Civic Engagement and its Role in Mitigating Electoral Violence in Nigeria: Implications for the 2015 General Elections
27 Pages Posted: 23 Dec 2014
Date Written: December 21, 2014
In May 1999, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, made an epochal transition to democratic civilian rule following roughly thirty-three years of military dictatorship. Since 1999, Nigeria has held four successive elections, which have all been (more or less) undermined by electoral violence. Despite this recurrent and disturbing trend of electoral violence, few works have attempted to systematically engage with three key questions: why is electoral violence a recurrent phenomenon in Nigeria? Why have there been so few constitutional provisions to mitigate its recurrence? What lessons can be learned from Nigeria’s turbulent electoral past, especially with regards to the role of civic engagement? These are the core questions this paper seeks to address. This paper draws its data primarily from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)-Electoral Violence Education and Resolution (EVER) programme, with which the authors were actively involved during the 2007 and 2011 general elections in Nigeria. To balance any inconsistencies, data derived from a content analysis of IFES reports and cumulative observations will be triangulated and cross-validated with reports of different Election Observation Missions to Nigeria (1999-2011), as well as reports from local and international observation teams and key International NGOs working in the areas of elections and democracy in Nigeria, including National Democratic Institute (NDI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and International Republican Institute (IRI). The paper thus argues that as Nigeria prepares for 2015 elections, important lessons should be adapted from the IFES-EVER project to ensure robust civic engagement in preventing and mitigating electoral related violence. The use of electoral support networks, link with Nigerian police and other security agencies, constant engagement and information sharing between INEC and all relevant stakeholders as well as biweekly reportage and publication of incidents of electoral violence with names of perpetrators will go a long way in preventing and mitigating incidents of electoral violence in Nigeria 2015 General Elections. Furthermore, crucial attention should also be paid to Nigerian legal and constitutional provisions on electoral violence with the view to reviewing the standards and level of sanctions to perpetrators.
Keywords: Elections, Electoral Violence, Democracy
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