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POLITICAL VIOLENCE AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION IN NIGERIA (2007-2015)
1.1 Background to the Study
Democracy in Africa without any shadow of doubt has become associated with violence even with the slightest provocation. Violence has gone beyond African countries. It is a global phenomenon. It has become something that is used by groups seeking power, by groups holding power and by groups in the process of losing power (Anifowose, 1999). Scholars are of different opinions on whether to consider violence as objective or subjective on what to include or exclude as violence, and on how to classify the various forms of violence. The outcome of this made scholars to come up with many forms of violence. It is not restricted to the political sphere alone. It cuts across every aspect of human existence. This means that political violence is just a subset of violence. It takes many forms including: kidnapping, assassination, arson, thuggery etc. This shows that we are in a violent world and the tendency to be violent increases by the day. Violence has no territorial boundary. It is as universal as it predates modernity. For instance, Ekiran (2006) notes that both the Biblical and Quaranic accounts of creation and the events that followed in the Garden of Eden particularly Adam and Eve’s refusal to obey God’s simple instruction, amounts to violence of a sort.
Rejection of a superior’s injunction is tantamount to violent behavior; because the word violence has its roots from violation or infringement. So when one violates or infringes on a laid down principle, it amounts to violence. Therefore violence can be described as an unruly behavior perpetrated to express anger and dissatisfaction over some social issues which the perpetrators felt have affected or likely to affect them in one way or another (Ekiran, 2006). It is an aggressive behavior which more often than not involves physical combat which could inflict bodily injuries on both perpetrators and innocent people. It is an ill wind that blows no one any good.
According to IFES Reports (2007), there were 967 incidents of electoral violence in the 2007 elections. Cases of abduction and kidnapping, murder and killing Ì§ protest, disruption, intimidation and physical attack and well as poster defacing all featured in the incidents. 300 people were killed on issues relating to 2007 elections. The General Elections of 2007 were of monumental importance as it marked the first time in the history of elections in the country when civilian to civilian transition has ever taken place .It was a situation that the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, described as a ‘do or die affair’. The whole electoral processes were that of State Houses of Assembly, National Assembly, Gubernatorial and Presidential Offices. Even though the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) meticulously and zealously planned for these elections, the election days witnessed confusion and all manner of electoral mal-practices such that INEC’s preparedness was brought to question. Results from the entire exercise were probably the most contentious and most lingering (Yaqub, 2007). Long after the events, there were still litigations after litigations. The elections were annulled in certain states of the federation while in others, results remain controversial. This was so because those who emerged victorious did so through irregular activities that is, rigging and violence. The elections conducted in Plateau State cannot be said to have occurred without electoral violence. The events which trailed the Gubernatorial Elections in Plateau State form the focus of this research.
For several scores of years and irrespective of what happened in the past, Nigerians had for long developed a deeper love for democracy. This love had been demonstrated in the time past whenever there is a need for this. In spite of the ills that followed the 1999, 2003 and 2007 elections, Nigerians still showed their willingness to elect their leaders even in the 2011 and 2015 elections. Such started with a time table which was set and adjusted later for convenience. A meeting of the 36 state Governors of the Federation which was presided over by the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), Bukola Saraki was held on 8 February 2011 at Abuja in order to prevent electoral violence during the elections in which the Governors signed an undertaking having the following objectives, to: commit to free, fair, credible and transparent electoral process in the upcoming elections committed to democracy and the integrity of the electoral process, refrain from using religion and ethnicity as vehicle from political campaign, commit to promoting peaceful, religious and ethnic co-existence, do our best to ensure the coming elections are devoid of any form of manipulation, thuggery, violence, rigging and any other form of underhand tactics, consistently educate and remind our supporters, and party members not to do anything or take any action capable of compromising the electoral process, promptly and loudly denounce, and even disown any of our supporters engaged in any act that might diminish credibility of the forthcoming elections, do nothing that will weaken or destabilize opposition parties in our respective states; and respect the wishes of the electorate as expressed through the ballot box (Jimoh, 2011).
The necessity of free and fair elections can never be overemphasized bearing in mind what its opposite could do to a developing democratic system like Nigeria. The 2015 elections recorded violence on a low level and this has shown that when the choice of Nigerians is reflected in the polls and the will of the people is recognized, then violence is likely not to occur but when the results of the elections are rigged or there is a delay in announcement of results, tensions become high and violence erupts. This happened when the returning officers of presidential elections were announcing the results at the International Conference Center Abuja, it was noticed that the returning officers of the South-South zone were either reading the results from a piece of paper or discrepancies were noticed and were asked to make corrections. However, with the recording of low-level of violence at the 2015 elections this study is of the opinion that the 2019 elections will record a lower level of violence because the electorates and now more informed and the new government in place has a zero tolerance for corruption and it is believed that the backbone of the All Progressives Congress led government is transparency and does not tolerate violence and will ensure that the 2019 elections will be transparent and violent free even if the ruling party is not returned into power.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The quest for power by man in his ever unstoppable search for relevance and advantage has indeed, generated so much tensions and hostilities. In Nigeria, as well as most developing democracies of the Third World electoral violence is not only a recurrent decimal, its frequency, character and dimension are quite frightening. It is now becoming a national character of the Nigerian state in such a way that both the Nigerian state and her citizens are held hostage by this smashing political reality in which both are unfortunate willing conspirators. From independence to date, electoral violence in Nigeria has improved in sophistry just as the politicians and their cohorts have remained resolute in this destructive enterprise. In Nigeria, elections have become an avenue for legitimization of bad governance. This assertion hinges on the fact that incumbent government holds on to power at all cost while opposition parties in a bid to capture state power, resort to all manner of irregularities. The result of this is usually violence of one sort or the other.
This study therefore sets out to examine the factors responsible for the political participation and electoral violence in Nigeria taking 2007-2016 elections as a case study. This study will also examine the challenges which these developments pose for Nigeria’s electoral process and democracy.
1.3 Research Questions
These are some of the questions the study is designed to answer:
i) what are the factors that generated violence during the elections of 2007-2016 in Nigeria?
ii) what are the influence of electoral violence on political participation on Nigerians?
iii) what are the ways of reducing electoral violence in Nigeria?
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The objective of this study is to find out the causes, effects and solutions to electoral violence in Nigeria.
The specific objectives are: to;
i) to know determine the factors that generated violence during the elections of 2007-2016
ii) to examine the influence of electoral violence on political participation on Nigerians
iii) to identify the ways of reducing electoral violence in Nigeria
1.5 Significance of the Study
Violence has been observed to be a common feature in the conduction of elections in Nigeria. This has hindered the credibility of the Nigerian electoral process. The significance of the study is to observe the electoral activities of the last three elections conducted in Nigeria; starting from 2007 to 2016.
1.6 Scope of the Study
This study covered respondents like political office holders and seekers and registered members of all the registered political parties in Nigeria. However, attention shall be focused on ‘political violence and political participation’ in Nigeria.
1.7 Limitation of the study
Major problems encountered were time constraints, validity and reliability of the sources or materials. However, the researcher came up with findings that would be worth making reference to in future and also contribute to the existing literature. The study will also serve as a basis for further research in this field.
1.8 Definitions of Terms
The following terms were used in the course of this study:
Political Violence: This is an act perpetrated by either persons or governments to achieve political goals. Many groups and individuals believe that their political systems will never respond to their demands. They therefore tend to believe that violence is not only justified but also necessary in order to achieve their political objectives.
Political Participation: This is referred to as activity that has the intent or effect of influencing government action either directly by affecting the making or implementation of public policy or indirectly by influencing the selection of people who make those policies.
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