Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Electoral Violence and the Survival of Democracy in Nigeria'sFourth Republic: A Historical Perspective

Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Electoral Violence and the Survival of Democracy in Nigeria'sFourth Republic: A Historical Perspective

Article excerpt


The historical trajectory of electoral process in the post colonial Nigeria is characterised by violence. In fact, recent manifestations of electoral violence, most importantly since the birth of the Fourth Republic in 1999 have assumed an unprecedented magnitude and changing form, resulting in instability in democratic consolidation as well as the loss and displacement of many innocent lives. The paper historicizes electoral violence and its implications on the survival of democracy in the Nigeria with major emphasis on the Fourth Republic. It argues that the high incidence of electoral violence (pre and post) in the Fourth Republic in particular is closely associated with neo-patrimonial character of the Nigerian state, the nature and kind of party politics being played, the weak institutionalisation of democratic architectures and inefficient electoral management body among others. It posits that these were among the factors that led to the fall or collapse of the First and Second Republics. The paper therefore submits that the survival of democracy in the Fourth Republic involves adherence to the ideals and principles of electoral process as practised in ideal democratic societies.

Key words: Electoral violence; Democracy; Nigeria


In every stable democratic society, election remains the essential ingredient of transitory process from one civilian administration to another. Elections have become an integral part of representative democracy that by and large prevails across the world. According to Lindberg (2003), every modem vision of representative democracy entails the notion of elections as the primary means of selection of political decision makers. Thus, it is incomprehensible in contemporary times to think of democracy without linking it to the idea and practice of elections. Ojo (2007), described election as the 'hallmark of democracy' while Chiroro (2005) sees it as the 'heart of the democratic order'. In all, elections constitute a core component of democracy.

The electoral process in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular especially since the beginning of the 21st century is characterised by violence. It is important to emphasize here that though violence has been a long-standing feature of the démocratisation process in the post colonial Nigeria, its recent manifestations especially since the birth of the Fourth Republic has assumed an unprecedented magnitude thus constituting a major threat to the survival democracy. Fundamentally, there is no doubt the fact that electoral violence remains a major source of political instability in a democratic society with palpable threats of deconsolidation. Scholars among which were Adigun Agbaje and Said Adejumobi have argued that violence has become infused in political processes in most new democracies in Africa especially with respect to the 21st century. For instance, according to the 2008 Amnesty International Report, 'the violent struggle for power, even in states which do not descend into armed conflict, still remains an important component of political life in Africa.

Nigeria, having survived decades of military dictatorship which was characterized by despotism, violation of fundamental human rights, financial profligacy among others, eventually returned to democratic rule on May 29, 1999 which culminated in the birth of the Fourth Republic. The republic which started amidst great hope and expectations is yet to significantly convince the generality of the Nigerian populace its democratic success especially with respect to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections devoid of election violence (pre and post).

In fact, both at national and state levels, transition from one civilian administration to another since 2003 in particular has been very rough. This is noticeable in the various cases of electoral violence which has claimed several lives, displacement of innocent people and wanton destruction of property. …

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