THE 2015 GENERAL ELECTIONS AND ITS IMPACT ON DEMOCRATIC PROCESS IN NIGERIA
1.1. BACKGROUND OF STUDY
Oligarchy, aristocracy, theocracy, monarchy, fascism, socialism, authoritarian or dictatorships in form of military rule, and democratic regimes are the different forms of government globally experienced in human societies. Among these forms, democracy has come up as the most widely known and desirable system of government in our modern world. The end of the cold war revived the interest in democratization as the proportion of countries in the world with some form of democratic government increased from 28 percent in 1974 to 61percent in 1998 and third world countries also had their share of these pronounced changes. However, Sub-Saharan African has lagged behind with weak attempts to democratize and the process of democratization has not been of clear progression for African countries and in Nigeria particularly. Considering Nigeria among the global committee of sovereign country, out of her many years of independence have been under authoritarian military rule. These years of military rule swept away democratic principles and the attempts at transition to democratic government were characterized by gross abuse of election the only acceptable institutionalized process for a democratic society. The process of change from military to civilian regime did acquire popular endorsement for many Nigerians were not satisfied with the military administration that denied people their freedom of speech and the right to involve in governance through representatives. However, the transition to civil rule spearheaded by the military and In face of some setbacks encountered, elections were conducted and the military in 1999 handed over power to General Olusegun Obasanjo. The emergence of a democratically elected government on May 29th 1999 was seen as the much expected dawn of democracy, the hopes and expectations of the electorate were high base on the conviction that the return to democratic rule will bring about positive change through their newly elected representatives. This however has not been the case as the gains that would have been reaped from the expansion of the democratic space have been gravely depleted by timing, dating, supervision hitches, delays due to late arrival of electoral materials etc. (Okoosi-Simbine, 2013). In the World today, political systems are going through qualitative change from authoritarian to participatory regimes. This worldwide trend, otherwise known as democratization (Elekwa, 2008) has made the issue of election a critical political imperative. Election as a democratic practice refers to the system whereby the citizenry (organized as electorate) consciously choose people into civic roles through a competitive selection process (Raymond, 2010). Election is defined as a procedure of aggregating preferences of a particular kind (International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences vol.5). The two features of this definition are procedure and preferences. By procedure, the concept is used to describe a special way of doing something while preference connotes choice between alternatives. Election can also be described as a procedure that allows members of an organization, community or a nation to choose representatives who will hold positions of authority within it. According to Givinn and Norton, (2010) election is the formal process of selecting a person for public office or accepting or registering a political proposition by voting. They continued further by stating that an election is one of the channels by which a country may organize itself and make particular formal decisions, including that where voting is free, it acts in concurrently as a system for making certain decisions concerning the power relations in a country and as a method for obtaining political obedience with a lower of sacrifice of the individual’s freedom. The essence of a democratic election is a freedom of choice. During elections, the electorate is given the opportunity to choose between alternative programs of contestants. Elections also promote public accountability. The threat of defeat at the polls exerts pressure on those in power to conduct them in a responsible manner and take account of popular interests and demands when they make their decisions. There is no one accepted procedure of election. In ancient Greece, various types of procedures were used. These include voting by show of hands, written votes and ballots. With the emergence of liberal democracy in the seventeenth and eighteenth century in Western Europe, the concept of election took new meaning anchored on the principles of consent franchise and representation. In essence, election not only serves to give the voter privilege to exercise his choices or preferences on political leadership but also provides the base on which elected political leaders uphold legitimacy of their positions (Elekwa, 2008). The place and vitality of election in democracy cannot be over-emphasized. Based on this therefore; Elections have the potential to proffer legitimacy, moderate dissent, engender compliance and heighten citizen efficacy. Elections are mostly crucial for obtaining consent from those citizens who would prefer alternative rules and policies within the political process (Elekwa, 2008). In Nigeria, the problem of election has been a challenging endeavor over the years. Ironically, election in Nigeria has been denied of democratic ideals, much as it has been made up of untoward circumstances. According to Ibeanu, (2007); The Electoral process as currently constituted in Nigeria is psychologically alienating for the vast majority of the people who are largely outsiders and are only periodically inserted in the process when they cast votes. At the same time this alienation is underscored by the fact that even when these vote casters have completed the ritual of voting, the outcome bears little semblance to what they chose in their ballots. Besides, there have been problems of electoral violence and fraud, bulk of which may arise from the excesses of the politicians in their desperate bid to consolidate, capture or control state power. In the face of this therefore, electoral experiences in Nigeria so far have left much to be considered. It is against this background that this paper examines general elections and its impact on democratic process in Nigeria.
1.2. STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
The centrality of competitive, credible, free, fair and acceptable elections in democracy cannot be over-emphasized. However contrary has been the experience in Nigeria as over the years elections were characterized by high incidence of electoral malaise manifesting in the prevalence of electoral rigging, fraud, violence, and other forms of electoral malpractices and irregularities which tend to erode established electoral standards and pose challenge to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in the country. It is against this background that this study examines the 2015 general elections and its impact on democratic process in Nigeria. Election is considered to be a critical element of modern representative government which is closely linked to growth and development of democratic political order and as the most singular indicator of democracy. Elections also offer the electorate the freedom of choice, power to hold elected leaders accountable and to provide protection against perpetuation of arbitrary rule.
1.3 AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The major aim of the study is to examine the 2015 general elections and its impact on democratic process in Nigeria. Other specific objectives of the study include;
To examine the nature and character of Nigeria’s electoral politics. To examine the outcome and challenges of 2015 general election. To examine the impact of the 2015 general election on democratic process in Nigeria To examine the democratic processes and factors hindering genuine democratic process in Nigeria To examine the relationship between 2015 general election and democratic process in Nigeria. To recommend requirements for genuine democratic process in Nigeria.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
What is the nature and character of Nigeria’s electoral politics? What is the outcome and challenges of 2015 general election? What is the impact of the 2015 general election on democratic process in Nigeria? What are the democratic processes and factors hindering genuine democratic process in Nigeria? What is the relationship between 2015 general election and democratic process in Nigeria? What are the requirements for genuine democratic process in Nigeria?
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
H0: There is no significant impact of the 2015 general election on democratic process in Nigeria.
H1: There is a significant impact of the 2015 general election on democratic process in Nigeria.
H0: There is no significant relationship between 2015 general election and democratic process in Nigeria.
H1: There is a significant relationship between 2015 general election and democratic process in Nigeria.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The study would be of benefit because Nigeria’s experience with elections over the years has thrown up a number of issues pertaining to the processes, conduct and outcome of election. So far, enough scholarly works have not been done to address these issues. Given the increasing relevance and topicality of election in Nigeria’s current democratic dispensation, more researches such as this are certainly needed to examine elections and its impact on democratic process in Nigeria. The study would also be of immense benefit to students, researchers and scholars who are interested in developing further studies on the subject matter.
1.7 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
The study is restricted to the 2015 general elections and its impact on democratic process in Nigeria.
LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
Financial constraint: Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview)
Time constraint: The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
Politics: refers to a set of activities associated with the governance of a country, or an area. In modern nation-states, people have formed political parties to represent their ideas. They agree to take the same position on many issues and agree to support the same changes to law and the same leaders.
Elections: this has to do with the process by which the people of a place choose those who will represent them in government. These election takes place in order to fill public offices at various level of government be it federal, state or local.
General Elections: means nation-wide elections to choose leaders and representatives at national and state levels. Such elections include Presidential Elections, National Assembly Elections, Gubernatorial Elections as well as State House of Assemblies Elections (INEC, 2007).
Democracy: This is essentially refers to the rule of many which is usually done through representation. It is a form of government in which he people have the freedom to choose who their leaders will be through free and fair election which could be direct or indirect. The word “democracy” according to Bangura (2013) is used to describe three different political systems. ‘According to him, this system of government has to do with the rule of many and also a representation of the true interests of the people.