POLITICAL VIOLENCE AND THE 2015 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN NIGERIA: A CASE STUDY RIVERS STATE
No Community or society can progress or develop without its individual being first developed. However, the individual cannot be developed in an atmosphere of full deprivation , frustration and victimization.Hence, in a society that is characterized by these vices, violence and revolt is a sine-qua-non and trends to be an end product readily available to those facing such situations. As such, we can posit that politics and violence are intertwined.The objective was to examine the prospect of political violence in and the factors responsible for the outbreak of violence in the 2015 Gubernatorial Elections in Rivers State. The researcher used the group theory as itstheoretical framework because of group and individual interest used in achieving theirpolitical ambitions. Data for the research were collected from primary and secondarysources. Relevant information gathered from primary sources involved the use ofstructured questionnaire and oral interviews were conducted .Thedata from primary and oral interviews were analyzed using frequency tables andpercentages. The analysis of the result shows that; ethno-religious consideration, lack ofpolitical will by government in implementing committee recommendations haveimpacted negatively on the electoral process in the 2016 Gubernatorial elections inRivers State.
Thus, the work is divided into five chapters; chapter one is a precursor, while chapter two reviews relevant literature, chapter three dwells on the Research methodology. Chapter fouer on the other hand, takes a cursory look at Thepresentation and data analysis of data. Lastly, chapter five is a round up of the earlier chapters. It summarizes the issues contained in the preceding chapters of this work, concludes the issues and proffers recommendations.Based on these findings it is recommended that there should be moreenlightenment campaigns to sensitize Nigerians on the dangers of political violence.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Table of contents
Background of the study
Statement of problem
Aims and Objectives of Research
Significance of the study
Scope of the study
Definition of terms
The concept of violence
Typologies of violence
Types of political violence
Political violence in Nigeria
The human right impact of political violence
Political violence in Rivers State
Causes of Political violence
Implications of political violence
Design of the study
Population of the study
Sample size and sample techniques
Method of data collection
Validity and reliability instrument
Administration of instrument
Method of data analysis
PRESENTATION AND DATA ANALYSIS
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Violence is an ubiquitous phenomenon in every society and every sphere ofsocial life. It is not restricted to the political sphere alone. It cuts across every aspect ofhuman existence. This means that political violence is just a subset of violence. It takes many forms including kidnapping, assassination, arson, thuggery etc. This shows that we are in a violent world and the tendency to be violent increases by the day. Violence has no territorial boundary. It is as universal as it predates modernity. For instance,Ekiran (2006:286) notes that both the Biblical and Quaranic accounts of creation and theevents that followed in the Garden of Eden particularly Adam and Eve’s refusal to obeyGod’s simple instruction, amounts to violence of a sort.
Rejection of a superior’s injunction is tantamount to violent behavior; becausethe word violence has its roots from violation or infringement (Ninalowo, 2004; 18). Sowhen one violates or infringes on a laid down principle, it amounts to violence.
Therefore violence can be described as an unruly behavior perpetrated to express angerand dissatisfaction over some social issues which the perpetrators felt have affected unlikely to affect them in one way or another (Ekiran, 2006:285). It is an aggressivebehavior which more often than not involves physical combat which could inflict bodilyinjuries on both perpetrators and innocent people. It is an ill wind that blows no one any good.
With some degree of accuracy or certainty one could say that one type ofviolence or another is to be found in every human society. In other words, even the advanced countries and developing countries alike are not immune to violence. InNigeria, violence is commonly used as a political tool to achieve the perpetrators’ selfishends. This usually occurs during elections when one government is about to hand over power to another. The use of violence during elections has become a common feature ofthe Nigerian electoral process.
Elections are regarded as the hallmark of democratic governance in everydemocratic society. This is because elections are one of the ways through which peopleengage in political participation. Elections have become the most acceptable method bywhich citizens of an ever increasing number of political systems choose their leaders.
The appeal of elections lies principally in the opportunity that it provides for an entireelectorate to participate in choosing those that should govern them in a simple andpeaceful exercise (Momoh, 2005; 31).
Elections also provide the people with the opportunity to indicate their preferenceamong the policies and programmes presented to them by the rival leadership elementscontesting for political power (Ayeni – Akeke, 2008:27). Elections may also enable thepeople to remove unpopular leaders or force elected officials to listen to theirgrievances, particularly between elections. Most elected public officers are alwaysconscious of when their terms are over, they would need to fall back to the people torenew their mandate. Therefore, the fear that they might be rejected if they fail to heedto the complaints of the people in non-election years, makes them to pay attention to theviews and aspirations of the electorate.
Of all the functions that elections perform, it is the opportunity that it provides forthe people to choose their leader that is most emphasized. Yet the extent to which isprovides this opportunity varies from one political system to another. For example, in Totalitarian political systems, election is the means by which the leadership seeks toconfer legitimacy on the regime and government as well as the contestants nominated to face the electorate for approval (Lipjhart, 1994:48). It also serves as one of the means by which the government socializes the masses and mobilizes them to support itspolicies. In contrast, democratic political systems that permits open competition useelections to provide the people with the chance to choose between alternative leadershipcandidates and policies. This does not however mean that it is in all open andcompetitive political systems that election performs this function effectively and to someextent the effectiveness of elections as a vehicle of choice for the ordinary citizen is influenced by various factors e.g. whether the political parties provide distinctalternative leadership materials and programs etc. (Lipjhart, 1994:48).
The foregoing indicates that elections are a complex set of activities withdifferent variables that act and feed one another. It involves the participation of thepeople in the act of choosing their leaders and their own participation in governance (T.M.G., 2003:11). Elections are not necessarily about Election Day activities althoughit forms an important component. It encompasses activities before, during and afterelections. It involves the legal and constitutional framework of elections which are theregistration of political parties, party campaigns, the activities of electronic and printmedia in terms of access; it includes campaign financing, the activities of securityagencies and the government in power. It includes the authenticity and genuineness ofvoters register; the independence or lack of it of electoral agencies and organs. It includes the liberalism or otherwise of the political process in the country and theindependence of adjudicating bodies of elections (T.M.G., 2003:11).
During the last fifty four years, General Elections have been conducted eleventimes in Nigeria at irregular intervals: 1951, 1954, 1959, 1964, 1979, 1983, 1991/1993, 1997, 1998/99, and 2003 (Kurfi, 2005) and 2007. The first four were conducted underthe parliamentary system while the rest were held under the Presidential system ofgovernment. It is also important to state here that elections in Nigeria have always beencharacterized by several irregularities, which have always been politically motivated andthese have led to violence which has taken an appalling toll on human lives andproperty. There have always been widespread administrative failings, proceduralirregularities, and intentional efforts to carry out ballot fraud etc. The result of these isthat the general public’s faith and confidence in the fairness of the country’s electoral process suffers (TMG, 2003:12).
The build-up to the 2015 General Election in Nigeria has been marred by some violence. The CLEENFoundation Security Threat Assessment published in March 2015 found 15 states to be on the red threatlevel. On the other hand, in its Pre-Election Report and Advisory on Violence in Nigeria’s 2015 GeneralElections NHRC documented that at least 58 persons have been killed in elections and politically relatedviolence in Nigeria. More so, nearly 2 million people have been displaced in the North Eastern part ofNigeria as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency.
The March 28th Presidential Election has been hailed in many quarters as being largely peaceful and freeof post-election violence. Some attribute this relative peace to the laudable decision of President Jonathanto concede the election even before the official final results were announced, while others attribute theoutcome to the public commitment made by the key contenders to accept the outcome of the electionsand their charge to their supporters to eschew violence.
Ahead of the Gubernatorial Elections however, key concerns remain for public safety and security inNigeria. The gubernatorial elections present security challenges considering a number of factors namely:
a) The likelihood of political parties to cling to, or win new states after consideration of the outcome of thepresidential polls;
b) The presence of local dynamics which might not have been in play in the presidentialelections –including zoning of candidacy, power of incumbency as well as pressures to install a preferredcandidate.
This policy brief summarizes the risk of electoral violence ahead of the gubernatorial electionsand presents recommendations.
From the recent Security Threat Assessment, 15 states are at risk of electoral violence in Nigeria. TheNHRC advisory further emphasized the conflict risk potential of 3 states out of the 15 identified in theSTA. During and following the presidential polls however, localized conflicts have been reported in somestates of the federation including Rivers, Imo, Edo and states in the North Eastern part of the country.
Boko Haram terrorists are suspected to have detonated a bomb killing about 20 in Gombe State as well asa number of election-day attacks.
In Benue State, violence was reported also on election-day. Series of attacks were also reported in Rivers State on election-day. In Rivers, the situation is thought to have escalated with continued attacks andviolence being reported in the state. According to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers, 55 of itssupporters have been killed in electoral violence in the state. At least 124 cases of electoral violence arecurrently being investigated by the Nigeria Police Force with some perpetrators already charged to court.
Elections are often surrounded by some degree of tension and risk of violence in Nigeria. The followingstates have been identified as high risk states for electoral violence as we get closer to the gubernatorialelections coming up on the 11th April, 2015 are Benue, Nasarawa, Niger Plateau, Adamawa, Borno, Yobe,Taraba, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta, Lagos, Ekiti, Oyo, Abia and Ebonyi.
Rivers State has been a hotbed of violence in the pre-election period. By February, 2015, the AllProgressive Congress (APC) claimed that it has lost 30 members to political violence in the state. Thisincluded party supporters attacked on their way to a campaign rally as well as gun attacks during acampaign rally in the state. Violence has continued in the state in protest over alleged shortcomings of thepresidential polls. The APC now claim that it has lost 55 members in post-election violence in Rivers State.
The political and electoral violence in Rivers State arising from the presidential election and the proteston the 29th March, 2015 led to the imposition of a curfew on the state. It is pertinent to state that more isneeded to protect lives and property ahead of the gubernatorial state.
Key Issues for consideration in Rivers include the outcome of the presidential election in the state; thesuspected militant activities; the strength and desperate politics by politicians in the state; the visiblepresence of the military in the state as well as the agitations over zoning of political office by politicalparties in the state. On the other hand, Obio/Akpor, Okrika, Tai are among the LGAs to watch in the state.
Nigeria’s 2015 Presidential Election was Unique in Many Ways
First,it marked an unprecedented uninterrupted 5th presidential election sincereturn to democracy in 1999. The first Republic lasted only 6 years from1960 to 1966, the second Republic lasted only 4 years from 1979 to 1984,while the third Republic was truncated after 4 years of expensive transitionprogrammes between 1989 and 1993.
Second, it was unique because for the first time, an incumbentpresident lost an election. Even though many incumbent governors have lostelections at the state level, the “power of incumbency” has always beenpotent at the federal level.
Third, this marked the first time the loser in a presidential electionwill call to congratulate the winner even before the official results werefinalised.
Fourth, it is also the first time there will be no post-election violencedespite predictions by different observers and commentators including theUS.
Fifth, it is also the first time an electronic device called the Cardreader and a chip card called the Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) wereintroduced by the electoral body (INEC).
Has Nigeria come of age politically? Are all these a fluke due only tothe overwhelming desire for change or a true test of democraticconsolidation?
STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Elections are the central processes of democratic representative governmentbecause in any democracy the authority of government derives solely from the consentof the governed. The principal mechanism for translating the consent into governmentalauthority ideally is by holding free and fair elections. In Nigeria, elections have becomean avenue for legitimization of bad governance. This assertion hinges on the fact thatincumbent government holds on to power at all cost while opposition parties in a bid tocapture state power, resort to all manner of irregularities. The result of this is usuallyviolence of one sort or the other.
Events which unfolded in Rivers State during the last election show that themost contentious issues about the election have to do with electoral violence whichhitherto, is unheard of in Rivers State politics. The political atmosphere in the statebecame unusually tensed while many interest groups emerged with the intent to capturepower. The result of these was a bitter warfare that ensued between these factions,leading to allegations, killings, kidnappings, et.that were politically motivated.
Reports from independent local and International observers revealed that the gubernatorial election of 2015 in Rivers State was marred by violence. According to a press statement by INEC, there were over 66 reports of violent incidents targeted at polling units, electoral officials, voters and election materials across the federation; with Rivers State having the highest total of incidences. Similarly, the State Commissioner for Women Affair’s house was reportedly set ablaze in addition to the INEC Registration Area Centre (RAC) and a police patrol vehicle in Buguma, Rivers State. The State Commissioner of Police who confirmed the incident also stated that ‘due to the nature of the election as keenly contested there are bound to be skirmishes and indeed have been disagreements among party agents on modalities as well as the location of certain electoral materials’.
Reports from PIND’s Integrated Peace and Development Unit (IPDU) SMS based platform for reporting the election corroborates the above claim of election related violence during the general elections in Rivers State. The report highlighted that Rivers State had the highest number of reported cases of violence, intimidation of voters and snatching of ballot boxes. “For the March 28 Elections, 20 cases of violence were reported with Rivers having 80% of the cases, Delta (15%) and Bayelsa (5%). 4 cases of ballot box snatching were reported in Asari Toru (Buguma) and ObioAkpor(Rumuomasi). In the April 11 Elections, 29 cases of violence were reported. 62% of the cases were from Rivers, 24% from Delta and 14% from Bayelsa”.
Owing to these, the All Progressives Congress (APC) party opined that elections did not hold in the state and appealed to INEC to cancel the elections and conduct new polls in the state. However, the PDP has refuted this claim stating that elections held peacefully in the state and that the APC was only crying foul. To this end, INEC in a statement pledged to investigate the incidences of violence and do anything within its power to bring the culprits to justice. INEC also declared the election results with Chief EzebunwoNyesomWike of the PDP emerging as the winner of the election in Rivers State. In addition, the PDP also won 31 of the 32 legislative seats available in the State House of Assembly.
Following the declaration of Chief Wike as the winner of the gubernatorial polls in Rivers State, there have been repeated calls to the APC candidate Dr. DakukuPeterside to call his PDP counterpart to concede defeat. The APC on its own has rejected the election results and have sought redress in the election petition tribunal sitting in Abuja. They claimed that the results were rigged in favor of the PDP; alleging that PDP conspired with security forces and armed thugs to intimidate their supporters and prevent them from voting.
Following these claims, the APC candidate and his supporters have engaged in protests against the election results in the state. This has been followed by series of media appearances by the party’s supporters and video documentaries showing snippets of what in the APC’s view transpired on Election Day in the state. The party has in no uncertain terms demonstrated their intention to contest all the results declared by INEC in the state.
While the heightened tension experienced in the state before and during elections has reduced, a state of unease is still experienced in the state. The usual congratulatory messages sent by candidates who didn’t win the contest to their victorious opponents are virtually nonexistent as the state is still divided along party lines. There have been accusations and counter accusations by the various candidates and their supporters as well as pockets of violence reported in some parts of the state. While this is a far cry from the increased tension experienced before and during the elections, the political atmosphere in the state is nevertheless still tensed.
Sequel to the declaration of Chief Wike as the governor-elect, there are disagreements in the state over who will inaugurate the Governor-elect into office on May 29 2015. By the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Governor elect can be sworn in by a Chief Judge of the High Court, a President of the court of appeal, and in states where there is one; a Grand Khadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal. Since 2014, Rivers State has been without either officers operating in the states. This is a result of the fallout between the Governor of Rivers State and the National Judicial Council (NJC) when the former refused to appoint the Judge recommended by the latter for appointment as Chief Judge of the state. This situation has resulted in the suspension of the President of the court of appeal by the NJC; a preferred candidate of the Governor and Judicial activities has been suspended in the states for over a year as a result of the crisis. While judicial opinion has been divided as to the correct import of that constitutional provision, the effect though is that the uncertainty created by this constitutional impasse has been a source of heightened tension in a state that is already plagued with political instability.
Political violence in Nigeria is growing at an alarming rate. This trend should be a source of worry for all well-meaning Nigerians who want peace and progress for our dear country.
The electoral violence recorded in just concluded elections in Rivers State clearly shows that all hands must be on deck to end this ugly trend in our nation.
Electoral officials have a huge role to play to stem political violence in the country by not taking sides.
The overall consequence of these developments is that the political atmosphere in Rivers State remains tense. Politically, Rivers State is like a ticking time bomb and apolitical catastrophe waiting to be unleashed.
This work therefore sets out to examine the factors responsible for the out breakof violence in Rivers State politics. Furthermore, this work also examines thechallenges which these developments pose for Nigeria’s electoral process and democracy.
1.2 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
i. Does political violence act as an obstacle to economic growth and development?
ii. Does political violence lead to low standard of living?
iii. Has political violence affected the youths in a positive way?
iv. Has political violence created more burden for the government?
v. What are the factors that generated violence during the 2015 GubernatorialElectionsinRiversState?
vi. Did Ethnic and Religious considerations influence the electoral process in Rivers State?
1.4 RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS
Ho:that there are no problems of political violence in Nigeria.
Ho:Political problems like Loss of lives and properties, Socio-Economic Stagnation, Social Tension etc. hasno major effect in Nigeria.
1.5AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF RESEARCH
I. To determine the nature and scope of the violence
II. To determine the effect of the violence on the social and economic wellbeing of people in Rivers State.
III. To determine the rise of insecurity in Rivers State and the way forward.
IV. To examine factors responsible for the outbreak of violence in the 2015 elections in Rivers state
V. To identify and discuss the reasons why politicians in Rivers State resorted to Violence in the quest for the governorship seat
VI. To appraise the 2015 Gubernatorial Elections in Rivers State with a view toidentifying its challenges to Nigeria’s electoral process.
VII. To examine the impact of peace accord in the 2015 general election
1.6SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
There has been recent outcry on the roleof government to handle political violence effectively and maintain peace in the country.
This outcry has attracted scholars and opinion leaders to look into the problems of political violence in Nigeria.
The significance of this study is to look into the problems of political violence in Nigeria and proffering solutions to these problems
1.7SCOPE OF THE STUDY
It has been observed that violence is a common feature/occurrence in the conductof elections in Nigeria. This has, often times, imparted negatively on the credibility ofthe Nigerian electoral process. The scope of this study therefore covers theGubernatorial Elections held in 2015 in Rivers State.
1.8DEFINITION OF TERMS
1. Politics: Lording over others and making them do certain things they ordinarily would not have done on their own. Who gets what, how and when [H. Lasswell]. David Eastonsees it “as the authoritatative allocation of values”
2. Violence:Is any form of physical threat or assault on persons or thatis likely to coercively alter perceived bad or poor status.
3. Election: A formal decision-making process by which a population chooses a candidate to hold public office.
4. Political party: A political organization that subscribes to a certain ideology and seeks to attain political power through representation in government.
5. Gubernatorial: Of pertaining to a governor.