A significant issue in Nigeria is the validity and status of elections. Since the establishment of General Gowon, Nigeria began a fifteen year period of military coups. In 1975 his government was toppled and another military ruler took over. In 1993, a push for democracy pressured military ruler Ibrahim Babagida to hold a presidential election. When it seemed that the opposition party was to win the majority, Babagida canceled the election. In 1995, one of the leading democratic advocates was hanged for an alleged killing of four rivals. After the outcry against his hanging, Nigeria’s general offers a new election in 1999. A major result of the military rule is the erosion of all structures of federalism. The concentration of power in the federal government combined with the command nature turned the country into a federal state superficially. As a result, minority groups cried for autonomy and political restructuring.

After a prolonged military rule from 1983 to 1999, re-democratization produced expectations in elections which are defined as meaningfully democratic if they are fair, free, competitive and legitimate. We turn to the most recent, the gubernatorial presidential elections of 2007 and 2011 to characterize this portion of Nigerian governance through a human rights lens.

Arguments can be made for serious violations of various first generation rights concerning elections. They include voting rights, freedom of speech, right to take part in public affairs and freedom to hold opinions, all of which are covered in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which was ratified by the Nigerian government on July 29, 1993.

The Gubernatorial Election of 2007

The general elections in 2007 were another chance for fully realizing its potential for a legitimate democratic election. The ruling party, PDP, was experiencing problems with popular disenchantment providing an opportunity for another party to challenge its position on a legitimate and competitive basis. However, the PDP was awarded a landslide victory. This was even more shocking considering the Independent National Electoral Commission, the primary agency for electoral administration, seemed to be providing a capable, independent and impartial election. Further investigation showed unprecedented rigging, ballot stuffing, falsification of results, violence, intimidation of voters and others were discovered. There were even instances of voting not taking place at all. Further analysis revealed the hot spot for these issues were areas where the opposition parties were thought to have the most influence.

What is key about the 2007 elections, was that there seemed to be a large increase in the number of petitions and intensified civil activism for election reform. Additionally, it marked the first time in Nigerian history that a democratically elected government finishhed two terms, held elections and successfully transferred power to another elected government. A third significant point was the move to more dependence on the judiciary.

While first generation human rights were being violated during elections amongst high levels of political bullying and political culture of impunity, moves to consolidating democracy through elections seem difficult but not impossible due to positive steps made during and as a result of this election.

The Gubernatorial Election of 2011

The gubernatorial 2011 elections, fair elections were once again a goal of Nigeria, but failed to happen. First generation rights regarding elections defined in part two, article twenty-five of the ICCPR were also violated by many of the charges. Instances of ballot box snatching, voter intimidation, falsification of results were occurring along with political databases and electoral processes not being made transparent enough to the masses.

Another distinguishing character of the 2011 elections was the Nigerian security forces manipulation of officials and even personally running off with ballot boxes. Security forces were not the only group in an authoritative position to contribute to the environment of impunity. Police forces would commit acts of violence and malpractice on behalf of the ruling party without potential for consequences. It even went so far that the electoral administrative body, the INEC, were charged with accounts of electoral inequality and partiality.

It was reported that during the 2011 gubernatorial elections, 120,000 polling locations were available. This would be enough to satisfy the condition that there is one polling location per 500 people. However, it was later discovered that there were actually only 119,284 available. The numbers were shown to have locations that favored the ruling party.

A second major issue is that of accountability when it pertains to these rights abuses in elections. Often times, most violations are committed directly by the government or indirectly by government supporters, but there are no avenues or groups to check their behavior. Even when it comes to the enforcement abilities of human rights instruments that Nigeria ratified, there exists a condition in the Nigerian Constitution that says all national declarations and laws have priority over those of international law. Citizens feel that their votes do not count so they are not motivated to get involved in public affairs. The conditions of elections in Nigeria violated article 25 of the ICCPR because they serve as road blocks for the full enjoyment of the right to get involved in public affairs and take advantage of the right to full access of these affairs.

“How Not the Rig an Election (2007 Forensics)”

Part 1

Part 2