THE INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION AND THE SUSTENANCE OF DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA’S FOURTH REPUBLIC: A CRITIQUE
1.1 Background to the Study
Elections in Nigeria continue to elicit more than casual interest by Nigerian scholars due to the fact that despite the appreciation that only credible election can consolidate and sustain the country’s nascent democracy, over the years, Nigeria continues to witness with growing disappointments and apprehension, the inability to conduct peaceful, free, fair and credible elections whose results are widely accepted and respected across the country (Igbuzor, Okoro and Kalu, 2010; and Ekweremadu, 2011). All the election that have been conducted in Nigeria since independence have increasingly generated bitter controversies and grievances on a national scale because of the twin problems of electoral violence and fraud that have become central elements of the history of elections and of the electoral process in the country (Gberie, 2011).
Despite the marked improvement in the conduct of the 2011 and 2015 general elections, the process was not free from malpractices and violence (Bekoe and Gberie, 2011; Umana, 2015 ; and Onyekun, 2015). Thus, over the years, electoral processes in the history of Nigeria’s democratic governance have continued to be marred by extraordinary displays of rigging, ballot snatching at gun points, violence and acrimony, thuggery, boycotts, threats and criminal manipulations of voters’ list, brazen falsification of election results, the use of security agencies against political opponents and the intimidation of voters (Nnadozie, 2007; Adigbuo, 2008; Omotola, 2010; and Bekoe, 2011). In fact, elections remain one of the leading and notable sources of threat to the political stability and peace of the nation (Gueye, 2010).
Scholars have attributed the credibility problems that undermine elections to the fact of weak institutions and agencies responsible for electoral administration, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the political parties and security agencies insisting that elections can only engender the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria if the electoral processes are reformed in the ways that fundamentally address the autonomy and capability of INEC to discharge it responsibilities effectively (Obi, 2008) and high degree of neutrality on the part of the security agencies as well as well as alertness and commitment to maintaining law and order in the electoral process (Adigbuo, 2008 and Omotola and Idowu, 2010).
The management of elections occupies a significant and strategic position in the electoral process and the consolidation of democracy, particularly as the centrality of elections to liberal democratic politics presupposes the existence of elections that is, the possibility of erstwhile winners becoming losers and erstwhile losers becoming winners – which is an inherent and necessary prerequisite of liberal democratic politics, is to a large extent a function of an impartial administration of elections (Jinadu, 1997).
In contrast with the foregoing, however, Nigeria has had a checkered electoral history with successive elections being marred by serious irregularities and controversies – particularly in the conduct of its electoral commissions. This has led, in some cases to the collapse of democratic experiments as occurred in 1966 and 1983. The 2007 general elections in Nigeria provided a good opportunity to occasion a break with the past and rekindle public confidence in the electoral and democratic process of the country.
However, according to several local and international observers turned out to be the worst in Nigeria’s political history (European Union, 2007; Human Right Watch, 2007 and Transition Monitoring Group, 2007). Like its predecessors, INEC was accused of not being able to engender public confidence in the electoral process or organize transparent and credible elections. Unfortunately, this position has scarcely been demonstrated in a systematic manner. This research work is a systematic analysis of the general elections conducted by INEC in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, (1999 – 2015).
1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
The mode of involvement of INEC and how it carries out its duties while managing the electoral process in Nigeria leads to problems that manifest in violence and insecurity during elections (Gueye and Hounkpe, 2010). Unfortunately, there is however not much of informed emphasis on the central role played by INEC during elections in Nigeria Idowu, 2010:10. Existing literature tends to be based on the reports of election monitoring and not an analytical studies (Kohnert, 2004 and Obi, 2008).
Few of the existing analysis on the INEC activities deals essentially with the mutually reinforcing questions of political violence and electoral fraud as perpetuated by political parties through election rigging and ballot stuffing, that is, the supportive functions of other institutions or agencies which play only minor roles in the management of elections.
Little is researched on the role of the INEC in achieving credible elections in Nigeria. This has made a study in this area pertinent to really understanding the role played by INEC as the main election management authority toward the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main objective of this study is to examine the extent to which elections conducted by INEC in the fourth Republic has help in the sustainability of democracy;
- To determine the role of INEC in the conduct of elections in Nigeria.
- To ascertain the extent of INEC’s performance in the election conducted between 1999 – 2015 elections.
- To identify how the conduct of elections has contributed to the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria.
- To make recommendations and proffer solutions to various challenges of INEC towards the achievement of her goal in Nigeria
1.4 Research Questions
In the cause of this study, the following questions will be treated with clarification:
- How has INEC performed its role in the conduct of elections between 1999 – 2015?
- How has INEC’s management of elections within these period contributed to the sustenance of democracy in the country?
- What has been the major challenges faced by INEC while conducting elections in the country?
- How can INEC be repositioned to conduct free, fair and credible elections which will further sustain democracy in Nigeria?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
Hypothesis I: INEC capacity in conducting free, fair and credible election tends to contribute to the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria.
Hypothesis II: Any act of fraud or violence that occurs as a result of INEC’s inability to do its work well tends to impede sustainable democracy in Nigeria
1.6 Significance of the Study
A study on an electoral agency such as INEC would not only be beneficial to the state, the political parties and electorate but also to the society as a whole. The conduct and handling of electoral issues have bearing on the sustenance of democracy. This research area has not been well studied in the existing literature. Thus, the significance of this study lies in its contribution to the body of knowledge as follows:
- This study provides a detailed account of INEC’s handling of electoral planning and subsequent execution.
- It will also serve as a reference material to researchers or investigators who may want to embark on similar study in the future.
1.7 Scope and Limitation of Study
This research focuses on the role of INEC in sustaining democracy in Nigeria. Emphasis is laid on the management of elections with a view to identifying the causes, the dimension and socio-economic implications of electoral malpractices on sustenance of democracy. The scope also revolves on the machinery of electoral planning, handling of election materials and subsequent execution of elections.
In carrying out a research of this nature, the researcher is bound to run into some difficulties of which this study is not an exemption. Such difficulties like finance, time constraint and lack of materials were encountered during the process of this research work. However, to overcome these constraints, the researcher was able to accomplish this work by rigorous and painstaking sourcing of materials from internet, libraries and magazines.
1.8 Definition of Terms
Democracy: This is a form of government organized in accordance with the principles of popular sovereignty, political and economic equality, popular consultation and majority rule.
Electoral Fraud: This has to do with process of selecting / electing people into position of authority through improper manner. Example, rigging, etc.
Independent National Electoral Commission: The agency responsible for the conduct of elections in Nigeria.