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POST ELECTORAL VIOLENCE AND THE THREAT TO NATIONAL PEACE
1.1 Background of the study
Results in Nigerian elections come in two separate columns. One records the votes cast at polling stations; the other the number of people killed around the time of the election.
Elections involve a set of activities leading to the selection of one or more persons out of many to serve in positions of authority in a society. Political scientists and development theorists link free, fair and credible elections to democratic governance, peace and development. In brief, they argue that free, fair and credible elections provide the basis for the emergence of democratic, accountable and legitimate governments with the capacity to initiate and implement clearly articulated development programmes. Again,they claim that free, fair and credible elections empower the electorate to hold the government accountable and to demand strong credentials and feasible development agenda from prospective government officials. In other words, free, fair and credible
elections bestow on governments the legitimate authority to, on one hand, initiate and implement policies; while on the other hand, they empower the citizens to hold
governments accountable for their actions and/or inactions. Credible elections are, therefore, sine qua non for democratic governance, political stability and national development.
Since 1999, elections have become more regular in Nigeria. Between 1999 and 2011, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducted four consecutive general elections. Nigeria’s attempt to practice parliamentary democracy at independence in 1960 was interrupted by a military coup in 1966 (Dudley 1982). In 1979, Nigeria made a transition from military rule to presidential democracy. Again, the democratic government was removed via a military coup in 1983 (Diamond 1988, Joseph 1991).
The third democratic experiment in Nigeria began in 1989 but was aborted in 1993 following the annulment of the presidential election, which would have marked the highpoint of the transition. Following intense domestic and international pressures on the military government, as well as the sudden demise of the then military Head of State General Sani Abacha, the military government finally relinquished power to an elected civilian government in May 1999 (Ihonvbere and Shaw 1998, Osaghae 1998). The period since 1999 has been marked by an extra-ordinary progress towards the consolidation of
democracy in Nigeria, considering that the country is able to conduct four consecutive general elections for the first time in its political history (Oyovbaire 2008).
Although elections are now more regular in Nigeria, the quality of these elections is a matter of grave concern to both the actors and observers. The 2003 and 2007 elections were particularly marked by dissatisfaction by candidates, voters and observers (Ibrahim and Ibeanu 2009). Dissatisfaction with the 2007 general elections reflected in the barrage of litigations brought before the election tribunals and courts as well as the number of election results that were nullified (INEC 2007, Ugochukwu 2009). Unlike the 2007 elections, the April 2011 general elections in Nigeria were adjudged by observers and analysts as the most credible election in the series of elections organized since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999. The success of the 2011 elections can be attributed to the
remedial measures taken by both the government and the Independent National
1 Nigerian Elections: Ballots and Bullets, Political Violence Reaches New Heights, The Economist, 14 April 2011, http://www.economist.com/node/18561189.
Electoral Commission (INEC) in the aftermath of the 2007 general elections to restore the credibility of the electoral process. Just to illustrate, in June 2010, President Goodluck Jonathan appointed Professor Attahiru Jega, a respected academic and activist as the chairman of INEC. The appointment of Professor Jega boosted public confidence in INEC. The government also ensured adequate and timely funding of the Commission. The federal government reportedly released over 87 billion naira (about US $580 million) to INEC to support the Commission’s preparations for the 2011 elections (Gberie 2011: 9). In addition, the Nigerian National Assembly undertook a major revision of the legal framework for elections in Nigeria, including the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act. To complement government’s efforts, INEC adopted far-reaching
measures to ensure the success of the 2011 elections. For instance, INEC made a critical decision to discard the existing voters register which was highly discredited and to compile a new one just four months to the April 2011 elections. Also, the Commission strengthened its election personnel by recruiting members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and staff of federal universities to serve as ad hoc registration and polling staff. The efforts of both INEC and the government to restore the credibility of Nigeria’s electoral process paid off with the success of the 2011 general elections.
The 2011 general elections were adjudged by many observers as the most credible election organized by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) since 1999. For example, Terence McCulley, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, praised the National Assembly election as the first-ever ‘credible, transparent, free and fair general election’ in Nigeria, and declared that it provided ‘a historic opportunity for Nigeria to consolidate its democracy and further expand its voice on the world stage’ (Agbambu and Ajayi 2011). The ECOWAS observation mission described the presidential poll as ‘fair and transparent’ (ICG 2011: 4), while the EU Election Observation Mission to Nigeria, said ‘the 2011 general elections marked an important step towards strengthening democratic elections in Nigeria, but challenges remain’ (EU EOM 2011: 1). Clement Nwankwo, head of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) in Abuja and who is working with more than 20 civil society groups in the Nigerian Civil Society Election Situation Room to monitor elections said: ‘we have not seen large-scale reports of malpractice, nor of collusion between electoral officials and politicians’ (Omokri 2011).
The credibility of the 2011 general elections further reflects in the fewer number of litigations it attracted compared to the barrage of cases brought before the election tribunals and courts as well as the number of election results nullified by the tribunals and courts in the aftermath of the 2007 elections (INEC 2007, Ugochukwu 2009, EU EOM 2011).
The widely acclaimed success of the 2011 elections was dented by post-election violence that broke out following the announcement of the results of the presidential elections.
1.2 Statement of the problem
The 2011 post-election violence is seen by many as the bloodiest incident of electoral violence in Nigeria’s history (Bekoe 2011, Ajayi 2011, HRW 2011, ICG 2011, Shuaibu and Iroegbu 2011). In fourteen Northern States, including Adamawa, Kano, Kaduna, and Bauchi States, where the post-election violence was most prevalent, violent protesters killed several people, including an unspecified number of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members2; torched, looted or destroyed businesses, churches and NYSC programme is a one year mandatory national service by Nigerian graduates who are below the age
of 30 years. The programme was decreed by the military government in 1972, just after the end of the Nigerian civil war, to encourage social mobility and promote national integration. INEC recruited mostly NYSC members as Ad Hoc Presiding Officers during the 2011 general elections. private houses (Shuaibu and Iroegbu 2011, HRW 2011). In the aftermath of the violence,
thousands of people were displaced from their homes and places of business.
Although the Nigeria Police and other security agencies appeared startled by the
outbreak of post-election violence, the violence did not come to many observers as a surprise, considering that analysts had warned that a contest which pitched two popular candidates from Northern and Southern Nigeria against each other as a result of the stepping-down of the power-sharing arrangement would inevitably culminate in violence (Onwudiwe and Berwind-Dart 2010: 8). In March 2011, Amnesty International issued a report in which it noted that hundreds of people had already been killed in ‘politically motivated, communal and sectarian violence across Nigeria ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls’, and advised the authorities to take immediate action to prevent further violence (Amnesty International 2011: 5). This advice was ignored to the peril of several Nigerians who died in the post-election bloodbath. Several media houses and
other independent observers produced reports that offered clues of what was to come (Campbell 2010). In the weeks preceding the 2011 presidential election, Nigeria had experienced a wave of violent incidents ranging from communal unrest to bombings.
On the eve of the National Assembly elections held on 9 April 2011, a bomb attack at the INEC office in Suleja, Niger State, killed at least 10 people and injured several others (Ploch 2012: 7). There were also bomb explosions in the Northern city of Maiduguri, Borno State, where the Boko Haram Islamic militant group is most active (Bekoe 2011).
A few months before the 2011 general elections, over 200 persons had lost their lives in communal unrests in Plateau State (Amnesty International 2011: 6). Furthermore, there were reports of election-related assassinations of political candidates and their supporters, and clashes between party supporters. Despite predictions of violence, the government did not seem to have done much to prevent its outbreak. According to
Amnesty International (2011: 5), there were no general countrywide anti-electoral violence campaigns, no public awareness programmes, and no adequate investigations, prosecution and conviction of culprits from pre-election violent incidents. Thus, one can conclude that the authorities saw the 2011 post-election violence coming, but did not do much to prevent it.
While the 2011 post-election violence may be outstanding in terms of its magnitude, severity and consequences, it is pertinent to note that elections are synonymous with violence in Nigeria. All the eight general elections conducted in Nigeria since independence in 1960 (including 1964, 1979, 1983, 1993, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections) have been marred by various degrees of violence (Abdullahi Smith Centre for Historical Research 2002). The announcement of the results of the Western Region elections in 1965 was followed by violence and breakdown of law and order in the region. It was the Western Region crisis that gave rise to the infamous ‘Operation Wetie’ – an atrocious practice of dousing political opponents in petrol and setting them ablaze (Anifowose 1982, Soeze 2011). In 1983, allegations of rigging by the ruling National
Party of Nigeria (NPN) led to bloody post-election crisis in Ondo State (Babarinsa 2003).
In 1993, the results of the presidential elections won by Chief M.K.O. Abiola was
annulled by then military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, leading to the ‘June 12’ crisis that took the lives of many Nigerians. Nigeria’s Fourth Republic has not been devoid of electoral violence. Between 1999 and 2011, thousands of people have died in election related violence (ICG 2011: 3). Many of those that lost their lives in post-election violence in Nigeria were allegedly killed by members of the notoriously violent ‘Mobile Police’ (MOPOL) and other security agencies3.
Unlike previous incidents of post-election violence in Nigeria that attracted considerable documentation and analysis, only a few studies have attempted to document and analyze the 2011 post-election violence (Bekoe 2011, NAPEN 2011, Ploch 2012).
Although existing literature on the 2011 post-election violence provide useful data and insights into the unrest, a more rigorous and systematic analysis of the problem is required. The aim of this study is, therefore, to document and analyze the 2011 post- election violence, and to identify and recommend reforms required in preventing the recurrence of post-election violence in Nigeria. In specific terms, this study provides analyses of the triggers and manifestation of the April 2011 post-election violence, documents and reports the experiences survivors, and identifies reforms and measures required to address the problem of post-election violence in Nigeria. The outcome of this study will serve as a basis for dealing with post-election violence. Data used in this study were derived mainly from documents, including published literature, official documents,
and media reports. Primary data were also obtained from eye witness accounts and testimonies of individuals that experienced post-election violence.
This study is made up of six sections. Following this introduction is the second section which examines the conceptual background of post-election violence, focusing on the meaning, triggers, and manifestation of post-election violence. The third section explores the history of post-election violence in Nigeria, beginning from the late colonial period till date. The section compares incidents of post-election violence across different periods of Nigeria’s history. The fourth section presents the results of the empirical analyses of the April 2011 post-election violence. Here, the triggers, patterns and manifestations of
post-election violence during the 2011 general elections were highlighted. The fifth section identifies and analyzes the reforms and measures adopted by the government to prevent and/or manage post-election violence in Nigeria. These measures were interrogated in the light of the experiences of other African countries including Kenya, Ethiopia and Congo. Finally, the sixth section discusses the lessons learned from historical, empirical, and comparative analysis of post-election violence in Nigeria, and recommends strategies for preventing post-election during the 2015 general elections. Report, ‘Nigeria Police, Troops ‘Abused Rioters’ in North’, Agence France-Presse, 6 May 2011, http://reliefweb.int/node/400448
1.3 Objectives of the study
1. To understand the nature of the post-election violence in Nigeria in 2011 in Gombe north senatorial district
2. To know the causes of the violence
3. To understand the impacts of the violence on Gombe north senatorial district
4. To come up with solutions to the challenges
1.4 Research Questions
1. What is the nature of the post-election violence in Nigeria in 2011 in Gombe north senatorial district
2. What are the causes of the violence
3. What are the impacts of the violence on Gombe north senatorial district
4. What are solutions to the challenges
1.5 Research Hypothesis
H0: Post election violence in Nigeria in 2011 had a significant negative impact on Gombe north senatorial district
H1: Post election violence in Nigeria in 2011 did not have a significant negative impact on Gombe north senatorial district
1.6 Limitations of the study
There was limited time and finance during the course of the research
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