History of Poor Conduct of Elections in Nigeria

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The 2003 Presidential Elections

These basic standards of a proper electioneering process are sadly missing in the Nigerian electoral process. For example, the conduct of the 2003 general elections was marred by irregularities, intimidation by the military, ballot box snatching, as well as other grievous malpractices.

This led Justice Pats-Acholonu, JSC, to condemn the lack of transparency and credibility which was characteristic in the conduct of the 2003 general elections, in the celebrated case of Buhari v Obasanjo (2005) 13 NWLR (Pt 941) 1. His Lordship, highlighted the brazen irregularities, in the following ageless words:

“While though the main appeal has failed due to what I ascribe as to the impossibility of satisfactorily proving nationwide spread of ineptitude, violence, intimidation and other acts of terrorisation as well as other barefaced acts that literally chill the bones and would as William Shakespeare said in Macbeth (“make the sitteth heart knock at my ribs against the use of nature “) some of the revelations, that is, where the few evidence was led and proved, are blood cuddling.

That in this day and age, in this country that has been independent for 45 years, we can still witness horrendous acts by security officers who ought to dutifully ensure peace and tranquility in the election process suddenly turning themselves into agents of destruction, and introduced, mayhem to what ordinarily would have been a civilised way of exercising franchise by the people who are sovereign, is regrettable. I ascribe the nefarious activities of thugs and the few security officers and party men to lack of understanding of the philosophy and ethics behind election in a democratic State, and lack of understanding of the dynamics of election processes.

It is scary to send policemen to election places when they have not been properly tutored, that in the exercise of their duty to maintain law and order in election areas, their allegiance is to the Constitution. Some of the evidence elicited are so disquieting, that one would wonder whether we have learnt, or in fact, can learn a lesson. Such inordinate and impetuous acts, are despicable.

Such mania to traduce all known civilised practices by the supporters of the parties, is reprehensible and condemnable. Some of the things that happened in the 2003 election, can be likened to what Macduff the Thane of Fife said when he saw the bloodied murdered King Duncan in Macbeth by William E. Shakespeare.”

However, despite the widespread condemnation of the conduct of the 2003 general elections in Nigeria, there was no attempt at electoral reforms, and as a result of this, four years later, Nigeria still conducted what was regarded as a most fraudulent election,

As a matter of fact, the European Union described the 2007 general elections as a sham:

“The elections were marred by very poor organisation; lack of essential transparency; widespread and procedural irregularities; substantial evidence of fraud; widespread voter disenfranchisement; lack of equal conditions for political parties and candidates; and numerous incidents of violence.” They described the election as “the worst they had ever seen anywhere in the world”, with “rampant vote rigging, violence, theft of ballot boxes and intimidation”.

(To be continued)

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“In situations of military conflict, civil strife, lawlessness, bad governance, and human rights violations, terrorists find it easier to hide, train and prepare their attacks”.

(Gijs de Vries).