1.1. Background of the Study
In a statement on the 2015 Nigerian General Elections the Freedom House (2015a) congratulated Nigerians for an election that ―appears to be one of the smoothest and least violent in Nigeria‘s history, and, hoped that ―the democratic transition occurs peacefully and with respect for human rights of all. Yet, despite the positive remarks Nigeria was categorized as partly free using ratings from political and civil rights enjoyed by the citizens.1 In fact the Organization (2015b) placed most African states in the same category as Nigeria stating that the continent ―saw overall if uneven progress toward democratization during the 1990s and the early 2000s. However, recent years have seen backsliding among both the top performers, such as South Africa, and the more repressive countries, such as The Gambia and Ethiopia.ǁ Why is this assessment important and what do elections and voter turnout have to do with it? The democratization project concerns primarily the guaranteeing and enjoyments of civil and political rights for citizens. Democracies make these rights possible through citizen participation in elections and governance. A major difference between countries where democracy is consolidated (established democracies), and countries undertaking democratic transitions and consolidation (democratizing countries), is the extent to which these rights are guaranteed or restrained. It should be born in mind however, that measures of countries which are ―freeǁ or ―partly free,ǁ and why, may be controversial but these have been explained and represent, approximately, the situation in the countries (Freedom House, 2015c).
1.2. Statement of the Problem
Based on these observations, this study argues that it is too soon and misplaced to claim that the successful 2015 General elections represent the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria. (The Guardian newspaper (Editorial: 28/04/2014) for example concluded that ―in spite of some challenges, a new culture has evolved for the entrenchment of democracy in Nigeria.ǁ We can posit at best, that the result and outcome of the elections offered a great chance for Nigeria to embark on democratic consolidation. New policies and reform of institutions which are required for consolidation of democracy do not exist
which theorists have identified as prerequisites although they have failed to equally analyze the requirements which make such reforms possible or difficult especially for countries in Africa, that is, level of popular support and legitimacy which enables regimes to successfully initiate the reforms needed for democratic consolidation