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INEC AND ELECTORAL PROCESS IN NIGERIA: A STUDY OF 2010/2011 VOTERS’ REGISTRATION EXERCISE
1.1 Background of the study
We see things not as they are but as we are. Our perception is shaped by our previous experience. (Kimbro quoted by Sternberg.J. Robert 1997). This is more so because:
Political stability and instability are ultimately
dependent on a state of mind and mood in a society.
It is the dissatisfied state of mind rather than the tangible
equality and liberty which produces the revolution…”
Davies quoted by Iyayi (2006).
One of the contending and contentious issues facing developing democracies such as Nigeria is the administration of elections. A fundamental segment of the electoral process is voters’ registration. The voters register is the foundation of an election. A credible voters register constitute the corner stone of a credible elections. Importantly, the voters’ register is an index for determining eligibility and tool of enfranchisement during elections. As important as the voter register is to the electoral process, much importance has not been attached to the process leading to its production- Voter Registration. To the extent that if this very important and foundational component of electoral process has been neglected, the succeeding processes become flawed.
Pastor (1999) observed that much has been written about the causes and consequences of democracy, but a crucial variable for explaining the success or the failure of democratic transition has been omitted which is the administration of elections. According to him, “ in a poor country with low levels of education, the administration of elections is no simple matter and accidents occurring at the intersection between political suspicion and technical incapacity”. Technical incapacity, he noted plays a major role in the administrative failures of the electoral process. But of much greater impact is the behaviour of the election administrators. The administrative behaviour and attitudes of the administrators are crucial to the perception of the public towards the electoral process.
Elections are forerunner; and critical signposts of democracy. And all democracies confront the important tasks of broadening personal freedoms, encouraging genuine political competition, promoting the accountability of leaders, resolving conflicts, advancing a general rule of law, and building efficient and effective public institutions (Lewis, 2005:3). Abraham Lincoln’s definition of democracy as the government of the people by the people and for the people is in line with the Nigerian’s idea of the concept. There is no better way to realize the ideal other than through elections because they provide the people with the opportunity to exercise their voice. Lewis (2005:56) poignantly posits that a “well functioning electoral system offers citizens political alternatives, permits them to make decisions that express preferences, or elections provide essential validation for democracy by increasing the confidence of individual citizens in their ability to meaningfully participate in public life”. When people feel that their personal interest in politics and their engagement in elections make a difference, they are much likely to value the democratic system.
The recurring and immediate challenge facing the Election Management Body (EMB) in Nigeria is the battle for the minds of the electorate. Such minds infected with virus of flawed electoral process. The virus is evident in the form of electoral malpractices, constriction of political space, subversion of the people’s choice and will in the elections of 1964 in Western Nigeria, the 1983 General Elections and the 2003 General Elections and the perceived inelegant manner that INEC administered the programme of the 2011 General Elections. Even the past voters’ registration exercises conducted for the purpose of the elections were marred by massive irregularities. Hence various attempts at producing an acceptable voters’ register had not yielded positive outcome.
A historical survey of voters’ registration in Nigeria would reveal an exercise devoid of credibility and transparency. The voters’ registration 1959 General Election in which over 9 million people were registered was marred by ethnic politics and the quest by each political party to raise the stake in its regional enclave. The 1978 voters’ registration for the transition to civil rule programme in which over 48 million people were registered was manually conducted. The 1998 voters registration exercise with over 65 million people registered were marginally in line with acceptable standards.
The 2010/2011 voters registration is a bold determination and irrevocable commitment to the conduct of a credible election in 2011. The INEC chairman had observed that the existing register of voters used in the 2007 general election served its purpose to a greater extent, but it had profound limitations one of which was the absence of the photograph of the voters (Iwu, 2006). A major contributory factor to the 2007 election malpractices is the shoddy and ill mannered nature of the 2006 voter registration which involved some elements of the OMR Form, EC/A Form and a make-up registration.
The 2010/2011 voters registration exercise that started in 2011 was not free of the problems of the past ones. For instance, INEC projected delivery of 4,000 Direct Data Computing (DDC) that is 40,000 and 4, 000 reserve stock was not achieved by almost middle of February with a few days to the end of the exercise, only a little over 150 Direct Data Capturing (DDC) machines were received in Enugu State with seventeen (17) Local Government Areas and 4958 registration units. Other problems include break down of machine, battery failure, unfriendly weather condition, manpower and logistic problems. The Assistant Registration Officers (AROS I) was not sufficiently trained to operate the machine, hence hours on end were spent in trying to configure them and register a registrant. It took two days to register the Governor of the state at his registration units in Agbani. Insufficient supplies of consumables such as ink, laminating films, absence of operational motor or vehicles for difficult terrain, led to gratuitous support of the state and local governments.
These problems as earlier started have been the perception of people in the light of the preceding and contemporary administrative lapses of INEC in the electoral process voters’ registration. The work is organized under the following sections.
- Statement of the problem
Voters’ registration as one of the electoral processes is perceived in dualistic dimension. This dualistic perception is rife in developing democracies where values, norms and ethnics of administration are relatively weak, particularistic, risk and exclusive. Based on the dialectical paradigm, voter registration is seen as both tool for the conduct of a credible and successful election on one hand, and also a weapon for the manipulation of election on the other hand. According to Jega (2011), the foundation of a successful election is credible voters register. The voters’ register is the basis for determining who is eligible to vote and who is not on Election Day. A credible voters’ register should contain essential information on every eligible citizen. The two important data required are the biographic and biometric data. The two taken together provide information about the citizen’s name, age, gender, address, photograph and thumbprints.
The voter register also determines the population of voters’ for delimited political units such as registration areas (wards), polling units, State House of Assembly Constituency, Federal House of Representatives Constituency and Senatorial District Constituency, Gubernatorial Election. By so, overlaps and rigging are greatly reduced. The present INEC recognizes that credibility problems facing it, hence it has gone ahead to introduce novelties and innovation in the electoral system. Most significant of the new ideas is the introduction of the electronic voters register incorporating the Automated Finger Print Identification System (AFIS) and photograph of the voters through the use of the Direct Data Capture Machine (DDCM) Technology. Jega (2011) posits that the computation of a comprehensive electronic register corporating photographs and biometric data of registrant will lead to improvement in the accuracy and convenience with which the register can be revised and updated and address the short coming of the previous one.
The Electoral Management Body (EMB) is fully aware of the shortcoming that has plagued past registration exercises, hence the admonition by INEC Chairman. However, whether it is aware of the attitude and perception of Nigerians to its attempts and approach to correct past shortcoming is another issue. The problem is not essentially about the introduction of a few systems as in the management of this new system by official of the commission. More than anything else, the electoral process suffers from seven credibility problems which consequences endanger public confidence. Psychologists believe and it is generally a public knowledge in the literature that election rigging is not only an activity of the Election Day. Infrastructure of rigging and manipulation is laid well before Election Day, usually during voters’ registration. Psychological, the problem is also one of mindset or orientation what is required is how to fill wide gap between the elegant intention of electronic technology and the reality of the mistrust, (distrust) and loss of confidence about the process.
At the end of voters registration exercise on 15th February, 2011 INEC published 76.6 million of Nigerians having registered out of population of 140 million Nigerians that is about 58% (Thisday. February, 29th 2011) revealed the degree of apathy or public attitude to the exercise. It is this psychology of the people that this study addresses. The issues include whether the commission abides by the internationally defined standard for free and fair election – rule of law, fair hearing, and impartial arbitration of electoral dispute, transparency and openness. The ECOWAS, African Union and United Nations sub-protocol on Democracy and governance demand application of these standards for all member nations.
Secondly, do election managers constitute a potential threat to the integrity of the electoral process through their prevarication and inconsistency to their own rules, guidelines and laws? The constitutional, legal and structural, configuration to INEC is seen as defective and to that extent poses inhibition to its independence. Also, it must be pointed out that both the constitution and Electoral Act place enormous responsibilities on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The commission is not only changed with responsibility for monitoring and keeping records of the activities of the political parties, it is equally expected to appropriately sanction them when necessary. Unfortunately however, the structure of INEC as it is presently constituted does not permit it to play such roles efficiently and effectively. INEC is not financially independent. It depends on subventions from the executive arm of government – the presidency. Equally too, its composition is made up of appointees of the presidency. Since he who pays the piper dictates the tune, the independence of INEC is, to say the least, a theoretical supposition that has no practical effect.
However, Lewis (2006:8) observed that “when the public faces repeated episodes of election rigging, political violence and intimidations, their fundamental trust in the institution’s processes derailed”. Therefore, electoral rule may rapidly dissipate. It is against this background that the following questions for this study were asked.
- What is the relationship between the structure and composition of INEC and the conduct of free and fair electoral process?
- What is the relationship between negative perceptions of INEC by the public and the credibility of voters’ registration?
- Is there any significant relationship between the credibility of INEC and public confidence in the electoral process?
- Objectives of the Study
The general or broad objective of this study is to evaluate the impact of negative perception by the Nigerian publics of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on voters’ registration in Nigeria. The study will examine the impact of voters’ registration as prerequisites for credible and generally accepted elections in Nigeria. The specific objectives are as follows
- To ascertain if there is any relationship between the structure and composition of INEC and the conduct of free and fair electoral process
- To determine if there is any relationship between negative perceptions of INEC by the public and the credibility of voters’ registration
- To establish whether there is any significant relationship between the credibility of INEC and public confidence in the electoral process
- Significance of the Study
The significance of this study consists of two principal levels: practical and academic significance. Practically, this study will be a valuable resource for policy makers and practitioners studying elections and impact of voters’ registration in Nigeria, and for those interested in INEC’s quest for credible voters’ registration exercise. The study shall also make some useful practical contributions to knowledge, specifically on political aparthy towards voters’ registration and elections.
The academic significance of this study explores and problematizes public perception of INEC in the 2010/2011 electoral process and the impacts on Nigerians during election.
Most studies on elections have largely concentrated on structural organizational issues to the neglect of the administrative behaviour of cogent to the proper functioning of the structures. It is the administrative behaviour of electoral officials that is central, not incidental, to the course of electoral democracy. The challenge before Election Management Bodies (EMB) and officials is to exhibit administrative attitude and behaviour that engender rather than endanger public trust and confidence in the electoral process.
The study will expose and bring to the fore the opinions of the public in regard to the conduct of INEC officials in the administration of electoral processes (the voters registration). The study will provide data for quantitative analysis and assessment of the INEC, and in this regard, arm researches, policy makers and public administrators particularly election managers, with sufficient tools for proffering solutions – taking proactive measures to elicit public confidence in its activities.
- Literature Review
A reasonable number of African Countries has experienced democratic deficiency owing to spates of military coup d’etat and military dictatorship. Noted examples abound in Sub-Saharan African States (SSAS) such as Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Niger, Liberia, Sierra-Leone and Democratic Republic of Congo to mention but few.
Out of fifty three years of nationhood, Nigeria has experienced twenty-nine years of military rule, with all attendant distraction of democratic culture. The burden of this section of the study is to undertake a review of the extent literature in the field under study. The review that follows is structured under the following sub-headings.
Election and Democracy
Electoral Commission and Electoral Process
Public Perception of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
Election and Democracy
Election is defined, according to Nigerian Education Research and Development Council (NERDC, 2005:41) as a “set of activities whereby member of a community choose their leaders”. Four basic conditions are necessary to create an enabling environment for holding a free and fair election. These according to NERDC (2005) are:
- An honest, competent and non partisan body to administer the electoral commission.
- The knowledge and willingness of the political community to accept basic rules and regulations governing the contest for power.
- A developed system of political parties, traditions and teams of candidates presented to the electorate as alternative choices and an independent Judiciary to interpret electoral laws and settle election disputes.
Elekwa (2007:3), posits that ‘‘the process of electing office candidates to the national and state assemblies and Local Government Councils begins long before the actual elections’’. Prospective candidates from all interested political parties begin to campaign even before the election date has been fixed by electoral body. Every political party contesting any election is expected to submit a list of their nominated candidates and their details to electoral body (INEC). Nomination and selections at political party level are commonly referred to as party primaries or primary elections.
In every democracy the world over, the formation or existence of political parties is a special feature of the democratic process. Parties play important roles beyond presenting candidates for elections, that is mobilize and educate the populace based on their ideology, doctrine and programmes, should they win elections and form government (Ejituwa, 1999:3). They go a long way in preparing the populace towards exercising their democratic rights. Democracy entails the rights of citizens to devise among competing ideologies, parties and politicians. When however, an election is rigged, the choices of citizens are thwarted. Such a government according to the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) constitutes an imposition (TMG, 2003:106).
In other words, over the past two centuries elections have played a significant role in the choice of government across the world. They have become an important element in modern representative government. Today, elections are so tied to the growth and development of representative democratic government that they are now generally held to be the single most important indicator of the presence or absence of such government.