ELECTORAL MALPRACTICES AND DEMOCRATIC CONSOLIDATION IN NIGERIA: A STUDY OF THE 2007 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

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ABSTRACT

Democracy has been described as government by persons freely chosen by the governed who hold them accountable and responsible for their actions while in government. A democratic system is one where rulers are held accountable to the ruled by means of a variety of political arrangements. Such arrangements include but are not necessarily conterminous with competitive multiparty elections held at regular intervals. Elections, it is important to note, are not only meant to ensure, confirm or re-affirm the legitimacy of the governors through a regular consent, but also provide a fertile ground for liberal democracy to thrive and be consolidated. In other words, while election does not automatically guarantee the consolidation and sustenance of the democratic process, yet it remains the central element in
the process of democratization. Rather than being a political asset and a legitimate force elections in Nigeria have become a political liability, a source of instability and decay. The various experiences with competitive electoral politics in Nigeria have brought the worst in political thuggery and brigandage, unmediated and unrestrained violence. Elections in Nigeria have often been stage-managed, won before Election Day, rigged or corrupted and electoral verdicts stolen, which are indicative of the habit of holding regular elections without democratic culture. Marxist Theory of the State was employed to help us analyze the conduct of the 2007 Presidential election by INEC and the problem of electoral malpractices that occurred during the conduct of the election in Nigeria. We discovered that the conduct of 2007 presidential elections in Nigeria was accompanied by a worsening contraction of the democratic space
and it negates virtually all the rules and tenets of free and fair electoral procedure. Indeed, the 2007 election was characterized by vote rigging, ballot snatching at gun points, criminal manipulation of voters’ list and brazen falsification of election results. The use of armed militia by political parties that are controlled by political Barons (Political Godfathers), especially the ruling People Democratic Party (PDP) created a general environment of threat and intimidation that reduced voters turnout or curtailed the voting process. Also the lack of internal party democracy among the political parties that contested the Presidential Election as a result of the activities of the Godfathers in their pursuit of personal and selfish interests, unleashed political violence on the polity. This led to the manifestation of electoral malpractices of various kinds and invariably leads to the obstruction of the democratic consolidation.
We recommend that to secure the independence of INEC, the Chairman of the Commission and the Commissioners should have a term that exceeds that of the president by two years or more, the funding of INEC should come from the Consolidated Revenue of the Federation so as to enhance it autonomy.
Political parties especially the PDP must develop a mass based, oriented and directed approach. Also, there has to be unity of command in the party leadership. The party members must obey the party laid down rules or constitution. Disciplinary actions must be taking against individuals or groups for actions contrary to the party ideology. INEC staff, political party agents, observers and other election stakeholders should receive appropriate security protection from the law enforcement agencies throughout the election process.
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