UGWUALA UGWUNNA DONALD1
Department of Political Science,
Clifford University, Owerrinta.
KALU UCHECHUKWU GODSON2
Department of Political Science,
Clifford University, Owerrinta.
ELECHI, FELIX AJA, Ph.D3
Department of Political Science
Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki
This study centered on electoral fraud as a major challenge to political development in Nigeria. An electoral fraud is an illegal interference with the process of election that interferes with the mandate of the people. The statement of the problem is the abuse of the democratic principle which has led to elections losing its capacity to determine who will represent the people. This development has resulted to the masses losing confidence in the democratic exercise and the morale to vote has been killed because of the “so or die” nature of elections. This study delves into the nature and character of electoral fraud in Nigeria. The study was guided by its objectives which state that, electoral fraud as a threat to political development in Nigeria, electoral fraud and electoral participation in Nigeria and political instability and social disorder in Nigeria resulting from electoral fraud.The focus of this work is to expose the ugly effect of electoral fraud as a major challenge to political development in Nigeria. The Marxist theory of the state was adopted as the theoretical framework and sources of data collected was mainly secondary data. We concluded that the high rate of electoral fraud is adversely undermining the process of democratic development in Nigeria. Finally, this study recommended that for a total consolidation of the nascent democracy in Nigeria all hands must be on deck to eliminate electoral fraud in Nigeria.
KEYWORDS: Democracy, Election,Electoral Fraud,Political Development.
An electoral fraud is an illegal interference with the process of election that interferes with the mandate of the people. Electoral fraud comes in different forms such as increasing the number of voters for the favoured candidate, under age voting, mass voting by unregistered citizens, snatching of ballot to be stuffed with thumb printed votes by party candidates, snatching of results before or after elections to favour the ruling party candidate, intimidation at the polls using militant gangs or even state security, scaring away of genuine registered voters from exercising their votes in polling boots located in an opposition favoured constituency, deliberate one side and improper counting of votes and media manipulation to announce or publish the wrong results and declare the wrong candidates as winners before the proper collection of results by the Electoral Commission.
Since the 1999 to 2019 elections, the Nigeria electoral and political landscape has fallen from Pat to below par and has moved from violence to greater violence. The level and magnitude of electoral and political violence has risen and the political elite have often converted poverty stricken Nigerian youths into readymade machineries for the perpetuation of electoral violence.
Since the return to the civil rule on 29th May 1999, Nigeria has held six general elections apart from the sundry re-run elections and local government polls. Out of the six general elections conducted, none has met both the local and International standard. But the distributing trend is that each general election was worse than the preceding one. This trend shows that the country is faring very badly at each passing election as nobody can talk of consolidating democracy in such an environment. This is because the leaders seem to have forgotten that conducting a free and fair election is vital to the growth and development of any democratic process. Also, an average Nigerian voter is interested in immediate rewards and will easily trade off votes when appropriately induced. This can be explained by the crippling poverty facing the people in the absence of government’s provision of the basic amenities required for decent living, as well as justified distrust of the political leaders.
Indeed, one major element of electoral process is that election must be conducted in a free and fair atmosphere, while electoral results must reflect the wishes of the people. Nigeria’s experience in this regard had since Independence been contrary to this expectation. This is because previous and present electoral bodies had conducted elections in a way that favoured the ruling political parties through poor planning, the device of excluding electorates from voting in places considered to be strong holds of opposition, inadequate supply of voting materials and late arrival of electoral officers to polling stations etc.
Nigeria’s over eighteen years of uninterrupted democratic experience cannot in any way be compared with that of United States which is over two hundred years or with Britain democratic experience which is over three hundred years. This is because there are still cases of anti-democratic practices especially in the areas of electoral processes, rule of law and constitutionalism (Kwasau, 2013). Also related to this problem is the fact that electoral malpractices often lead to legitimate crisis which helps to erode democratic practices.
Election with time became inevitable for selecting and choosing leaders, as the population and level of understanding increases and improves respectively. This development made elections the best democratic means of selecting leaders. It gives the masses the chance to select for themselves, who will represent them. The democratic principle of this election has been abused resulting in a number of ugly developments. Today, the well intended measures shows that elections has lost its capacity to determining who will represent the people.
This development has resulted to the masses losing confidence in this democratic exercise, its nature toady instead of luring the people to come out and vote in their leaders but it deters them from coming near electoral boots to exercise their fundamental human right. Consequently, the morale to vote has been killed because of the “do or die” nature of elections today. Electoral frauds have constituted a clog in the development and consolidation of Nigeria’s nascent democracy. It has adversely affected the change and transfer of power from one government to another. Electoral frauds which were witnessed in this fourth republic especially in 2019 general election have destructive consequences on democracy in Nigeria. It erodes the legitimacy of government as it is not based on popular mandate. Again it places a question mark on the relevance of election, from other means of acquiring political power.
In other words, electoral frauds make it difficult for the electorate to remove an unpopular government and install a popular one. This difficulty will result to the neglect of the electorates as well as lack of transparency and frauds which strip election of its competitive character. This is because the electoral outcome is been determined by every other means but not the votes. Suffice it to say that the results of the elections are decided before the election proper. In a situation like this, it becomes clear that the capacity to maneuver is unequal as some candidates are better privileged than others. On the side of the electorate, political apathy rising from a general feeling that votes no longer count in the determination of electoral outcomes in inevitable. Deriving from the above, the paper examined the relationship between electoral fraud and political development in Nigeria in the areas of how electoral fraud is seen as a threat to political development in Nigeria; electoral fraud has affected electoral participation in Nigeria; and how political instability and social disorder in Nigeria has in turn resulted in electoral fraud.
2. Review of Related Literature
The prevalence of electoral fraud as a bane on Nigeria’s democracy has been attracting scholarly attention for quite some time now. This is not only because of good governance, but also because it serves as a tool to undermine the role played by the electorate in determining who occupies public office. In the course of reviewing the available literature, electoral fraud will be used inter-changeably with electoral malpractice.
Okolie(2004) stated that electoral fraud encompasses all forms of electoral malpractices, irregularities and rigging which have normal underlying animal intent and purpose . To him, it is electoral acts, which unduly sway electoral victory to be designed particular usually unpopular direction. He noted that electoral fraud connotes all forms of illegal activities perpetuated by desperate interest driven actors within the entire environment of electoral process. On the other hand, he averred that it could take the form of stuffing of ballot boxes with ballot papers or hoarding of electoral materials, manipulation and fabrication of electoral results, use of law enforcement agencies to intimate, mime and disenfranchise eligible voters and candidates, or murder of political opponent.
Given the above, Okolie (2004) is of the conviction that electoral rigging and irregularities do not qualify to be classified as electoral fraud if such practice is devoid of criminal acts or embedded in criminalities. He stated that even though electoral fraud is in all encompassing phenomenon, it could be differentiated from irregularities occasioned by unconscious short coming emanating from electoral system. Hence, the underlying ingredient of electoral fraud is that the actions are deliberate, illegal criminal and design to truncate democratic principle and popular will. He summed up Nigeria’s general elections as being characterized by violence, intimidation and use of coercive suppression and disenfranchisement of eligible voters.
In conceptualizing the electoral malpractices, Ezeani (2005) subscribed to Baines definition of election in 1964 as the formal process by which the electorates select officials and determine the issue submitted to it. Implied in the above stated as other scholarly definitions of election such as, that formal procedure recognized by law through which the electorates choose one or more persons out of many to occupy positions or a way of making a choice that is fair and acceptable, usually involving the achievements of a certain degree of fairness and justice to all concerned. It is element of choice and Independence involved in the exercise of this choice that distinguish election from selection such as acclamation, selection by lot and appointment. To this end, Ezeani opines that electoral malpractices refers to irregularities committed by government officials saddled with the responsibility of conducting elections, political parties and individuals with the intention to influence an election in favour of a particular candidate.
Electoral malpractices, therefore is a negation of the work and essence of or principles of the election. This view is corroborated by Ikejiani Clark who encompasses all these acts as corruption, in her definition that corruption is said to have taken place when participants will follow what is termed unacceptable ways. Ezeani (2005) argues that elections in Nigeria were marred by serious allegation of massive electoral malpractices. This fact is confirmed by the reports of various local and International observers and through the reactions of both the electorates and .oat of the candidates that contested during the elections. He went further to note that an electoral malpractice constitutes one of the most serious problems in Nigeria.In his explanation, Ezeani (2005) noted that electoral malpractice that pertain to the infringement of the electoral law include the use of quasi-military organizations, voting by unregistered persons, under age voting bears criminal deceptions that deviate from the norms and principles of electoral process especially if such action is illegal. He argues that electoral malpractice commenced with the desire and ambition of the vast majority of the incumbent office holders within the legislative and the federal and the state level to get second term at all cost. Which now restored to a do or die political affairs, this desperation led to the heating up of the political process. The political office holders utilized power of incumbency to intimidate their opponents. The subtle approach, according to him, was first to stage manager the process of registering political parties.
Chikendu(2003) argues that Nigerian elections were remarkable in some respects, prominent among which is the fact it revealed the extent of election rigging. He further averred that the way elections were conducted showed that the ruling class or political class has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing from experience of the past. This is because their general behavior offended the sensibilities of the true democrats. All the tricks in the game of election rigging were fully employed. The rules of the game were brazenly flouted; party discipline was jeopardized in some primaries, in most cases two or more candidates were produced for a single seat on the platform of the same party. He contends that the magnitude of election rigging in Nigeria is at a very high side, and this has resulted to losing faith and hope in Nigeria.
According to Iwu (2010) argues that electoral fraud is any random or organized act or threat to intimidate, physical harm, blackmail, or abuse of a political stakeholder in seeking to determine, delay or to otherwise influence an electoral process.
In a related development, Balogun (2011) posited that electoral fraud connotes all forms of violence (physical, psychological, administrative, legal and structural) at different stages engaged in by participants, their supporters and sympathizers (including security and election management body staff) in the electoral process. These forms of violence takes place before elections, during elections and after or post elections, and could also be intra or inter-party.
According to Wikipedia, “Electoral fraud is an illegal interference with the process of election. Acts of fraud affects vote counts to bring about an election results, whether by increasing the vote share of the favoured candidates, depressing the vote share of the rival candidates or both. Also called vote fraud, the mechanism involved includes illegal voters’ registration, intimidation at polls and improper vote counting. What electoral fraud is under law varies from country to country. Many kinds of voter fraud are outlawed in electoral legislation but others are in violation of general laws such as those hovering on assault, harassment or libel. It went further to define electoral fraud as an incident that not only destabilizes a democracy but it could also put an election process into a credibility crisis, making it difficult for people and voters not to accept an election process and its results.
3. Theoretical Framework
The paper adopted the Marxist Theory of State. The state according to Engels is a product of society at a certain state of development. It is the assertion that the society has become entangled in irresoluble contradiction with itself hence splitting in two irreconcilable opposites. But in order that these classeswith conflicting interest shall not consume themselves in fruitless struggle, becomes apparently Paramount to have a power that seemingly stands above the society to moderate the conflict and keepit within the confines of order. This order should not be seen as denoting only stability of government and absence of open political disorder in a strict sense, rather it also encompasses the broader question of maintaining the global order necessary for the reproduction of interest of the dominant class at the economic, political and ideological levels. In other words, the interest pursued by the state always corresponds with that of the dominant class. Karl Marx asserted that the executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing common affairs of the bourgeoisie. It is the order pursued by the state that Western Liberal scholars put forward as being beneficial to all even though this was designed mainly to protect the interest of the dominant class. The Marxist theory of the state postulates that this order is not neutral, instead it is an order in which some people dominant and exploit others and in which some class appropriate the labour of others.
Thus and asserted that, we have a state that is interventionist and involved in the class struggle that is to say, a state is already dragged into politics and politicized, partly because of this fact (whose significance is the perception that the state is partial) and partly because the state power in question is highly developed, which leads to a bitter struggle to gain control of it. A critical focus of this struggle is the control of government, which is a formal way or access to power. In Africa, those in public office so all they can to perpetuate and hole on to power and those out of office do all they can to get into power, there is hardly any restraint beyond Prudence as to the permissible means as for this struggle. This equally explains why the state power is employed by the public office holders to commit acts of alienation, disenfranchisement and violence in a bid to hold tenaciously to public power and use same to appropriate public wealth. The ugly incidence of electoral fraud and its consequent adverse effect on political development in Nigeria can only be understood and explained within this context. The mere fact that state power is synonymous with power, wealth and influence give vent to the aberration witnessed in Nigerian general elections between 1999 and 2019.
4. Electoral Fraud as a Threat to Political Development in Nigeria
Electoral fraud has caused a lot of harm to the democratic stability in Nigeria. An uncontrolled electoral violence has the potential of truncating democratic stability in a country. A consequence to this is sabotaging the will of the electorate at the elections. It may lead to a situation where leaders that emerge are elected by the minority because the majority that has fears for their lives will not go near the electoral process. More so, large scale electoral fraud has adverse effect on democratic stability because it negates the essential purpose of elections as a popular basis for government. For instance, a government which by electoral fraud sustains itself in power against the wishes of the majority of the electorate lacks the legitimacy or moral authority that popular mandate bestows (Ezeani, 2005).
Electoral fraud has created room for the emergency of incompetent persons who occupy vital electoral positions made possible my Political demagogues. The fact that such people are mediocre, they cannot deliver the dividends of democracy expected by the masses. It is also important to note that due to political fraud, some of the best brains in political and economic management are not in governance as a result of victimization, while others are even brutally eliminated as was the case of Chief Bola Ige.
Without doubt, threat to national security, economic decay, terrorism, political upheavals and military confrontation could be the consequences of electoral fraud, which leads to violation of democratic process. Anything that can undermine the process and stability of a nation both socially, politically and economically is termed to be threat. The civil disturbances that occur as a result of electoral fraud and violence without doubt could undermine the process of the harmonious relationship of the various communities that make up the nation. Again where the political system is not conducive for business to thrive and for accommodation of investors as a result of pre and post electoral fraud, violence and grievances as a result of electoral outcomes, the economy is bound to decay leading to a decline of gross domestic product; increase unemployment and significantly reduced the amount of trade and commerce in the state.
Electoral fraud can negatively affect the political development of a country, where there is a tendency that oppositions of the ruling party could be instrumental in sponsoring or supporting the activities of terrorist organizations using it as a means of protest or to disorganize constituted expression, which is most contrary to the values of democracy, civilization and humanity. Since Independence, Nigeria’s democratization process had witnessed massive electoral fraud followed by violence which has compromised the very ethics of liberal democracy in spite of several electoral reforms .And this predicament of democratization process in Nigeria has rather been on the increase and there is no evidence of any serious and sincere effort made to stop it from reaching an unwanted level. Virtually, these have been breeding all sorts of violence scenarios to a situation which some consider Nigeria moving towards a failed state.
In the past general elections in Nigeria, the European Union Observer Mission described the general elections to have fallen short of basic International and regional standards for democratic elections and that given the lack of transparency and evidence of fraud particularly in the result collation process, there can be no confidence in the results of the elections. Democracy which has the multiple definitions and meanings is believed to have a worldwide acceptance as the best form of government. In the case of Nigeria, the concept of democracy has become difficult to define and this is because the very factor which qualities a democratic government has been difficult to achieve in Nigeria.
5. Electoral Fraud and Electoral Participation In Nigeria
The primary reason why voters go to the polling booths is to vote for candidates of their choice. In other words, people vote (or fail to vote) due to multiple reasons, which in turn means that a multiplicity of factors can cause people to vote or not. The number of candidate involved, and the personal relationship (if any) with the particular voter can affect the basic decision whether to vote or not. One of the major factors that affected turn out of voters in Nigeria during the general elections was the thread posed to the security of the voters. The politicians mobilized thugs across the wards, the thugs beefed up under the name of vigilante group and had the tendency to act violently in order to threaten and intimidate the helpless voters. This threat of violence by implication dampened the morale of the people as the election approaches.
According to Nweke (2005) he agrees that the government through it’s agencies rather encouraged the supporters of the ruling party to violate the laws. This can be attributed to the fact that the Nigerian state has been turned into an instrument for the satisfaction of unbridled desires by the political elites who wish to remain in power against popular will. The state therefore mobilized all instruments of oppression, exploitation and subjugation at it’s disposal to guarantee victory at the polls. Hence the game assumed an inter-party level hitches where the leading party got armed to fight opposition parties.
Another major factor that affected voter turnout is death in political awareness. This is evident in the wide spread apathy in the state government. Apathy was defined by Day and Choudbury as due to lack of interest. Okolie (2004) sees it as denoting a situation of indifference or lack of feeling of interest in a situation that should normally provoke active reaction. Furthermore, he explained that political or electoral apathy is not only a psychological predisposition but also a behavioural trait. Apathy is characterized by the individual’s passivity from political activity. Some people lack the necessary interest to participate in political activities of their country.
6. Political Instability and Social Disorder in Nigeria Resulting from Electoral Fraud
Elections are central to the existence, stability and development of democracies and political parties plays significant roles in such democracies. This is evident, because a free and fair election promotes and ensures democracy.Taking a look at the democratic history of Nigeria, it is observed that electoral violence has adversely affected the country to the extent of causing major political upheavals and terminating democracy. Politically speaking, electoral fraud has affected the democratic foundation of the country. Although, it is an acceptable fact that violence is an indispensable factor in human existence (Ayene, 2000).
Electoral fraud in Nigeria has served the ignorable purposes of weakening the people’s confidence and support for democratic institution in Nigeria. As a result of the several decades of organized electoral fraud perpetuated at the national, state and local levels of governance. This has weakened the development programs, projects and prospects of Africa’s most populated country. The huge electoral fraud committed during the general elections in Nigeria made the European Union, the Commonwealth and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to carry out a detailed study of the pervasive problem of why Nigerians have lost interest, confidence and faith in democratic institutions. Their conclusion is that the pillar of democracy in Nigeria is weak and as a result, electoral manipulation and fraud are used to truncate the popular mandate and wishes of the people.
Electoral frauds have been one of the major challenges facing the growth and development of Nigeria political system and these has grown steadily worse and more daring. The 2007 general election has been described by both local and International observers as the worst election ever conducted in the history of Nigeria and these have made it difficult in consolidating the nature and significance of democracy (Ebirim, 2013).
As part of electoral fraud, the absence of free and fair elections is also one of the major challenges to democratic consolidation in Nigeria. This has discouraged a large number of qualified citizens in participating in any election. Participation is meaningful when the votes of participants counts but not when the votes are subverted for the interest of the few (Osinakachukwu, 2011). In Nigeria, leaders that emerged victories in her elections rigged themselves into the corridors of power and this restricted the chances of true candidates from winning the election even though they are the people’s choice. In a society where candidates are imposed against the will and choice of the people, democracy cannot be consolidated there. Also, election riggings over the years in Nigeria have aided to the violation of the principle of fundamental human rights which A. V. Dicey advocates as the right to life for every citizen born in a country.
Nigerian democracy aims to ensure political stability and promote fundamental human rights. Elections in Nigeria which should have been a prelude for achieving a stabilized government accompanied with people’s consent have contradicted these standards because of electoral fraud. This is a serious concern hence the stability and secured environment needed for the success of democracy have been severely jeopardized. Elections conducted since Nigeria’s Independence have been a do or die affair and this has made the peace-loving Nigerians to be dead scared in exercising their voting rights hence the suicidal nature of the politics.
Evidence has shown that the rate of citizen participation in elections these days have drastically reduced due to electoral fraud and lack of qualified candidates. Adekanye (1990) notes that because of the history of electoral frauds, elections in the country have been associated with political tension, crisis and even violence. Actually, politics is seen as the only game in town, and it is played with extreme seriousness for the winner wins everything and the looser looses everything. This quest to win election by all means has also claimed the lives of both electorates and some popular candidates by some hoodlums who want to control the government by dubious means. As a result, those who have the interest of Nigeria at heart have resorted to shun politics for fear of a sudden death in the process and this has posed a serious threat to Nigerian democracy and its consolidation. Worse still, electoral body which would have been neutral and ensure a free and fair election have become biased, because in some cases they are employed by some power brokers to serve as a rescue mission to some illegitimate candidates to the detriment of popular candidates and Nigerian electorates to ensure that their unpopular candidates emerged victorious in elections, they have seen election rigging as a way out against the general wish of the popular candidates, electorates and good of Nigerian democracy.
Kurfi (2005) has observed, rigging is almost synonymous with Nigerian elections. The main aim of election rigging or malpractice is to frustrate the democratic aspirations of citizen’s who have voted or would have voted into office. These days, votes do not count because, come rain, come shine, the electoral management body must deliver and no one questions their decisions. In fact, the elections conducted in Nigeria have been cruelly contested that the success of the democratic order has been compromised. This ugly electoral malpractice and rigging has a general negative effect on Nigeria’s democratic future because the trend is increasing instead of reducing. The trends have actually undermined the chances of successful elections and consolidation of democracy in Nigeria.
7. Conclusion and Recommendations
So far, the paper has demonstrated that the principles of democracy are universally accepted especially because it is based on the consent of the people. The observation of these principles necessarily would have led to the development of the political system. That is to say that, electoral fraud of any kind and whatever magnitude hinders and retards the process of democratic consolidation in Nigeria. The ugly tendency of electoral fraud had made it impossible for Nigeria to develop politically. This is reflected in the freedom of the people to participate in political activities particularly to vote and to be voted for. This means that political participation refers to voluntary activities by which members of a given political society play a considerable role in the selection of their leaders. However, most often the citizens tend to exhibit characteristics of political apathy particularly because political parties have accented the use of thugs in election, and this evident in the participatory political culture of the electorates during elections.In fact, electoral fraud is antithetical to political development particularly as witnessed in Nigerian general elections. These tendencies have had an adverse impact on the political development on Nigeria’s electoral system as well as its nascent democracy.
The paper anchored its analysis on the theoretical framework of theMarxist theory of state. The theory states among other things that the state is an instrument of class domination and sub-ordination. Again, it contends that the state has low degree of autonomy and that it is controlled by the indigenous dominant class in collaboration with Western capitalist. Following from above, the executive committee that manages the affairs of the state takesthe interest of the existing political status-quo into consideration hence, the dominance of electoral fraud in order to perpetuate themselves in power.
The paper conclude that the tendency to perpetuate political power at all cost has led to the recruitment of political thugs during elections and this has significantly affected the rate of voters turnout in polling units during elections. Also,political parties that have control of state machineries uses it to their own selfish advantage particularly in ballot box stuffing and this has eroded the rights of the electorates to choose leaders that will represent them.Finally, the paper found out that the high rate of electoral fraud is adversely undermining the process of democratic consolidation and development in Nigeria.
The paper recommends that there should be a sovereign National Conference so as to enable the state to fundamentally restructure the policy in order to page way for a transition regime whose main aim would be to organize new government that will be based on true democratic constitution and more so people oriented economic policies which focuses on full employment, social security, maximum welfare of the citizenry, and sustained human and infrastructure development, and which would give effect to credible electoral system. Secondly, a framework should be put in place to prosecute those who use their positions to rig elections or enrich themselves after the expiration of their tenure. Finally, all hands must be on deck to eliminate electoral fraud by encouraging electoral justice in order to ensure total consolidation of the nascent democracy in Nigeria.
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