AN ASSESSMENT OF DEMOCRATIC CONSOLIDATION PROCESS IN NIGERIA: A CASE STUDY OF THE INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC), 2011-2015
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
May 29, 1999 marked a watershed in Nigeria’s political annals. It was the dawn of the Fourth Republic, a return to democratic rule after several years under the yoke of military misrule which was marked by much suffering, infrastructure decay, and institutionalized corruption. The hope of the common man for a just and an egalitarian society became rekindled with the institution of a democratic government. Nigerians greeted the return to democratic rule with widespread jubilation and optimism as they looked forward to a new era of stability, peace, and prosperity. However, sixteen (16) years after, Nigerians are still anxious to see and enjoy “democracy dividends” – social welfare, justice, equity, and equal access to resources andpower.
Nigeria’s chequered political history is bedeviled with the gory tales of electoral malpractices which have significantly impacted negatively on the nation’s polity. Effective management of the electoral process has therefore, become an imperative political demand so as to ensure the sanctity, transparency and credibility of election results in the nation’s democratic setting (Akinboye, 2005). The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is the institutionalized governmental body established, through the instrumentality of law, to manage the nation’s electoral process. The INEC, as an instrument of processing democratic ideals and structures, is hopefully, expected to be a truly independent body that personifies the ideals of transparency, impartiality, accountability and responsiveness. This perhaps, informed the popular perception that the body is insulated from partisan politics, and that, it is fully empowered to discharge its avowed duties devoid of any influence whatsoever (Udu, Nkwede et.al 2014).
In reality, there are empirical evidences over the years, that the INEC has not been fully autonomous and non-partisan; neither does it appear to be sufficiently empowered to carry out its assigned duties and responsibilities impartially. However, in the 2015 General elections in Nigeria, despite some pockets of irregularities evidenced in late arrival or non-availability of electoral materials, falsification of election results in some areas, failure of the Card Reader Machines and collusion with politicians and security personnels to subvert the process, the outcome of the 2015 general elections has been generally accepted to be transparent and indeed, an improvement on past elections in the country. Indeed, foreign intelligence and diplomatic sources had been quoted severally since 2011 to have predicted the end of Nigeria as a country, consequent upon the outcome of the 2015 elections.
A former U.S Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. John Campbell is more prominently quoted to have insisted that the country would break up in 2015 because the elections will plunge Nigeria in crisis (Yaqub, 2015). Truly, had the result of the election turned otherwise, many believed that Campbell prediction may have been inevitable. Frankly, Nigerians have desired a change of the Goodluck Jonathan’s PDP administration which has been generally accused of inefficiency, corruption, contempt of the people, insecurity etc. Security was brazenly compromised as government security agencies, including the military conducted their responsibilities with clear partisan inclinations that left nobody in doubt that state apparatuses as important as security and military institutions became tools of political vendetta, electoral manipulations and subversion of democratic norms.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Democracy is for all citizens where majority determines the winner but majority is not always right. There are numerous iniquities in partisanship which produces democracy. Nigeria’s democracy would have fared better had many credible, competent and knowledgeable electees occupied strategic positions in governance. Politics has been hijacked by wealthy but mainly people of unrefined minds and untamed passions. Doing for the citizens what they cannot do ordinarily on their own for themselves is the very essence and justification of governments at all levels.
The universal acceptance of democracy as the best system of governance is incontestable. This is premised on the participatory opportunity democracy affords the citizenry in the selection and election of their leaders and representatives. It guaranteed some recipe for good governance and the fundamental human rights of all law abiding citizens. These enviable attractions coupled with the global urge precipitated the return of the country (Nigeria) to democracy on May 29, 1999 after a prolonged heinous military dictatorship. Upon the return, Nigerians heaped a sigh of relief that at last they are liberated from the shackles of unilateralism and arbitrariness that characterized military rule.
However, the envisaged opportunities and hope seem to have given way for illusion and bewilderment 16 years after the experimentation (with democracy). This is accounted for by crude politics, corruption, selfishness and greed of the political leadership. For instance, despite her energy wealth, Nigeria is often mired in the dark; and despite her abundance human resource her economic and political affairs cannot be effectively managed. This is reflective in the on-going political cannibalism that is crippling the economy in deference to the unhindered citizen participation, tolerance of opposing views, abhorrence of arbitrary rule and unilateral decision making that political democracy involves. Since 1999, the polity has witnessed an increasing buildup of authoritarian structures and institutions and human rights abuses. The resultant unstable political atmosphere has combined with poor social infrastructure to question the viability of democracy in Nigeria.
Government is entrusted in Nigeria mainly to undeserving people; as a result, integrity is lost and citizens suffer untold hardships. The failure of a country begins when her policy continuously fails to guarantee security and create jobs for educated, patriotic, strong and productive citizens. Our clime is one of blurred vision, blackmail, culture of frivolity, impunity and failure of a system. Our current system feeds directly into a culture of corruption, frivolity, ineptitude and impunity.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The general objective of this study is to establish the nature of the democratic consolidation in Nigeria. The specific objectives are:
(i) To identify the features of the noticeable progress in democratic consolidation in Nigeria;
(ii) To identify INEC roles in the democratic consolidation process in Nigeria, especially the period of 2011 to 2015 (the past president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration);
(iii) To examine the nature of the attendant challenges to democratic consolidation in Nigeria; and
(iv) Make recommendations on how to enhance the chances of democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
1.4 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
The scope of this research is limited to democratic consolidation process in Nigeria and to examine the democratic journey in Nigeria in the last 16 years, with special attention to the role of INEC in democratic consolidation process (2011- 2015) ; A case study of INEC in Edo State.
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Basically, the significance of any research is its value or contribution to already existing knowledge in terms of theoretical justification or relevance and the solution it will provide towards the amelioration of a practical problem of concern. However, the significance of this research are as follows:
1) To assist government at all levels, electoral body and policy makers in the process of policy formulation and implementation.
2) It observed and revealed the past electioneering activities, and why many years of independence
3) This study is timely, because it is ongoing
4) Empirically or practically, this study will be of immense beneifits to politicians, international institutions, students and researchers.
1.6 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The research questions formulated to be answered in this study are:
(i) Are there noticeable progress in democratic consolidation in Nigeria?
(ii) What role has INEC played in the democratic consolidation process in Nigeria, especially within the period of 2011 to 2015?
(iii) What are the major challenges to democratic consolidation in Nigeria?
1.7 DEFINITION OF TERMS
For better understanding of the main concept of this topic, the following are defined:
Assessment: Mariam Webster dictionary defined assessment as the act of making a judgement about something. To assess is to officially say what the amount, value, or rate of (something) is. Assessment is the act of assessing something, it could be an idea or opinion about something.
Rousseau and Rivero (2003) see democracy as the power of the people as it manifest in ways of thinking, behaving and organizing that enhances participation in, and influence over decisions that affects their everyday lives. Huntington (1991) sees democracy as a political system where in the most popular candidates are chosen through fair, honest and periodic elections in which candidates are free to compete for votes and which virtually all the adult population are qualified to vote.
Democratic consolidation is the process by which a new democracy matures, in a way that means it is unlikely to revert to authoritarianism without an external shock. As diamond has rightly observed, democracy can be said to be consolidated when it has become so broadly profoundly legitimate among its citizens that is very unlikely to breakdown.