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                                            BY:IFEDAYO AKINWALERE
Elections in Nigeria dates as far back as 1959 in the first republic of the Nigeria, in the general election of 1959 to determine which parties would rule in the immediate postcolonial period, the major ones won a majority of seats in their regions, but none emerged powerful enough to constitute a national government.

 A coalition government was formed by the NPC and NCNC, the former having been greatly favored by the departing colonial authority. The coalition provided a measure of north-south consensus that would not have been the case if the NCNC and AG had formed a coalition. Nnamdi Azikiwe (NCNC) became the governor general (and president after the country became a - in 1963), Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (NPC) was named prime minister, and Obafemi Awolowo (AG) had, to settle for leader of the opposition. The  regional premiers were Ahmadu Bello (Northern Region, NPC), Samuel Akintola (Western Region, AG), Michael Okpara (Eastern Region, NCNC), and Dennis Osadebey (Midwestern Region, NCNC).
Next were the 1964 general elections, the first to be conducted solely by Nigerians. This was the second republic. By that time the country’s politics had become polarized into a competition between two opposing alliances. One was the Nigerian National Alliance made up of the NPC and NNDC; the other was the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA) composed of the NCNC, the AG, and their allies. 

Each of the regional parties openly intimidated its opponents in the campaigns. When it became clear that the neutrality of the Federal Electoral Commission could not be guaranteed, calls were made for the army to supervise the elections. The UPGA resolved to boycott the elections. When elections were finally held under conditions that were not free and were unfair to opponents of the regional parties, the NCNC was returned to power in the east and Midwest, while the NPC kept control of the north and was also in a position to form a federal government on its own.

 The Western Region became the “theater of war” between the NNDP (and the NPC) and the AG-UPGA. The rescheduled regional elections late in 1965 were violent. The federal government refused to declare a state of emergency and the military seized power on January 1 5, 1966. The First Republic had collapsed.

Other elections that followed were the 1979 that brought in the third republic.
This was the election that brought the first executive president of Nigeria, after
General Olusegun Obasanjo took over the mantle of leadership from late
General Murtala Mohammed and handed over to Alhaji Shehu Shagari as the first Executive President in 1979.

Next were the 1983 elections that were to usher in another democratic government.  It was not to be.  General Muhammadu Buhari led military government overthrew the Shehu Shagari young democracy and thus welcomed back the military.
Then came the 1993 elections in history of elections in Nigeria, the l99 elections is seen as the most free and fair elections ever conducted in Nigeria General Ibrahim Babangida, who overthrew the General Buhari’s Government, organized an inconclusive transition that was perceived in some quarters to deny a Yoruba, Chief M.K.O. Abiola the supposed winner to emerge as a president by the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. 

The annulment of the 1993 elections and the events that followed did not witness any e1ectons for another five years as it gave way for the military to continue until 1998.
The 1999 elections in Nigeria whether free and fair would go a long way in the history of democracy in Nigeria. The elections, which welcomed back democracy to Nigeria has succeeded in birthing another two separate terms totally eight years of uninterrupted democracy with former military ruler, General Olusegun Obasanjo (Rtd.)
There were also the 2003 elections.

 Unpopular as it largely due to the fact that it brought in the same president (Olusegun Obasanjo) and was reported to have been marred by excessive election irregularities.

The 2007 general elections in Nigeria held between April 14th and 21” 2007 have come and gone. Thirty six (35) governors were elected through voting that took place across Nigeria and as earlier taunted, PDP presidential flag bearers Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Jonathan Goodluck emerged as President and vice –president respectively.

PDP presidential candidate, Umaru Yar’Adua, easily won the election but his chief rivals for the office immediately rejected the results, and international observers said that the polls, which took place amid chaos, fraud and violence, were not credible.

The announcement of Yar’Adua as the winner of the presidential elections sets the stage for a volatile period as Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, largest oil producer and second-largest economy, tries for the first time to hand power from one elected civilian government to another and seal its transition to democracy.

The European Union election observer mission sharply criticized the conduct of the election and questioned the legitimacy of the results, which handed huge victories to Yar’Adua who won with 24,638,063 votes while his nearest rival, Muhammadu Buhari, won less than one-fourth as many votes.
Max van den Berg, chief observer for the European Union mission, said at a news conference that the elections “have fallen far short of basic international and regional standard for elections.” -
The process, he concluded, “cannot be considered to have been credible.”
Observers from the •National Democratic Institute, a pro-democracy organization that monitors elections worldwide, concluded that, “the 2007 polls represent a step backward in the conduct of elections in Nigeria.”

Nevertheless, Ken Wiwa, a spokesman for Mr. Yar’Adua, said the results were conclusive. “The election is behind us,” Mr. Wiwa said. “We are now focused on moving the country forward.”
But opposition parties and election observers said the process is far from over. Defeated candidates are now in court challenging the results preparing, arguing that the lack of organization by the nation’s Independent National Electoral Commission, vote-rigging by party officials and violence and intimidation that kept many voters from the polls were enough to annul the results in many races, including the presidential one.
Femi Falana, a prominent Nigerian lawyer and the then president of the West African Bar Association who is expected to handle several of the election cases, had said of the elections “This is just the beginning of the process; we will fight this to the very top.”The law requires that special election tribunals quickly hear challenges to election results.
European Union observers witnessed incidents of ballot-box theft, long delays in the delivery of ballots and other materials and a shortage of ballots for the presidential race, in half of the polling stations its teams visited; there was no privacy for voters to mark their ballots in secret. Observers also witnessed unused ballots being marked and stuffed into ballot boxes.

The National Assembly met immediately in an emergency session to discuss the election, though it has little power to act in election disputes, which are the responsibility of the judiciary. The senate president at that time, Ken Nnamani, though a member of the ruling ‘party highly criticized the conduct of the election.

‘‘Nigeria is entering a dangerous period that could see serious instability’’, said
Peter Lewis, head of the Africa Studies department at John’s Hopkins University, who observed the election in Abia state.
Mr. Lewis in an interview with Daily Independent, shortly after the gubernatorial elections said, “The fundamentals are not O.K.; the system is in crisis,”“There is potential for real instability.”
Ikimi and Amusu, the representatives of the AC and the ANPP at the INEC Collation Centre in Abuja, denounced the results announced by the INEC Chairman.

According to Ikimi, “In states like Edo, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Akwa Ibom etc. we know that the elections did not start even as late as 5 pm. The results collated showed that over 80 percent of the votes being counted in favour other PDP and they are totally flawed. In most of the states, only the Resident Electoral Commissioners and the PDP Agents signed the results. We have been here since yesterday (Sunday) to observe this collation and we only collated eleven states and the INEC Chairman just rushed down to declare the results and declare Umoru Yar’Adua as the winner of the military on the political scene.
The Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organization claimed that the INEC deliberately left 70 percent of the ballot papers in a warehouse in Johannesburg, South Africa. They claimed that the contractors could have freighted the entire 200-ton consignment into the country three days before the election (Thursday) but the INEC told them to bring only 30 percent of the ballot papers.
Nigeria’s Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka said the West should deny entry visas to election commissioner Maurice Iwu for his “complicity in the fraudulent elections.” He said he has heard of the financial prudence and moral uprightness of Yar’Adua. I wish he [Yar’Adua] would carry his decency even further by publicly renouncing this poisoned chalice to say: ‘I’m not a receiver of stolen goods’.”

Generally election observers in their preliminary reports on the presidential and state polling, reported mass vote rigging, incompetence by election officials, delay and intimidation emerged.
Ikimi also added, “The result sheets we viewed so far was not signed by any of our agents at the state level. They were only signed by Resident Electoral Commissioners and only the PDP agents.”
Also, Admiral Lanre  Amusu who represented the ANPP at the INEC collation centre concurred what Chief Tom Ikimi said. “I am in total agreement with what Chief Ikimi has just said. Only results from 13 states and they were collated and signed by the Resident Electoral Commissioners in the States and the PDP Agents. Our agents did not sign these results.”

The national chairman of the Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA), Chief Olu Falae, with leaders of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), the Action Congress (AC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), National Advance Party (NAP) and the National Democratic Party (NDP), has called for the setting up of an Interim National Government to conduct credible elections in the country.

Falae explained that the country needed an ING to guard against the emergence of the military on the political scene.

The Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organization claimed that the INEC deliberately left 70 per cent of the ballot papers in a warehouse in Johannesburg, South Africa. They claimed that the contractors could have freighted the entire 200-ton consignment into the country three days before the election (Thursday) but the INEC told them to bring only 30 percent of the ballot papers.
Nigeria’s Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka said the West should deny entry visas to election commissioner Maurice Iwu for his “complicity in the fraudulent elections.” He said he has heard of the financial prudence and moral uprightness of Ya’Adua. “I wish he [Yar’Adua] would carry his decency even further by publicly renouncing this poisoned chalice to say: ‘I’m not a receiver of stolen goods’.”

Generally election observers in their preliminary reports on the presidential and state polling, reported mass vote rigging, incompetence by election officials, delay and intimidation emerged.

The April 2007 General elections have come and gone. The losers are gnashing their teeth and have turned Iwu and INEC bashing into their major preoccupation; the winners have been tested both at the polls and at the tribunal and have not been found wanting while many who “won” through the back door by circumventing some of the rules have had their “victories” upturned by the polls tribunals, including five state governors -Kogi, Anambra, Rivers, Adamawa and Kebbi - so far.

According to Jega (2011), “as has been observed by some political analysts, Nigerians have for long aspired for democracy and they have been repeatedly frustrated. For nearly 30 years out of Nigeria’s 50 years of independence from colonial rule, the frustration of Nigerians with shattered democratic aspirations were caused by authoritarian military regimes, which engineered transition to civil rule programmes to gain legitimacy but then systematically subverted these to continue to hold onto power by military fiat. In the last 12 years, however, i.e. since return to civil rule in May 1999, the frustration of Nigerians with the subversion of their democratic aspirations has largely been occasioned by civilians in power; essentially reckless politicians or ‘militicians’ who, possessed by a ‘do or die’ mindset in politics, abused, misused and generally undermined the political and electoral processes to hold onto power arbitrarily, but hiding under periodic, procedural electoral ‘victories’ to ‘legitimize’ their actions. Indeed, in no sector has the frustration of Nigerians been as manifest as in the electoral process in the past decade.

Elections have, historically, been avenues which offer opportunities to citizens in democracies to exercise choices of candidates and policies to govern their polities and satisfy their needs and aspirations. 
However, how elections are conducted, and how citizens manage to utilize them to exercise real, substantive, choices, to qualitatively influence politics and governance, to a large extent determine the phase, tempo and direction of democratization and democratic consolidation, or lack of it, if conducted properly and managed well, with greater enlightened participation by citizens and good conduct by all ranges of stakeholders, especially the politicians/contestants, elections catalyze good governance and facilitate democratic development and consolidation, more so in countries said to be in transition to democracy. However, if elections are poorly managed, fraudulently conducted and characterized by intense conflicts and violence, they become mere procedural ‘democratic’ rituals of no consequence insofar as good governance and democratic consolidation are concerned. 

Indeed, the more fraudulent and conflict-ridden elections are, the higher the chances of such elections merely perpetuating arbitrary rule and undermining transition to democracy, and creating instability in the polity. Such elections could result in reversal of democratization and entrenchment of authoritarian rule.

Thus, well-conducted, competitive, free, fair, peaceful and credible elections are necessary, though not sufficient conditions for democratic development and consolidation. Otherwise, flawed elections constrain, obstruct and generally undermine the prospects of genuine democratization.

In the Nigerian case, observers have noted that, from the first to the thirdrepublics, regrettably, elections have increasingly essentially been mere rituals,with no substantive democratic outcomes, obstructing rather than nurturing democratization. Some analysts have described successive elections in Nigeria as basically a sham; convoluted processes through which rogues and crooks have controlled, muddled up and dominated the political and governance terrains, and entrenched themselves in power, cornering state resources for personal/private uses.

 In effect, the electoral processes have been misused to subvert, rather than nurture and promote the democratic aspirations of Nigerians.
 Instead of good democratic governance, in which societal resources are equitably deployed to address the fundamental needs and aspirations of the majority of the citizens, Nigerian elections have invariably, with few if any exceptions, spewed up and entrenched undemocratic and self-serving characters into public, positions, which they systematically but recklessly misuse.
In the period under civilian transition to democracy in particular, i.e., from 1999 - 2007, Nigerian elections became progressively worse, insofar as democratic content and popular choices are concerned: Increasingly, not only were citizens disenfranchised, they on their own began to lose confidence in the process, increasingly became indifferent and voluntarily withdrawn or disengaged from it.

 The 2007 elections, perhaps, illustrated the crudest manifestations of all that has ever been wrong with elections in Nigeria, in terms of the extent and magnitude of poor, fraudulent conduct and conflict- ridden nature of electoral politics in Nigeria: from ballot box snatching and stuffing, manipulation , of the party nomination process, imposition of candidates, to incumbentexecutive interference in all aspects of the electoral process, electoral fraud aided and abetted by high echelons of the electionmanagement body, use of security agencies by incumbents to intimidate opponents and ensure/assure electoral ‘victory’, and use of thugs to interfere with the electoral process, and so on. The impunity with which these dastardly acts were committed, and the evidence were profound and overwhelming, and Nigerians and friends of Nigeria in the international community were so disgusted with what happened that, virtually in unison, they demanded for reforms to bring about free, fair and credible elections. 

Late President Yar’Adua, arguably the key beneficiary of the 2007 electoral process, immediately acceded to the strident calls for electoral reforms and on the day of his inauguration, committed himself to reforming the electoral process. He subsequently initiated the reform process, with the setting up of the Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) headed by Hon. Justice Mohammed LawalUwais. Since then, President Goodluck Jonathan has contributed his own, in cooperation with the leadership and members of the National Assembly, to drive the electoral reform process forward, by accepting and legislating upon some of the recommendations of the ERC and appointing resident electoral commissioners and national commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Thus, the new (NEC was inaugurated on June 30, 2010, following what can be termed as a national (and international?) consensus for reform measures that would bring about free, fair, competitive and credible elections in Nigeria. It was inaugurated amidst great popular expectations for getting things right, this time around. 

The new Commission received overwhelming support and encouragement from a wide range of stakeholders domestically and internationally. It commenced work greatly inspired, and with commitment toobey the rules, to be impartial, non-partisan, to create a level playing field for all political parties / contestants and to be open and accessible all stakeholders.
At the time the new Commission was inaugurated, the then existing legal framework required that elections be held in January 2011. Initially, the Commission tried to operate within the existing legal framework, within an extremely tight time-frame; but especially when it became clear that a new register of voters was needed and had to be compiled, the Commission had to request for extension of time to enable doing a good job, which required necessary amendments to both the Electoral Act and the Constitution. Nigerians united and rallied around the Commission and the National Assembly, which within a record time in Nigerian legislative history, effected the required amendments. These provided the breathing space, which enabled the Commission to compile a new register of voters from January 16 to February 8, and to conduct the elections in April 2011.

One of the first things that the new Commission did was a comprehensive review of the Register of Voters, which it inherited and which was compiled by the former Commission in 2006. Given the inadequacies identified with that register (e.g., missing names, missing photographs, multiple registrants, under- aged registrants, fake names, photos from Almanac and portraits, etc.), compiling a new Register of Voters became absolutely necessary. A credible Register of voters is a necessary requirement for credible elections, hence, the decision to do significant expenditure of time, energy and resources in the production of a new much more credible Register of Voters prior to, and as a precondition for, the elections.

In compiling the register of voters the Commission opted for an electronically generated one, containing essential biometric data captured using laptop- based Direct Data Capture Machines (DDCMs). And in view of the time constraints, the Commission adopted a methodology involving the following:
· Procurement and deployment of DDCMs for each of the 120,000 PUs, plus 10% redundancies (132,000).
·Recruitment, training and deployment of 400,000 ad hoc staff, mostly NYSC. members and students of federal tertiary institutions.
· Establishment of 9000 RACs, for field administration and services.

Before embarking on the registration of voters, the Commission verified the number and exact location of all the polling units throughout the country.

In approximately three (3) weeks, in spite of formidable challenges, the Commission successfully registered 73.5 million eligible voters who are 18 years and above and issued each with a temporary (cold-laminated) bar-coded voter’s card, with unique identification numbers,a  huge national asset of databases in each.State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and at the national level in Abuja, have been established with equally secure disaster recovery Centers. From this, INEC has the largest electronic database in the country presently, with valuable biometric information (names, photos, addresses, fingerprints and telephone numbers). The customized registration software used was developed for INEC by a group of brilliant Nigerian software engineers and the Advanced Fingerprint Identification Software (AFIS) used enabled quick and easy detection and elimination of multiple registrants. Over 800,000 culprits were identified and removed from the register, some of whom are being prosecuted and many more of whom would still face prosecution.

Conduct of the April 2011 Elections
As is generally recognized, a better future can hardly be assured if appropriate lessons are not learnt from the past. The Commission, therefore, identified significant lessons learn from the past elections and factored them into the preparations for the conduct of the April 2011 elections. What undermined the credibility of past elections were itemized and effort made to address them, and good practices were adopted/retained and improved upon, In addition, strenuous effort was made to creatively and pragmatically adapt/introduce new measures and procedures drawn from comparative global experiences, to bring additional transparency and credibility to the electoral process. In general, specific issues and concerns addressed include:
·How to prevent multiple voting, snatching and stuffing of Ballot Boxes
·How to detect / prevent use of fake Ballot Papers
·How to detect / prevent fraudulent declaration of false results How to ensure secure and timely distribution of election materials, as well as a secure voting environment
· How to bring greater transparency and accountability in voting and result collation procedures, by minimizing the role of career/permanent INEC staff in collation and announcement of results.
New measures introduced include the following:
·Additional security features and unique serial numbering andidentification for Ballot Boxes.
Additional security features, serial numbering and color coding of
Ballot Papers, which were produced on constituency basis:
·A new voting procedure called Re-Modified Open Ballot System(RE MO BS)
·A phased and decentralized system of distribution of election materials.
·Greater coordination of role of security agencies in elections.

Use of people with integrity as collation and returning officers mostly chosen from tertiary institutions (Senior Lecturers /Professors as LG and constituency COs and ROs and VCs / DVCs as presidential State COs and gubernatorial ROs).
·Facilitation of transparent, timely collation and announcement of results, with audio-visual recording and live media coverage.
The Commission’s logistics and operational planning were undertaken with Professionalism, efficiency and the seriousness that they deserve. Extensive assistance was received from the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, the Police, and other security agencies, as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria, which received and kept all sensitive materials in their vaults in the various states in the federation until they were needed and collected by designated INEC officials”.


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