ELECTORAL REFORMS IN NIGERIA
Election have meaning for most people only in a democratic context, because they lead to choice of decision makers by the majority of citizens. Elections and democracy are therefore inextricably linked. Election is a process consisting of several activities. It embodies all the entire electoral processes in any democratic dispensation.
The major purposes of elections are to;
· Ensure that freely choose those who will represent them
· Enable voters make choices among the parties, candidates’ and programmes
· Ensure that lected officials are accountable to the electorate
· Promote citizens sense of belonging in government
· Promote public confidence, trust and support for government and its programmes
· Provide the mechanism for collective efforts towards the development of the country
Problems of the previous elections in Nigeria
· Stakeholders not playing the rules of the electoral game
· Lack of the independence of the Independent National Electoral Comission (INEC)
· Thuggery and political violence
· Monetization of politics
· Godfatherism and patron-client relations at the political party level
Election Rigging In Nigeria
Election rigging to electoral malpractices which are committed with corrupt and fraudulentintention to influence an election in favour of a candidate(s) by means such as illegal voting, bribery, threats and undue influence, intimidation and other acts of coercion exerted on voters, falsification of results, fraudulent announcement of a losing candidate as winner (without altering the recorded results). Electoral malpractices are to be distinguished from mere electoral irregularities which relate to non-compliance with prescribed proceduce during elections such as late commencement of polling, voting outside the statutorily stipulated time, late delivery of electoral materials. Electoral malpractices and electoral irregularities differ not only in their nature but also in their legal consequences. While irregularities do not, in general, invalidate an election, rigging emphatically does.
Election rigging is a subversion of democracy and the constitution of the country and is therefore the gravest offence that can be committed against the citizenry of Nigeria and its constitution. It is a robbery of the people’s right to participate in their government. Election rigging is a serious problem confronting democracy and development in Nigeria andhas been perpetrated in a variable manner in successive elections – 1959, 1964, 1965, 1979, 1983, 1999, 2003 and 2007. In Nigeria, elections rigging can be traced to the 1964 general elections which was the first after the departure of the British colonialists and the 1965 region into a protracted civil disturbance and heralded the military into power in 1966.
The Second Republic (1979-1983) saw the introduction of two salient changes in the electoral system aimed at promoting nationalism. The first reform was geared towards eliminating ethnic or regional based parties with the provision that to qualifyfor registration, a political party must demonstrate country and ensuring that the party leadership and composition has national spread. The second major provision was that to be elected president, a candidate must have the highest number of votes cast and at least 25% of votes cast in at least 2/3 of the states of the federation. Unfortunately the re-election of president shehu Shagari in 1983 again saw the perfection and use of sophisticated rigging techniques first introduce into the polity during the 1964 and 1965 elections. Although all the rigging methods used in previous elections resurfaced in the 1999, 2003 and 2007 elections, the 2007 general elections were tagged as the worse, lacking in credibility and marred by violence, poor organisation, fraud, disenfranchisement of eligible voters amongst others. The election was adjudged by international observers to be below the basic international standards for democratic elections.