Violence And The Electoral Process In Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Violence And The Electoral Process In Nigeria


The history of human existence is replete with one form of violence or another. Violence is therefore not a recent development. It has occurred and may occur whenever and wherever there is a clash of interest between individuals and or groups. Violence is also used as a weapon by some people to realize or achieve certain ends. This implies that violence manifests in different forms and dimensions. The phenomenon that is associated with the Nigerian electoral process is violence in Nigeria is characterized by thuggery, intimidation, molestation and assassination. Against the prevalence of electoral violence, this research examined the factors responsible for the outbreak of violence in the 2007 Gubernatorial Elections in Plateau State. Specifically, the work examined why for the first time politicians in Plateau State resorted to assassination of an aspirant in the quest for political power.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

Violence is an ubiquitous phenomenon in every society and every sphere of social life. It is not restricted to the political sphere alone. It cuts across every aspect of human existence. This means that political violence is just a subset of violence. It takes many forms including kidnapping, assassination, arson, thuggery etc. This shows that we are in a violent world and the tendency to be violent increases by the day. Violence has no territorial boundary. It is as universal as it predates modernity. For instance, Ekiran (2006:286) notes that both the Biblical and Quaranic accounts of creation and the events that followed in the Garden of Eden particularly Adam and Eve’s refusal to obey God’s simple instruction, amounts to violence of a sort. Rejection of a superior’s injunction is tantamount to violent behavior; because the word violence has its roots from violation or infringement (Ninalowo, 2004; 18). So when one violates or infringes on a laid down principle, it amounts to violence. Therefore violence can be described as an unruly behavior perpetrated to express anger and dissatisfaction over some social issues which the perpetrators felt have affected or likely to affect them in one way or another (Ekiran, 2006:285). It is an aggressive behavior which more often than not involves physical combat which could inflict bodily injuries on both perpetrators and innocent people. It is an ill wind that blows no one any good. With some degree of accuracy or certainty one could say that one type of violence or another is to be found in every human society. In other words, even the advanced countries and developing countries alike are not immune to violence. In Nigeria, violence is commonly used as a political tool to achieve the perpetrators’ selfish ends. This usually occurs during elections when one government is about to hand over power to another. The use of violence during elections has become a common feature of the Nigerian electoral process. Elections are regarded as the hallmark of democratic governance in every democratic society. This is because elections are one of the ways through which people engage in political participation. Elections have become the most acceptable method by which citizens of an ever increasing number of political systems choose their leaders. The appeal of elections lies principally in the opportunity that it provides for an entire electorate to participate in choosing those that should govern them in a simple and peaceful exercise (Momoh, 2005;31).

Elections also provide the people with the opportunity to indicate their preference among the policies and programmes presented to them by the rival leadership elements contesting for political power (Ayeni – Akeke, 2008:27). Elections may also enable the people to remove unpopular leaders or force elected officials to listen to their grievances, particularly between elections. Most elected public officers are always conscious of when their terms are over, they would need to fall back to the people to renew their mandate. Therefore, the fear that they might be rejected if they fail to heed to the complaints of the people in non-election years, makes them to pay attention to the views and aspirations of the electorate. Of all the functions that elections perform, it is the opportunity that it provides for the people to choose their leader that is most emphasized. Yet the extent to which it provides this opportunity varies from one political system to another. For example, in totalitarian political systems, election is the means by which the leadership seeks to confer legitimacy on the regime and government as well as the contestants nominated to face the electorate for approval (Lipjhart, 1994:48). It also serves as one of the means by which the government socializes the masses and mobilizes them to support its policies. In contrast, democratic political systems that permit open competition use elections to provide the people with the chance to choose between alternative leadership candidates and policies. This does not however mean that it is in all open and competitive political systems that election performs this function effectively and to some extent the effectiveness of elections as a vehicle of choice for the ordinary citizen is influenced by various factors e.g. whether the political parties provide distinct alternative leadership materials and programs etc. (Lipjhart, 1994:48). The foregoing indicates that elections are a complex set of activities with different variables that act and feed one another. It involves the participation of the people in the act of choosing their leaders and their own participation in governance (T.M.G., 2003:11). Elections are not necessarily about Election Day activities although it forms an important component. It encompasses activities before, during and after elections. It involves the legal and constitutional framework of elections which are the registration of political parties, party campaigns, the activities of electronic and print media in terms of access; it includes campaign financing, the activities of security agencies and the government in power. It includes the authenticity and genuineness of voters register; the independence or lack of it of electoral agencies and organs. It includes the liberalism or otherwise of the political process in the country and the independence of adjudicating bodies of elections (T.M.G., 2003:11). During the last fifty four years, General Elections have been conducted eleven times in Nigeria at irregular intervals: 1951, 1954, 1959, 1964, 1979, 1983, 1991/1993, 1997, 1998/99, 2003 (Kurfi, 2005;:xi) and 2007. The first four were conducted under the parliamentary system while the rest were held under the Presidential system of government. It is also important to state here that elections in Nigeria have always been characterized by several irregularities, which have always been politically motivated and these have led to violence which has taken an appalling toll on human lives and property. There have always been widespread administrative failings, procedural irregularities, and intentional efforts to carry out ballot fraud etc. The result of these is that the general public’s faith and confidence in the fairness of the country’s electoral process suffers (TMG, 2003:12). The General Elections of 2007 were of monumental importance as it marked the first time in the history of elections in the country when civilian to civilian transition has ever taken place .It was a situation that the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, described as a ‘do or die affair’. The whole electoral processes were that of State Houses of Assembly, National Assembly, Gubernatorial and Presidential Offices.. Even though the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) meticulously and zealously planned for these elections, the election days witnessed confusion and all manner of electoral mal-practices such that INEC’s preparedness was brought to question. Results from the entire exercise Were probably the most contentious and most lingering (Yaqub, 2007: 19). Long after the events, there were still litigations after litigations. The elections were annulled in certain states of the federation while in others, results remain controversial. This was so because those who emerged victorious did so through irregular activities. i.e rigging and violence. The elections conducted in Plateau State cannot be said to have occurred without electoral violence. The events which trailed the Gubernatorial Elections in Plateau State form the focus of this research.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Elections are the central processess of democratic representative government because in any democracy the authority of government derives solely from the consent of the governed. The principal mechanism for translating the consent into governmental authority ideally is by holding free and fair elections. In Nigeria, elections have become an avenue for legitimization of bad governance. This assertion hinges on the fact that incumbent government holds on to power at all cost while opposition parties in a bid to capture state power, resort to all manner of irregularities. The result of this is usually violence of one sort or the other. Events which unfolded in Plateau State during the last election show that the most contentious issues about the election have to do with electoral violence which hitherto, is unheard of in Plateau State politics. The political atmosphere in the state became unusually tensed while many interest groups emerged with the intent to capture power. The result of these was a bitter warfare that ensued between these factions, leading to allegations, killings, kidnappings, etc that were politically motivated, In fact a gubernatorial candidate, Jesse Aruku, of the Action Congress was assassinated on July 2nd 2006. This was the first in the history of Plateau State politics when a gubernatorial aspirant was killed; the incident also typifies the increasing rate of electoral violence in the state. Presently the problem in Plateau State seems to have assumed a different dimension. For instance, one group of politicians have continued to accuse the other on various issues. One of such issues is about the legitimacy of the present crop of leadership. Presently, the ruling party in the state has two factions referred to as ‘PDP ONE’ or state PDP while the second is called ‘PDP TWO’ or Abuja PDP. One group blames the other for lack of transparency in the electoral process as their reason for emergence. The overall consequence of these developments is that the political atmosphere in Plateau State remains tense. Politically, Plateau State is like a ticking time bomb and a political catastrophe waiting to be unleashed. This work therefore sets out to examine the factors responsible for the outbreak of violence in Plateau State politics. Furthermore, this work also examines the challenges which these developments pose for Nigeria’s electoral process and democracy.

1.3 Objective of the Study

The specific objectives are as follows:

  1. To examine factors responsible for the outbreak of violence in the 2007 elections in Plateau state.
  2. To identify and discuss the reasons why politicians in Plateau State resorted to Violence in the quest for the governorship seat
  3. To appraise the 2007 Gubernatorial Elections in Plateau State with a view to identifying its challenges to Nigeria’s electoral process.
  4. To proffer workable recommendations on ways of improving the electoral process in Plateau State and Nigeria in general.

1.4 Research Hypotheses

For the successful completion of the study, the following research hypotheses were formulated by the researcher;

  1. H0: there are no factors responsible for the outbreak of violence in the 2007 elections in Plateau state.
    H1: there are no factors responsible for the outbreak of violence in the 2007 elections in Plateau state.
  2. H02: there are no reasons why politicians in Plateau State resorted to Violence in the quest for the governorship seat
    H2: there are reasons why politicians in Plateau State resorted to Violence in the quest for the governorship seat

1.5 Significance of the Study

This study will give a clear insight on violence and the electoral process in Nigeria. The study will be beneficial to students, INEC and the general public. It will also serves as a reference to other researchers that will embark on this topic

1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study

It has been observed that violence is a common feature/occurrence in the conduct of elections in Nigeria. This has, often times, imparted negatively on the credibility of the Nigerian electoral process. The scope of this study therefore covers the Gubernatorial Elections held in 2007 in Plateau State. The researcher encounters some constrain which limited the scope of the study;

a) Availability of Research Material:

The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study

b) Time:

The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.

c) Organizational Privacy:

Limited Access to the selected auditing firm makes it difficult to get all the necessary and required information concerning the activities.

1.7 Definition of Terms


Behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.

Election Process:

The election process begins with the primary elections and caucuses and moves to nominating conventions, during which political parties each select a nominee to unite behind. Instead, Presidential elections use the Electoral College. To win the election, a candidate must receive a majority of electoral votes.

1.8 Organization of the Study

This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows

  • Chapter one is concern with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), historical background, statement of problem, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the study, definition of terms and historical background of the study.
  • Chapter two highlights the theoretical framework on which the study is based, thus the review of related literature.
  • Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study.
  • Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding.
  • Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to ascertain violence and the electoral process in Nigeria. In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in addressing the challenges of violence and the electoral process in Nigeria

5.3 Summary

This study was on violence and the electoral process in Nigeria. Four objectives were raised which included: To examine factors responsible for the outbreak of violence in the 2007 elections in Plateau state, to identify and discuss the reasons why politicians in Plateau State resorted to Violence in the quest for the governorship seat, to appraise the 2007 Gubernatorial Elections in Plateau State with a view to identifying its challenges to Nigeria’s electoral process, to proffer workable recommendations on ways of improving the electoral process in Plateau State and Nigeria in general. In line with these objectives, two research hypotheses were formulated and two null hypotheses were posited. The total population for the study is 200 residents in Plateau state. The researcher used questionnaires as the instrument for the data collection. Descriptive Survey research design was adopted for this study. A total of 133 respondents made civil servants, men, women and youths were used for the study. The data collected were presented in tables and analyzed using simple percentages and frequencies

5.3 Conclusion

The 2007 gubernatorial elections in plateau state was placed under examination as the backdrop of the prevalence of electoral violence, this was done through identifying the factors which accounted for electoral violence in plateau state, the Identification was strategically done through employing quantitative and qualitative means to analyze peoples views on the situation, the work further reviewed existing views of scholars on the subject electoral violence, electoral processes and plateau state which gave a clearer view on the subject under investigation(electoral violence). To do this questionnaires were administered among politicians, party chieftains, INEC officials and it captured the views of the various respondents who gave answers on issues concerning prevalence of violence, reasons and solutions, also politicians numbering thirty were sampled from three senatorial zones ieMangu, Shendam and Jos North local government areas which were the most populated in Plateau State according to the National Population Census of 2006, one important area examined was the various committee reports released, the reports indicated clearly that government’s lack of will to implement reports was a major factor to the prevalence of electoral violence, Conclusively Various opinions suggested the worrying state of Electoral Violence and agreed that Both citizens and Government Need to rise up to the Challenge because failure to do that would Continue to disrupt the electoral process which would hamper the Democratization process in Plateau State in Particular and Nigeria In General.

5.4 Recommendation

Full autonomy for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). This autonomy would engender administrative efficiency and professionalism of the Body. Also, the appointment of INEC Chairman should reside in the people and not Mr. President. The people in this circumstance are the Legislature. The Constitution should be restructured to make the office elective through an electoral college that would be composed of Members of the National Assembly, State Houses of Assembly and all serving Judges of the Supreme and Appeal Courts in Nigeria

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