud which has been defined as “clandestine efforts to shape election results.4 This can be perpetrated both by the incumbent power holder to avoid defeat and by power opposition elements seeking to wrest political power form the governing party. In most cases, electoral information such as registration data, vote results, ballots; campaign materials, for example, vehicles and public address systems, electoral facilities such as polling and counting stations, and electoral events including campaigns ralies.

Finally given the fact that electoral violence can be employed by both the ruling and opposition forces, coupled with the wide array of its likely targets as enunciated above, electoral violence no doubt constitutes a major source of democratic instability. Indeed, it can pose itself as a fundamental threat to the prospects of democratic consolidation

The Ondo Debacle; Politics And Election In Ondo State

Ondo state probably referred to as the “Sunshine state” was created from defunct western state on 3rd February, 1976. It covers a land area of 14, 739 square kilometers with its administrative capital at Akure. The state is bounded in the north by Ekiti state and Kogi state,in the east by Edo state, in the west by Osun and Ogunstates and in the south by the Altantic Ocean. Ondo state is people predominated by Yoruba who speak various dialect of Yoruba language. The state has three senatorial district, nine Federal Houses of representative seat, twenty six state House of Assembly seat, Eighteen local Government Area. The three senatorial district are Ondo North made up of Akoko North-West, Akoko North-East, Akoko South-East, Akoko South-West, Awola local government Area; Ondo Central which consist of Akure south, Akure North, Ifedore/Igaraoke, Ondo West, Ondo East; and Ondo South which consist of Odigbo, Irele, Ilaje, EseOdo, Okitipupa, Ileoluji/Okeigbo Local Governments. The distribution according to senatorial district is based on the geographical encirclement within Ondo state.

Historically, it has been seen that Ondo politics and election has always been characterized by series of violence which resulted into physical combat among political western region, what is today referred to as Ondo State could be said to have a deep political history that dates back to the anti-colonial struggle under the influence of the Action Group. In other words, the ideology of political parties in Ondo State takes their own picture and manifestoes from the Action Group ideology and manifesto. It is, therefore, hardly surprising to note that their politics of today since independence has manifested progressive tendency associated with Action Group. Action Group as a political party set the pace for democratic political structure in Ondo and other south west state in Nigeria.5

The Ondo debacle was one of the major conflicts that characterize the election in Ondo state. During the second republic 1979-1985, by which time the state has been created, the Unity Party of Nigeria (U.P.N), Action Group successor in south west, continue to dominate the politics of the state. During this period, the late chief Mike Adekunle Ajasin Unity Party of Nigeria (U.P.N) won the government election of 1979, however by the second election of 1983, Akinwole Michael Omoboriowo, Ajasin deputy from 1979-1983 decamped to National Party of Nigeria (N.P.N), the ruling party at the centre to contest the governorship race with Ajasin. As it turned out Akinwole Michael was officially the winner of the governorship election by the Federal Electoral Commissions (FEDECO). The Declaration sprang out unprecedentedlevel of post-election violence across the state popularly refer to as operation Wet e during which many lives were lost, properties worth several billion of naira were destroyed. The state was in a house of war during this period.

However, it could be said that the violent resistance started when the plans to rig the election was revealed. Ondo citizens became involved in the plan to resist any attempt, to rig the 1983 election in favour of the rival National Party of Nigerian (N.P.N), amongst whom were the immediate past governor of Ondo state, Olusegun Agagu, former Education Minister, Prof. Tunde Adeniran and former Minister for Mines and Power, Olu Agunloye, Veteran Journalist and special Assistant on Special Duties to Ajasinin 1983, Joe Aladesoun. According to resource material, it is claimed that Joe Aladesoun told Saturday sun that the Ajasin group learnt of the plan to rig the election one year before the election. Consequently, he said, Ajasin tasked party leaders to finds solution to whatever plans the rival party might have to rig the election. Aladesoun revealed that three strategic committees were set up, finance committee which was headed by the present Afenifere leader, Reuben Fasoranti, metaphysical committee and the tactical committee.

He explained that the tactical committee, which he headed, was responsible for sensitizing and mobilizing the people. Aladesoun personally prepared the commentary that was read on the state radio every day. He, however, emphasized the fact that he did not mobilize the people to violence but admitted that he called on the people to defend their vote6.

In addition, the metaphysical committee was instrumental towards the Ondo debacle of 1983. According to a resource material, the committee prepared fire in an egg and it was the egg that was used to burn down FEDECO office that was surrounded by solders. When the soldier saw egg in the hand of a woman, they did not expect that it could be harmful. It was the egg thrown at the wall that burnt down the FEDECO office. It was claimed that there were no loss of lives. It was also claimed that the metaphysical committee member followed the soldiers that were brought into the state wherever they went, the committee members will drop certain objects on the road and their cloth would be gummed to their body. The committee used metaphysical powers to protect the interest of the Unity Party of Nigeria (U.P.N) Ondo faction.

Finally, to assertion the true winner of the 1983 government election in Ondo state, the issue was taken to court. It was the court that reversed the result announced by FEDECO. The five judges that sat in Akure gave one verdict in favour of chief Ajasin. At the court of appeal that sat in Benin, four of five judges pronounced chief Ajasin winner. Thus Ajasin of the Unity Party of Nigeria (U.P.N) reclaimed its mandate, Omoboriowo flee the state.

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