IMPERATIVE OF MAINSTREAMING PEACE BUILDING INITIATIVES INTO THE ELECTORAL SYSTEM IN NIGERIA
Professor Dakas C. J. Dakas, Ph.D, SAN*
Nigeria has, over the years, grappled with the challenges of conducting free and fair elections and, concomitantly, raising the bar of its engagement with the democratic process. In spite of some modest successes recorded over the years, there is widespread perception – and apprehension – that politicians rarely win elections in Nigeria. Instead, it is generally believed that the electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) or the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC), declares a winner whose dubious electoral “victory” is, in turn, often validated by the tribunals/courts. Thus, according to this belief, the independence of the electoral body rests on nothing other than its nomenclature. Its typical caricature is that of an adjunct of the executive arm or the ruling party. Any claim to independence is dismissed as self-delusion.
The typical Nigerian politician is regrettably not a statesman/stateswoman (The difference between a typical politician and a statesman/stateswoman is very fundamental: While a typical politician is obsessed about the next election, a statesman/stateswoman is concerned about and plans for the next generation). For a typical Nigerian politician, the golden rule of politics is victory at all costs and by all means necessary. The process does not matter. The process is, therefore, desecrated with impunity, often leading to widespread violence and needless loss of lives and properties. The end, in typical Machiavellian fashion, justifies the means.
Given the foregoing, it is not surprising that a July 9th 2018 report in the Punch newspaper authored by Adelani Adepegba titled “Ekiti election: Police deploy 30,000 personnel, two choppers, others” captures the security arrangements for a typical Nigerian election in mind boggling terms:
“The police have deployed 30,000 operatives, two helicopters and 250 patrol vehicles, including five Armoured Personnel Carriers, for the July 14 governorship election in Ekiti State. The Force Public Relations Officer, acting DCP Jimoh Moshood, said in a statement in Abuja on Sunday that the security operation for the poll would be supervised by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Operations, Joshiak Habila, who would be assisted by an Assistant Inspector-General of Police, four Commissioners of Police, eight Deputy Commissioners of Police and 18 Assistant Commissioners of Police. He explained that each Senatorial district would be manned by a Commissioner of Police.
‘To ensure adequate security and safety of life and property before, during and after the elections, the IGP has approved the deployment of 30,000 police personnel in Ekiti State for the election.
‘Four policemen and two others from other security agencies will be on duty at each polling unit throughout the state. The Police Mobile Force,to be headed by a very senior officer, will provide security at the results collation centres,’ the statement explained.
The deployment, the police said, also included 10 Armoured Personnel vehicles, Police Mobile Force Units, Counter-Terrorism Unit, the Special Protection Unit, the Anti-Bomb Squad, conventional policemen, the Armament Unit, Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department and the sniffer dogs section. The force stated that other security and safety agencies who are members of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security in the state would complement the Nigeria Police during the election. The police added that threat assessment had been carried out in the state and all identified flashpoints and trouble-prone areas had been addressed, stressing that it would deal with anyone or group ‘no matter how highly placed whose utterances or conduct are contrary to the electoral Act or that could incite disturbance of public peace, law and order before, during or after the election.’
Moshood explained that special security identification tags would be worn by all the security personnel on election duty, insisting that no operative would be allowed to move to any other location during the election period other than where he was deployed.
‘As part of additional measures to guarantee a peaceful and credible election, the IGP will on July 9 attend a stakeholder and peace accord meeting of all the 35 political parties participating in the election and their candidates, election officials, observers and other accredited stakeholders in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State,’ Moshood explained.
He declared that security personnel attached to public office holders and politicians would not be allowed to follow their principals to the polling units or collation centres.
‘Commissioners of Police and their personnel in states close to Ekiti State, such as Ondo, Osun, Kwara, Kogi, Ogun, Edo and Oyo States have been directed by the IG to be on the red alert with their personnel. ‘Restriction of vehicular movement in and out of Ekiti State will commence from 12- midnight of Friday, 13th July 2018 till the end of the election. Travellers and other road users are advised to make use of alternative routes. However, those on essential duties…will be granted passage,’ the police said.
Against the backdrop of the foregoing, it is imperative to mainstream peace building initiatives into the electoral system and thereby create a conducive environment for the conduct of free and fair elections, devoid of rancour, bitter or violence, in Nigeria.
Background Setting: The Democratic Entitlement and the Imperative of a Credible Electoral System in Nigeria
The vigor of…democracy rests on the vote of each citizen…
Democracy is endangered when people believe that their votes do not
matter or are not counted correctly.1
Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, enshrines the
right of everyone to “take part in the government of his country, directly or through
freely chosen representatives” and the “right of equal access to public service in his
country”. More specifically, Article 21(3) is to the effect that “[t]he will of the people
shall be the basis of the authority of government”. The will of the people, the Article
further provides, “shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections…”
Furthermore, Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, 1966,2 avails “every citizen” the “right and the opportunity”, without
distinction and without “unreasonable restrictions”, to (a) take part in the conduct of
public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives; (b) vote and to be
Commission on Federal Electoral Reform, Building Confidence in U.S. Elections: Report of the Commission on
Federal Electoral Reform, September 2005, at 1; https:// www.american.edu/Carter-Baker (accessed on July 17, 2010).
December 16, 1966, 999 United Nations Treaty Series (1966): 171.
elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage
and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the
electors; and (c) have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his/her
“Free and fair elections”, in the words of the Justice Uwais-led Electoral Reform
Committee, “are the cornerstone of every democracy and the primary mechanism for
exercising the principle of sovereignty of the people” and are “therefore a crucial
requirement for good governance in any democracy”.3
A flawed electoral process invariably produces a flawed outcome that negatively
impacts on the quality of representation in governance. As the Committee rightly
The intrinsic relationship between the successful conduct
fair, credible and acceptable elections and the institutionalization and
consolidation of democracy in nations is widely acknowledged…
[E]lections are fundamental building blocks of democracy. Failure to
conduct credible and acceptable elections in a polity often generates
outcomes that stunt the growth of democracy, on the one hand, and the
development of the nation, on the other.4
Regrettably, with a few notable exceptions, “[t]he aspirations of Nigerians for
a stable democracy have been constantly frustrated by, among other things, poor
administration and the conduct of elections,”5 having regard to the fact that “election
administration has been profoundly inefficient, characterized by muddled processes,
Report of the Electoral Reform Committee, Vol. 1, Main Report, December 2008, at 1.
Ibid., at 76.
Attahiru M. Jega, “Election Administration in Nigeria – Organizing The 2007 Elections” in Robert A. Pastor (ed.),
Nigeria: Electoral Reform: Building Confidence for the Future, Report of a Conference Co-hosted by Shehu Musa
Yar’Adua Foundation & American University Center for Democracy and Election Management Report, at Shehu Musa
Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, from March 17-19,
https://www.american.edu/ia/cdem/pdfs/aaun_conf_proceed.pdf (accessed July 25, 2010).
2005, at 30:
and lacking in the desirable attributes of ‘free and fair’ elections, a situation which
often induces acrimony and even violence.”6 It was this realization that prompted
former President Yar’Adua’s undertaking to “raise the quality and standard of our
general elections and thereby deepen our democracy”7, which he fulfilled, in part,
through the establishment of the Justice Uwais-led Electoral Reform Panel and the
submission of some of its recommendations to the National Assembly, with a view to
the reform of Nigeria’s electoral system. Unfortunately, apart from the recent
minimal amendments to the Nigerian Constitution which, though commendable, fall
short of expectations, comprehensive electoral reform has been held hostage by the
horse trading, political gerrymandering and filibustering that often characterize the
Given this reality, the imperative of a credible electoral system must firmly and
consistently be inscribed on the agenda of national discourse and concrete action in
Nigeria. In more specific terms, a flawed electoral system which, in turn, undermines
public confidence in the system:
ü subverts the sovereignty of the people (Under section 14(2)(a) of the Constitution
of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, “sovereignty belongs to the
people…from whom government…derives all its powers and authority.”);
ü undermines the legitimacy of the government. The declaration of a candidate as
the winner of an election and the validation of that declaration by a court or
tribunal, without more, confers only legality on the outcome. As noted elsewhere,
“[a] government that has neither a mandate nor an agenda anchored on the
welfare of its people is like a rudderless ship that sails against tempestuous tides
in a rocky terrain.”8 Good governance is anchored on a leadership whose
President Umaru Yar’Adua, Inaugural Address on Assumption of Office on May 29, 2007, quoted in ibid., at 6.
Dakas CJ Dakas, “A Panoramic Survey of the Jurisprudence of Indian and Nigerian Courts on the Justiciability of
Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy”, in Epiphany Azinge & Bolaji Owosanoye (ed.),
Justiciability and Constitutionalism: An Economic Analysis of Law (Lagos: NIALS Press, 2010), 262 at 321.
overriding consideration is the welfare and security of its people. Indeed, as
section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution provides, “the security and welfare
of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” Any government that
abdicates this sacred obligation is deluding itself and precariously basking on a
volcano. A government that is detached, aloof and insensitive to the welfare of its
people has, therefore, lost its mission and focus.9
ü renders the task of governance very difficult and perilous, because the
electorate believe that they owe no allegiance to the government. Without
legitimacy, it is very difficult for the government to mobilize the citizens to
channel their energies and resources towards the development of the country. A
legitimate government earns the authority to govern. A legal government, bereft
of legitimacy, governs by the sheer force of power;
ü constricts the democratic space and, in turn, stunts the growth and
development of democracy;
ü engenders voter apathy. Just as no discerning investor invests in the stock of a
company whose fortunes are on a downward spiral, a discerning electorate will
not “invest” in an electoral system which is unlikely to produce the much-vaunted
dividends of democracy. As Lewis rightly points out,
Citizens are unlikely to invest their hopes and aspirations in the
political process if they believe that outcomes are pre-ordained, and
their voice does not matter. When the public becomes disillusioned by
a flawed electoral process, they are likely to withdraw into apathy or
cynicism, sometimes becoming aggravated and militant10;
Peter M. Lewis, “Troubled Election Outcomes as a Threat to Democracy: A Global Perspective”, in Robert A. Pastor
(ed.), op. cit., at 16.
ü occasions election boycotts, in which case the outcome is unlikely to represent the
will of the people. In jurisdictions where a particular voting percentage is required
before an election is adjudged valid, this often necessitates run-off elections at
great human and material costs;
ü aggravates political enmity, as the loser sees himself/herself as a victim of
personal and institutional conspiracy. Where, however, the process is credible,
even the loser is satisfied with the outcome;
ü aggravates the plight (and often militant responses) of minority groups for whom
the outcome of the election is further proof of their emasculation and
ü produces an electorate that readily welcomes or acquiesces in unconstitutional
changes of government, particularly where the new regime is perceived as
ü generates avoidable, costly and rancorous election petitions, whose outcome
sometimes raise more questions than answers (especially where the
courts/tribunals give conflicting and inexplicable decisions or are perceived as
ü generates violence before, during and after elections. Instability in the polity, in
turn, undermines local and foreign investments and concomitantly stunts
economic growth and development.
III. Election Peace Building Initiatives: Typology and Phases
Given the apprehension that often characterizes the electoral process in Nigeria, it
is imperative to mainstream peace building initiatives into the electoral system and
concomitantly engender violence-free elections.
With varying degrees of overlap, election peace building initiatives are three-fold:
at the pre-election phase, the election phase and the post-election phase.
3.1. The Pre-Election Phase
At the pre-election phase, the necessary peace building initiatives include the
ü Ensuring that the legal framework and institutional design of the electoral process
address the challenge of impunity that often bedevils and undermines the
credibility of the electoral system;
ü Inclusion of conflict prevention and mitigation strategies in the electoral process
ü Voter-focused strategies that underscore the imperative of violence-free elections;
ü Engender measures that inspire confidence in the electoral process, such as
exhibition of impartiality, openness and transparency, etc;
ü Stakeholder engagement with key actors in the electoral process, such as security
agencies, political parties, religious leaders, traditional institutions, domestic and
international observers, civil society organizations, etc;
ü Encouraging political parties and their candidates to sign accords and adhere to
their terms before, during and after the elections;
ü Capacity building of key actors in the electoral process, especially on risk
assessment and other conflict prevention, mitigation and management strategies;
ü Putting in place effective early warning mechanisms (EWS) through seamless
operation of its interlocking parts (risk knowledge, monitoring, response
capability and warning communication);
ü Proactive measures to nip potential conflict challenges in the bud;
ü Ensuring that political campaigns are issue-based;
ü Stemming the tide of hate speeches;
ü Addressing the challenge of Nigeria’s WMDs, i.e., the manipulation of religion,
ethnicity and other sectional fault lines;
ü Addressing the challenge of fake news, especially on the social media;
ü Ensuring internal democracy in the operations of political parties;
ü Inter-agency collaboration and partnership, e.g., with peace and conflict
resolution agencies, such as the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution,
Plateau State Peace Building Agency;
ü Collaboration with security agencies to address the challenge of the proliferation
of small and light weapons; and
ü Collaboration with the NDLEA to address the challenge of the prevalence of
3.2. The Election Phase
At the election phase, the following peace building initiatives are critical:
ü The election managers must inspire confidence in the electoral process. The
election managers must exhibit integrity, fairness, impartiality, independence,
patriotic zeal, etc. A situation where an electoral umpire, ostensibly acting the
script of an overbearing and vindictive executive, descends into the arena, shifts
the goal post in the course of the game or refuses to provide a level playing field
for the electoral contest, as was typical of the Maurice Iwu-led INEC, endangers
democracy and the entire polity. For instance, in the scathing words of Oguntade,
JSC11, the Maurice Iwu-led INEC “willfully and recklessly” attempted to
Oguntade, JSC, Dissenting Opinion in Abubakar V Yar’Adua (2009) ALL FWLR (Pt. 457), 1, at 179.
exclude a particular candidate from the 2007 presidential elections and “persisted
in the design to exclude” him “even if it meant frittering away a lot of taxpayers’
money.” On the other hand, even where the integrity of the election managers is
not in doubt, we must look beyond them as individuals and, more importantly,
situate them in an institutional context. This reinforces the need to build credible
and sustainable institutions that transcend the vagaries of regime and personnel
ü The integrity of electoral materials, such as ballot papers and ballot boxes, must
not be compromised. As Onnoghen, JSC, pointed out in his dissenting opinion in
Buhari V INEC:
…you cannot conduct an election properly so called without valid
ballot papers…How is one to know which ballot papers were sent to
Sokoto, Katsina, Ebonyi etc., when the ballot papers were not in
booklet form and numbered serially? Even within the particular State
where the ballot papers are sent for election, how do we know if ballot
papers meant for one Local Government Area or ward are not diverted
and used in another or even not used at all but stuffed into the ballot
boxes and counted as votes? How can we determine a genuine ballot
paper from fake one…?12
ü The polling day activities, including the casting of votes, the collation of results,
the announcement of results, etc, must be transparent and free of manipulation,
intimidation, violence, corruption and other electoral offences; and
ü All valid votes must count and all the election materials must be accounted for in
a transparent manner.
(2009) ALL FWLR (Pt. 459), 419, at 620-621.
3.3. The Post-Election Phase
At the post-election phase, critical peace building initiatives include the
ü The credibility of post-election grievance remedial mechanisms;
ü Transitional justice mechanisms (e.g. truth and reconciliation measures);
ü ADR Mechanisms, e.g. mediation and conciliation;
ü Electoral offenders must be promptly and vigorously prosecuted and punished;
ü Addressing the plight of victims of election-related violence.
In Resolution 43/157 of December 8, 1988, the United Nations General Assembly
expresses the conviction that:
periodic and genuine elections are a necessary and indispensable
element of sustained efforts to protect the rights and interests of the
governed and that, as a matter of practical experience, the right of
everyone to take part in the government of his or her country is a
crucial factor in the effective enjoyment by all of a wide range of other
human rights and fundamental freedoms, including political,
economic, social, and cultural rights.
The quality of the electoral process is critical to its outcome. When an election is
neither periodic nor genuine and the public loses confidence in the electoral system,
democracy is in peril. It is, therefore, imperative to mainstream peace building
initiatives into the electoral system, inspire public confidence in the system and
deepen our democracy.