Frankly Speaking, Electoral Violence In Nigeria Is Becoming Unbearable! By Ogundana Michael Rotimi
First of all congratulations, to Governor Seriake Dickson for his hard earn victory to secure his second term in office in the just concluded Bayelsa State gubernatorial election.
But like many other Nigerian elections, it was not without violence and loss of lives. No fewer than 5 people lost their lives in the just concluded Bayelsa election. A process naturally that has nothing to do with arms and terror turned out bloody.
Nigeria, 17 years into democracy still struggle to hold a peaceful, free and fair election. Worse as it was, even in a state like Bayelsa- one of the smallest states in Nigeria both in land mass and population, the just concluded gubernatorial election was marred with violence and loss of lives.
By now, Nigeria should have come of age democratically. Elections are not war and should never be seen as a do or die affair.
It seems to me, that since the day of Nigerian independence, political positions suffer violence and the violent takes it by force. But this shouldn’t be so!
Beginning from the 1964–65 general elections, violence has been a major feature of electoral politics in the country.
The electoral process during the second republic in Nigeria (1979–1983) was also highly laced with violence, especially during the second election of 1983. The structure of politics, despite the alteration in the structure of the federation from three (later four) regions of the first republic, to nineteen states, was still largely driven by ethno-religious forces, where each party maintained its stronghold in a given regional/ethnic domain.
Also, the 1993 elections which produced the third republic and perhaps the fairest election in the history of Nigeria won by Chief MKO Abiola but annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida ended in violence.
Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, has witnessed five general elections (1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015), and is yet to show profound evidence of a growing democracy. All of these elections were marked with controversies, just as their processes and end products encountered credibility and legitimacy crises and none has gone without violence.
Structurally, violence manifested in the form of systemic disequilibrium predicated upon double standards.
But then as long as the large population of the citizenry remains in abject poverty and largely depend on a group of political elites for their survival, electoral violence will continue to persist.
As long as informal patronage systems, poor governance, exclusionary politics, and the socio-economic uncertainties of losing political power in states where almost all power is concentrated at the centre persist, election will always end up in violence.
As long as our electoral process and the electoral contest itself, such as failed or flawed elections, election fraud and weak or manipulated institutions governing the electoral process persist, our elections will always turn out to be violent and chaotic.
Also, as long as the socio-economic realities of losing power in a nation where all political power and economic resources of the state lie in the hands of the incumbent, coupled with a porous electoral systems and weak or biased electoral institutions persist, elections risk turning out into a do-or-die affair.
This trend not only poses a threat to the peace and security of the country, but also risks undermining the long-term sustainability of our democratic set up.
The implications of this violence are enormous. It means we tend to lose everything we have struggled to build over a period of time within a short time when elections become violent.
It furthers exposes us to unpleasant conditions, that in turns have a negative effect on the economy. It threatens the productivity of a nation and gradually distorts the peace and corporation in the society.
We cannot confidently become a nation of our dreams if our elections are continually marred by violence.
It is a shame that violence is usually anticipated to play a prominent role in our elections after 17 years into the forth republic.
In societies where the structural conditions of elections create high incentives for violence, the institutional and administrative arrangements in place for regulating the electoral contest can play a key role in either mitigating or instigating election-related violence.
Although, Nigeria has witnessed a significant democratic progress over the past 17 years, but there are still enormous variations between our democratic setup and that of a successful nation.
Precisely, due to the increasing reliance on a flawed electoral process as a means to distribute and regulate political power in our society, the stakes of elections are often high. This calls for a great urgency to support the establishment of effective and legitimate electoral institutions and electoral frameworks; institute reforms aimed at lowering the stakes of elections; encourage the devolution of powers; improve the socio-economic standing of the populace; and devise strategies to prevent and manage electoral violence
Besides, reforms to spontaneously and sporadically improve the lives of ordinary citizens must be put in place. While political offices should become less attractive and luxurious. In that case, we would have successfully moved beyond simply establishing a formal constitutional democracy, to a practicing and performing democracy.
Happy Birthday To Me
Today, 12th Jan, I celebrate ME! Join me as I celebrate my birthday. Words can`t say enough, and actions can`t express how much gracious I am. Surviving out of millions is a privilege, a rare privilege! Had life being bought, it would have been limited to those with enough funds from the #DasukiGate.
However, thanks to God for being faithful and generous to all, even to the greedy!
It is a privilege to survive. It is a privilege to be alive.
Happy birthday to me, my God bless my new age and the ones to come.
God Bless Nigeria.
Ogundana Michael Rotimi is a Nigerian Biochemist, Socio-economic & Political Commentator, and Public Speaker. He tweets @MickeySunny.