Electoral Violence and Nigeria’s 2011 General Elections
For several scores of years, Nigeria has earned an appellation for herself as a showcase of Africa’s democracy. Paradoxically, every journey towards such democratic experiment had been laden with electoral violence even since the colonial days. With the rebirth of African liberalism in the 1990s, electoral violence returned in a more frightening dimension. This paper examines electoral violence in the concluded 2011 elections in Nigeria. The paper points out that unnecessary political ambition, ethnic politics, unemployment and monetization of politics are some of the causes of electoral violence. It equally points to the panacea for controlling such violence within the country’s body politics.
Within the context of a complete break away from one-party and military dictatorships, African countries dived into competitive multiparty elections since the 1990s. Thus, as Ake puts it ‘Issues of democratization and human rights are increasingly the world’s interest in Africa overcoming a legacy of indifference to the fate of democracy on the continent’ (Ake, 1991:32). Many of these African states that allowed elections to be held in them made a mockery of their transition programmes. In fact, Naomi Chazan pointed out the loss of legitimacy that has now characterised African elections when she pointed out that: ‘Elections in Africa, after the initial euphoria associated with political stability during decolonization quickly came to be viewed as meaningless political rites. . .’(Chazan, 1979:136).
While not doubting the increasing nature of democratic transitions in African countries, Lemarchand concluded that, ‘there are compelling reasons to fear that the movement towards democracy may contain within itself the seed of its own undoing’ (Lemarchand, 1992:98). Celestin Monga identified eight problems with African politics which according to him are: the weakness of political parties, manipulation of the electoral process, a narrow political field, a constrained civil society, a controlled press, the absence of civility, privatised violence and politicised armies, and international support for dictatorship (Monga, 1997:156). However, Richard Joseph seemed to have captured African politics when he stated that ‘of the many factors impeding constitutional democracy in Africa, none appears more significant than the upsurge of political violence (Richard, 1997:3). It seems to us therefore that a proper understanding of political renewal in Africa should pay more attention to the role of political violence.
Thus in Kenya, President Daniel arap Moi resorted to
political violence as a means of retaining power. Similarly Kibaki who
succeeded him was guilty of ‘daylight robbery and a civilian coup’ (Bamgbose,
2008:54). In Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai withdrew from the run-off of 2008 in protest
over political violence that killed over 120 people and displaced thousands
(Bracking, 2010:1). The April 24 2005 Togo presidential election triggered off
political violence resulting to the outflow of Togolese refugees to the neighbouring
countries of Ghana and Benin (Bamgbose, 2009:109). In October 2008, two Belgian
demographers, Andre Lambert and Louis Lohle-Tart, were invited by the European
Commission to assess the 2005 – 06 voter registration process in the Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC). After their consultancy was done, they wrote a
devastating critique of the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Initially,
the IRC had put the death toll at 5.4 million even though the original figure
was not up to 5.4 million. These Belgian demographers put it at 200,000 deaths.
Pertinent to note is that many lives were lost (Mamdani, 2010:15).
The aim of this paper is to examine electoral violence in Nigeria’s April 2011 elections (especially the presidential election). In pursuing this objective, the paper starts with some conceptual clarifications, the etymology of electoral violence in Nigeria’s April 2011. The paper points to major causes of electoral violence in the country and suggests ways of getting rid of electoral violence in the country’s elections.