Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Electoral Violence, Disability and Internal Displacement: A Critical Assessment of Popular Participation in Nigeria

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Electoral Violence, Disability and Internal Displacement: A Critical Assessment of Popular Participation in Nigeria

Article excerpt

Introduction The history of electoral violence is as old as the history of elections in Nigeria. Significantly, the consequence of electoral violence is far reaching on the people and socio-political economy of Nigeria. Indeed it is glaring that electoral violence directly influences political participation through voter turnout as a result of fear and frustration, created by the violence. More importantly, it has far reaching effects on the socio-economic status and leverages of people with disabilities, and internally displaced persons. It is therefore, leaves the victim with the trauma of years after the violence has occurred, and sometimes, electoral violence leaves permanent damages to individual citizens and to the overall development of the nation at large.

It is instructive to note that, the election has become a generally acceptable global norm for the selection and removal of elected authority in a democratic setting. Thus, political scientists and development theorists link free, fair and credible elections to democratic good governance, peace and development. In brief, they argue that free, fair and credible elections provide the basis for the emergence of democratic, accountable and legitimate governments with the capacity to initiate and implement clearly articulated development programmes. In the same vein, free, fair and credible elections also empower the electorate to hold the government accountable and to demand strong credentials and feasible development agenda from prospective government officials.

Nigeria's electoral politics from independence has been tumultuous. The politicians, in Nigeria, have over the years "become more desperate and daring in acquiring and retaining power; more reckless and covetous in their use and abuse of power; more intolerable of oppositions, criticism and efforts at replacing them" (Electoral Reform Committee Report, 2008, Vol. 1: 19). Besides, civil wars/communal wars, natural/made disasters, Boko-Haram terrorism and nefarious activities of Fulani-herdsmen in Nigeria, electoral violence has also contributed to the increase in numbers of internally displaced persons and people with disabilities and hinder their leverages to actively exercise their enfranchisement.

The focus of this paper shall be to provide a general background to the subject matter in this paper, give conceptual clarification, examine the history of electoral violence in Nigeria, investigate the causes of electoral violence, elucidate on the place of internally displaced person and people with disabilities within the concept of popular participation in Nigeria, suggest ways forward and end with conclusion.

Conceptual Clarification: Violence/Electoral Violence

It is very important to note that, the word violence is ambivalence in nature; it depends on motivation and expected outcome. Therefore, it defies any precise, generally accepted definition. Instructively, it connotes coercion, forceful imposition, militancy, brutalism, violation, intimidation and destruction which usually lead into fear, frustration and death. To Henry Bienne (1968), is the use of illegitimate force. In many occasions violence has been used by groups holding power, and by groups seeking power, and by groups in the process of losing power.

In same vein, Nwolise, (2007:159) also describe electoral violence as all kinds of organised acts or threats in terms of physical, psychological, and structural, targeted at frighten, harming, and blackmailing a political opponents and stakeholder before, during and after election with a view to determining, delaying, or otherwise influencing an electoral process.

This paper therefore, describes electoral violence as "any deliberate attempt through the employment or threat to utilise illegitimate force to subjugate oppositions, influence or affect the outcome of a competitive election. In a more concrete sense, UNDP, (2009) define electoral violence as any haphazard or unified act that seeks to determine, postpone, or otherwise influence an electoral process via threat, language provocation, hate speech, misinformation, physical conflict, forced 'safety', extortion, demolition of property, or assassination'. …

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