POST ELECTORAL VIOLENCE AND THE THREAT TO NATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY IN NIGERIA
1.1 Background of the Study
People have devise and lived under various forms of government in different countries of the world of which democracy has been adjudge to be the best. This explains the democratic appeal to every human organisation from antiquity. Schumpeter (1952:269), defines democracy as that institutional arrangement for arriving at a political decision in which individual acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggles for the people’s votes. This definition suggest the importance of competitive elections in a democracy.
Bone and Raney (1971:1), posited that in a democratic nation, periodic election of executive and legislature constitute the principal institutional devices for making sure that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. Ebegbulem and Adams (2008:245), averred that in any democratic system, elections constitutes the soul of the democratic process.
Election which climax at a successful conduct of a genuine and credible voting, has become an important element in modern democratic system and determines to a considerable extent the level or degree of democratization in any polity. In today’s world, election is serving a great purpose both in war torn authoritarian as well as democratic societies. It serves as a means of transition from bitter experience of war to civility in former war torn states. It provides an opportunity for freedom in previous authoritarian regimes and offers citizens the space for free expression as is obtainable today in Egypt, Libya and other part of the world. It offers the government a unique opportunity for legitimacy and is also a recognized way of building trust in former authoritarian states and also a way to validate negotiated political pacts. (Brown, 2003, Sisk, 2008).
Election serves as a transitory process in a stable democracy and a way of strengthening an already assumed perfect system. It provides a platform for debate, persuasion and common rules for choosing representatives of the people who can serve in the executive, legislative and other institutions of the government. Elections is in this sense a critical means of social conflict management through peaceful deliberations and decision-making process in which parties abides by the pre-election promises, and the looser given an opportunity to provide constructive criticism as an opposition or merely wait till the next election period.
On the other hands, because of the freedom associated with election, and the momentum it generates, it thus allows individuals, groups and parties to use words and/or actions that are capable of intimidating, coercing, humiliate or cause even bodily harm to the electorates. (Amekwe and Kushie, 2011:8). Moreso, elections provides the space whereby people retain, regain and usurp power, and the space to highlight social differentiation of individuals and party opponents. Therefore, players tap into the deep vulnerability created by such interact to create violence.
Sisk, (2008), however warned that negative expression of social differentiation is likely to lead to extreme clash between opposition supporters as witnessed in Nigeria and other part of the world. Such tendencies can lead to high scale violence and bring the country to a near level of terrorism and ungovernability. It can also leads to the proliferation of small arms because more often, the machinery for perpetrating electoral violence are mostly unemployed youths who resort to use those arms for other social vices.
Under such a circumstance, election in the word of Rebert Dahl (1973) and Przeworski (1991) becomes a mutual security pact that operates with the consistent consent of elites under condition of bound uncertainty. However, Sisk highlights election as two sides of the same coin providing voice and legitimacy when the process is followed, and all stakeholders adhere to the agreed framework and processes, and also a violence induced factor when on the contrary particularly in fragile state.
In recognition of the immense benefits that comes with democratic government, mostly the enhancement of human dignity, Nigeria embrace democratic governance on May 29, 1999 (marking the birth of the Fourth Republic). However, the task of consolidating the nations democracy seems to be whittle down by electoral malpractice and electoral violence. This muster was considerably responsible for the nation’s previously failed attempt at democratic experience since independence.
Since the 1999 to 2011 elections, the Nigerian electoral and political landscape has fallen from par to below par and has moved from violence to greater violence. (Awukwe and Kushie, 2011). The level and magnitude of electoral violence has risen and the political elites have often converted poverty ridden unemployed Nigerian youths into readymade machinery for the perpetration of electoral violence. This is however linked partly to the political system and institution that in theory has failed to encourage political participation, and in practice, seen the political elites forming the bulk of the sponsors and perpetrators of electoral violence as the case was in the post electoral violence which erupted in the northern part of Nigeria after the April 16, 2011 presidential election. In the light of the above; the post electoral violence of 2011 Presidential election is viewed as a threat to national peace and security of the country.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Democratic governance have been adjudge the best form of government ever devise by man. This is due to the immense benefit it brings to the lives of the people. Besides, electoral credibility has been identified as one of the important factors that aid the consolidation of a democratic regime.
However, the Nigerian electoral system has been characterized with electoral violence and other forms of electoral malpractice. The political Barons (political elites) do not abide by the rules of the game but are out to grab power by all means and as such anything that brings victory is fair. This continuous electoral violence tends to whittle down the citizen confidence in the electoral process as it poses a threat to national peace and security.
1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The objectives this study seeks to achieve are:
- To examine post electoral violence in Nigeria and its impact on national peace and security of the country.
- To examine the causes of 2011 post electoral violence in Nigeria
- To make suggestion towards the prevention of future post electoral violence in Nigeria
- To determine if the problems militating against the smooth conduct of elections in Nigeria are insurmountable.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- Does post electoral violence impact negatively on national peace and security in Nigeria?
- Is 2011 post electoral violence in Nigeria caused by the political elites?
- Are the causes of post electoral violence in Nigeria insurmountable?
- What can be done to prevent future occurrence of post electoral violence in Nigeria?