IMPERATIVE OF MAINSTREAMING

IMPERATIVE OF MAINSTREAMING PEACE BUILDING INITIATIVES INTO THE ELECTORAL SYSTEM IN NIGERIA

Professor Dakas C. J. Dakas, Ph.D, SAN*

  1. Introduction

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.

  1. 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

1

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).

2

December 16, 1966, 999 United Nations Treaty Series (1966): 171.

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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

country.

“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

observes:

The intrinsic relationship between the successful conduct

of

free,

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,

3

4

5

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).

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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

legislative process.

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

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7

8

Ibid.

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.

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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;

9

Ibid.

 

10

Peter M. Lewis, “Troubled Election Outcomes as a Threat to Democracy: A Global Perspective”, in Robert A. Pastor

(ed.), op. cit., at 16.

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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

marginalization;

ü produces an electorate that readily welcomes or acquiesces in unconstitutional

changes of government, particularly where the new regime is perceived as

Messianic;

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

corrupt);

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.

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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

following:

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

design;

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;

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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

illicit drugs.

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

11

Oguntade, JSC, Dissenting Opinion in Abubakar V Yar’Adua (2009) ALL FWLR (Pt. 457), 1, at 179.

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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

changes.

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.

12

(2009) ALL FWLR (Pt. 459), 419, at 620-621.

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3.3. The Post-Election Phase

At the post-election phase, critical peace building initiatives include the

following:

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;

and

ü Addressing the plight of victims of election-related violence.

  1. Conclusion

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.

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