ELECTIONS AND DEMOCRATIC SUSTENANCE IN NIGERIA’S FOURTH REPUBLIC
Democracy has been described as governments by person freely chosen by and responsible to the governed (Gana, 1996:12). A democratic system is one where rulers are held accountable to the ruled by means of a variety of political arrangement. Such arrangement include, competitive multiparty elections held at regular intervals (Oronsage, 1995:1). However, the main attribute of democracy is that those holding political office do not have automatic security of tenure but can be challenged and even displaced in accordance with the will of the people through a wide range of institutional mechanism (Howel, 1991).
Thus one of the most critical and salient features of any meaningful democratic process worldwide is the conduct of acceptable free and fair elections is one of the most important mechanisms for the realization of the objectives of democratization. According to Unoi (1990:4) it is so closely tied to the growth and development of democratic political order that it is now generally held to be the single most important indicator of the presence or absence f democratic government. Elections, therefore, is a symbol of democracy.
However, the conduct of elections in Nigeria since independence in 1960 has been unsuitable as it is usually characterized by political conflicts. The 1959 general elections were the first direct elections conducted which ushered in the constitutional settlement of an independent Nigeria. Although the conflicts that were generated as a result of the elections were controlled and managed by the colonial masters. The anxiety to take over power from the colonial masters curbed the manifestation of conflicts as a result o fth elections as several improprieties were noticed in the conduct and outcome of the elections. (Mudashin 2005:476).
The 1964 general elections were marked with massive rigging; conflict and political violence of high degree, which culminated in the military takeover of power in 1966. In a similar vein, the 1979 election which came up after several years of military rule became a carryover of the 1964 General election as most actors were also participant during the 1964 General elections. Therefore, animosities of the 1964 elections were carried into the 1979 election.
By wing of extension, the 1983 General elections was another exercise, which showed the parochialism in our body polity, hence the military coup of December 31, 1983 since this period, attempt at fostering democratic rule via electoral processes has been characterized by ferocious and hence political conflicts as a result of electoral frauds.
The experience of June, 12, 1993 election in the country still ingers on in the memory of Nigerian. Needless to say that this almost divide the country along ethnic lines. The political conflict that the 1993 elections generated culminated in Abascha’s dictatorial rule and then ten month rule of General Abulsalam Abubakar. The 1999 General elections was conducted in a hasty atmosphere without any constitutional backing and with improprieties of different sorts.
Democracy in Nigeria has however had a defective history which has been expressed more as a debilitating circle of political renewal and decay. On two occasions, excluding the present, liberal democracy has come to grief in the nation’s political history after initial and widespread optimism about, the prospects of democratic governance.
In Nigeria’s previous attempts at civil democracy during the first and second republics, the military intervene and succeed these crises ridden, dysfunctional and unwisely administrations which have been thoroughly disfigured and discredited by massive political insensitivity, brazen corruption, electoral malpractices, thuggery and general social indiscipline.
It is instructive to mention here that democracy in Nigeria has had a turbulent history. Principally because of numerous reason. To begin with during the first and second republic, the ill fortune that is characterizing democratic governance in the country had been traced back to the nature of the colonial experience that Nigeria had under Britain. This was the period during which the foundation of Nigeria’s democratic setting was laid. Nigerian post colonial leader has not been able to rise above the pecuniary interest of greedy, self serving politicians, even with the faulty foundation laid for hereby the crystallite colonial masters Nigeria’s leaders prior to and since independence have failed woefully as they have been exhibitory lack of foresight, little commitment of national growth, low patriotic zeal and trenchant ethnic outlook as against progressive national cohesion.
Democracy in Nigeria has been further stultified by the incessant incursions of the military into political affairs. Though initially appearing as corrective regimes out of to set right the wrongs visited on the nations by inapt civilian leadership, the military soon became worse than the politicians whom they displaced.
This then, rendered useless all their claims to national interest and safeguarding of the constitutions.
From the above, the path to the establishment of democracy in Nigeria has been a very tortuous one. The process has been imbued with entrenched constraints that have altogether portrayed democracy us ironic (Alualgbu, 2007). This not withstanding Nigeria returned to the fold of democratic nation in My, 1999. But as O, Donell (1992:18) has rightly observed, there are dual stages of transition in the processes leading to the full democratization of a country. The first is the transition from a proceeding authoritarian military regime to the installation of a government with democratic features.
The second stage is the transition from this mode of government to the effective functioning of a democratic regime. In other words, democracy in Nigeria have successes in crossing the first stage, leaving the second stage that has turned out to problematic.
The return to democratic rule in 1999 has witnessed turbulent political activities with the general elections. The guardian of May 28th (2004) reported that the election of 1999 was characterized by electoral malpractice which eventually resulted in numerous electoral cases by some political parties. In the same vain, Pudley (1973) summits that the 2003 election witnessed Boycotts in some part of the country. Similarly the prelude to the 2007 general election again witnessed violence at a very disturbing dimension. Thus, the resurgence of democracy in Nigeria that dispersed disillusion in the citizenry and rekindled the hope of Nigerian’s for a brighter future is gradually giving way to apprehension and despondency. It is against the backdrop that this study will examine election and democracy sustainance in Nigeria’s fourth republic.
Election which are critical part of the democratic process in Nigeria has lost its intrinsic values, and become mere means of manipulation to get political office. Thus, election no longer offer electorules the freedom of choice and power to hold elected leaders accountable. For this reason, there is a general cynicism regarding the survival of democracy in Nigeria has been a very tortuous one. The effective functioning of democracy in Nigeria has turned out to be problematic. Increasing rules of corruption among elected public office holders, falling standards of living, nagging downturn in the economy, misdemeanant of the political elite leading to uncertainty in the political arena, rising insecurity in the country, abuse of state power by the ruling clues, etc. point to the fact that Nigeria is going to relapse into political abyss as in the 1980’sGiven the above, can the current democratization process be sustained and consolidated in the country.
The broad objective of the study is to critically examine elections and democratic sustainance in Nigeria’s fourth republic. The specific objectives are:
- To examine the evolution of elections and democracy process I Nigeria.
- To examine the impact of election and democratic consolidation in Nigeria’s fourth republic.
- To examine the problem of democratic sustainance in Nigeria’s fourth republic.
The following research questions will serve as a guide to the study.
- How did electoral and democratic process evolve in Nigeria.
- What are the impact of elections on democratic consolidation in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic.
- What are the problems of democratic sustainance in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic.
The study focuses on elections and democratic sustainance in Nigeria from 1999-2010. The emphasis is on the impact of election within the period on democratic consolidation in Nigeria. Attempt will be made to analyse the antecedent of democratic experiment in Nigeria.
- SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Most extent literature on democracy on Nigeria concentrated on the background of democratic experiment in Nigeria. The missing discourse therefore is that much has not been done to critically analyse the impact of election on democratic consolidation in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic. This study therefore devotes attention to analyzing the problems to democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
The study is therefore significant for the following reason. First, it will bring to the fore the impacts of elections on democratic sustainance in Nigeria.
Secondly, the study will provide suggestions on how these impediments to democratic sustainance as a result of the fall-ut from elections can be tackled. Thirdly, these studies will contribute to existing literature on election and democracy in Nigeria.
The research method for this study is historical method. The study will rely on secondary sources of data which includes, books, periodicals, journals, newspaper, magazines and other relevant literature which deals on election and democratic consolidation in Nigeria. The adoption of this method is premised on the fact that it will allow for a logical explanation and conclusion.
There is no human endeavour without constraint thus, in the course of the research, the researcher was constraint by some factors. The limitation to this work border on the availability of fund, deliberate hoarding of useful information and materials.
Another problem was time constrains, official engagement. These among other served as limitation to the research work.
However, effort was made by the researcher to reduce the effect of these factors on the content validity of the research work while financial assistance came from family member and love ones.
Due to the plethora of concepts with similar meaning in the social science. It became imperative to operationally define certain concept within the context of their usage to remove any ambiguities as regards their meaning. Thus the following concepts are defined within the context of their usage in this research.
Election – An election is the constitutional framework or process of handling over of power and the authority to govern to an elected government in a country. Again, election can also be articulated to mean a method of choosing or better still a means whereby legitimate citizens of a country select among other aspirant. Those to represent their interest in the governance of their country.
Democracy – It entails manifold issues of freedom o choice rule of law, fundamental human right, popular participation in decision making processes, accommodation of opposing views, respect for minority rights, openness transparency and accountability.
Democratic Consolidation – Represent a post inauguration phase of the democratization process. The ultimate goals of democratic consolidation is to make newly inadequate democracies more enduring and to secure them against the threat of authoritarian regression.