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.





1.1   Background of the Study

Elections were first organized and conducted in Nigeria in 1922 by the British colonial government in response to the pressures of the nationalists who were agitating for greater participation in the colonial administration (Enojo, 2010). Following the elections, Nigerians were offered the first opportunity to occupy certain political offices. Though the franchise was restricted and representation limited, it was nonetheless an achievement for the nationalists who were struggling for the enthronement of democratic order as a pre-requisite for greater participation of the people in the process of governance. After 1922, several other elections were conducted in different parts of the country to elect leaders at national, regional and local levels. However, it was the 1959 General Elections that paved way for the emergence of Nigeria as an independent state. Since then, various elections have been held either in transition from one civilian government to another or in transition from military regimes to civilian administration.


Elections in Nigeria can broadly be categorized into three viz: elections organized by the colonial government in 1922, 1951 and 1959; those organized by the military regimes in 1979, 1991, 1993, 1999; and the ones organized by civilian governments in 1964, 1983, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. Among the three categories, the elections organized by the civilian regimes appeared to be more crisis-ridden compared to the other two. The simple explanation for the paradox lies in the fact that both the military and colonial authorities wielded excessive powers in coercing citizens to operate within the bounds of the existing laws and decrees (Odo, 2015).

Since the return to civil rule on 29 May 1999, Nigeria has held five general elections, apart from sundry re-run elections and local government polls. Out of the five general elections conducted, only the 2015 general election met both the local and international standard. But the disturbing trend is that each general election was worse than the preceding one (2003 was worse than 1999; and 2007 was worse than 2003). This trend shows that our country is faring very badly at each passing election as nobody can talk of consolidating democracy in such an environment. This is because the leaders seem to have forgotten that conducting a free and fair election is vital to the growth and development of any democratic process.  Also, an average Nigerian voter is interested in immediate pecuniary or material rewards, and will easily trade off his votes when appropriately induced. This can  be  explained  by  the  crippling  poverty  facing  the  people  in the  absence  of  government’s  provision  of  the basic amenities required for decent living, as well as their justified distrust of the political leaders (Ebegbulem, 2011).

Indeed, one major element of electoral process is that election must be conducted in a free and fair atmosphere, while  electoral  results  must  reflect  the  wishes of  the  people.   Nigeria’s experience  in  this  regard  had  since independence  been  contrary  to  this  expectation.  This is  because previous  and  present  electoral  bodies  had  conducted  elections  in  a  way that  favoured  the  ruling  political  parties  through  poor  planning,  the device  of  excluding electorates from voting in places considered to be the strongholds of opposition, inadequate supply of voting materials, and late arrival of electoral officers to polling stations.

The Nigerian presidential election of 16 April 2011 was the fourth in the series of presidential elections conducted since the country’s return to civil rule in 1999. Unlike the previous elections which were characterized by fraud and flaws, the 2011 election is regarded by many observers as largely credible and well organized (EU EOM, 2011). However, post-election violence, in which many people were killed, many more displaced and valuable properties was destroyed, robbed the shine off the electoral success. Although violence has been part and parcel of electoral contest in Nigeria since 1999, the 2011 post-election violence stands out in terms of its magnitude, severity and consequences (Unom and Ojo, 2010, HRW, 2004; Ladan and Kiru, 2005). The 2011 post-election violence started in Bauchi and Gombe states, and quickly spread to other parts of Northern Nigeria such as Kano, Adamawa, Niger, and Kaduna states.

The 2015 general elections are indeed symbolic in Nigeria’s political history. They mark the first time the opposition party would successfully dislodge the incumbent party from power at the federal level particularly in a less controversial and peaceful process. Clearly, this interesting development is in contrast to the gloomy picture presented by many analysts in the pre-elections period. For many, the aftermath of the elections may possibly mark the end of Nigeria as a nation, which generated rising tension in the country. Their arguments are founded on the following compelling points: first, the country experienced for the first time in its post-democratic transition history the emergence of a strong opposition party which had the capacity to displace the incumbent party that was strongly resisted by the incumbent using state machinery; second, there was growing public perception of poor preparation by the Electoral Management Body (EMB) – the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) – following problems experienced in the voter registration process which influenced beliefs that the elections might be another charade; third, the electoral process was characterised by a heated campaign process which was anchored on ethnic and religious sloganeering which did not only divide the potential voters along religious and ethnic lines but also potentially prepared the grounds for another ethno-religious violence; fourth, the suspicious process that surrounded the sudden postponement of the elections for six weeks (February 14 to March 28) also increased public distrust of the electoral process (International Crisis Group, 2015; Onapajo, 2015). Therefore this research study seeks to investigate corruption and electoral process: a comparative study of the 2011 and 2015 presidential election in Nigeria.


1.2   Statement of the Problem

Electoral corruption has impaired hard work, diligence and efficiency. It has caused incalculable damages to the social and political development of Nigeria and the electoral process. It subverts credible voting system and facilitates the emergence of an unpopular government. Furthermore, it weakens the electoral institutions, which are saddled with the responsibility of conducting presidential elections in the country.

Since the country’s return to democratic rule in 1999, presidential elections in 2011  and 2015 were  won  and  lost  under  conditions  in  which  electoral malpractices,  rigging  and  violence were pronounced, a phenomenon described by Dauda as “The Slippery side of landslide” (Dauda 2007:102). Participation  in  presidential elections in  Nigeria is characterized by machine politics which  “involves  the parceling  out  of  parts  of  the  state  including  territories  to  individuals, usually  under  the  leadership of one or two notables …  who maintain their prebends essentially by force” (Ibeanu, 2007:9). Ibeanu further asserts that under such circumstances, elections give rise to the primitive  accumulation  of  votes,  which he  refers  to  as  the  “winning  of  votes  by  both  objective  and structural corruption  and  disregard  for  the  rule  of  law”  (Ibeanu,  2007 :6).  In this kind of environment, there is usually sustained rigging which ensures that votes do not count and voters are not counted leading to the lack of credible elections.

Nigeria has had a checkered electoral history with successive elections being marred by serious irregularities and controversy- particularly in the conduct of its electoral commission. This has led in some cases to the collapsed of democratic experiments as occurred in 1966 and 1983. The 2011 and 2015 presidential elections in Nigeria provided a good opportunity to occasion a break with the past and rekindle public confidence in the electoral and democratic process of the country. However, this was not to be as the elections, according to several local and international observers turned out to be the worst in Nigeria’s political history (European Union: 2013, Human Rights Watch: 2015, Transition Monitoring Group: 2015). Like its predecessors, INEC was accused of not being able to engender public confidence in the electoral process or organize transparent and credible elections.

Since the conduct of presidential elections of 2011 and 2015, a pattern is already emerging which points to the fact that political elites have not learnt much from the mistakes of the past. The various crises plaguing the major parties and emerging ones and the various inter-party crisis of the defections in the National Assembly, cross carpeting of representatives and other elected officers in the country are vivid instances of this tendency. This danger has resulted to the high level of political abduction, harassment, arson, and assassinations, withdrawal of credible and qualified professionals in the race. It is against this backdrop that this research study seeks to investigate corruption and electoral process: a comparative study of the 2011 and 2015 presidential election in Nigeria.

1.3   Objectives of the Study

The study is conducted with the following objectives:

1)   To investigate the effect of electoral malpractices on the electoral process in Nigeria.


2)   To explore the effect of electoral corruption on the outcomes of the 2011 presidential election in Nigeria.

3)   To examine the effect of electoral corruption on the conduct of the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria.

4)   To find out the challenges of conducting a free and credible presidential elections in Nigeria.

1.4   Research Questions

The study is guided by the following research questions:

1)   What is the effect of electoral malpractices on the electoral process in Nigeria?

2)   What is the effect of electoral corruption on the outcomes of the 2011 presidential election in Nigeria?

3)   What is the effect of electoral corruption on the conduct of the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria?

4)   What are the challenges of conducting free and credible presidential elections in Nigeria?


1.5   Significance of the Study

It is anticipated that the analytical, conceptual and theoretical analysis will not just contribute to understanding of the dynamics of electoral corruption and the survival of democracy in Nigeria, but will articulate sound policy recommendations to foster democratic consolidation in Nigeria.

In a whole, the outcomes of the study will serve as a useful tool for students of the Benue State University, who would want to carry out further research in this domain. It would also be useful to scholars in political science. The study would in fact be significant to policy makers and implementers at large, as they will find the result and recommendations of the study very useful to work with.

1.6   Scope of the Study

This study covers corruption and electoral process: a comparative study of the 2011 and 2015 presidential election in Nigeria vis-à-vis electoral corruption, electoral rigging, the electoral process and the challenges of free and faire election in Nigerian Fourth Republic. Moreover the study is limited in scope to Makurdi Local Government Area (LGA) of Benue State where sample will be drawn for the purpose of making generalization.


1.7   Limitations of the Study

The researchers faces series of challenges while conducting this research study of which was lack of adequate fund, this points to the fact that the researchers are not yet earning money but rather depend on family supports. Moreover, the study would have been more extensive if more local government areas were included in the study. This was due to limited financial resources and lack of time.

On the whole, academic stress added to the problems but the researcher made the best efforts in optimizing the available resources and information without allowing the limitations to make the researcher lose sight of the objective of the study. In essence, these limitations do not impinge on the validity of this research study.


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