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THE HISTORICAL CAUSES OF ELECTORAL VIOLENCE IN NIGERIA, AN APPRAISAL! By Emuobohwo Mudiaga Odje

December 15, 2014

The causes of electoral violence in Nigeria must be captured against the back drop of the post-independence epoch. With the attendant euphoria of freedom, optimistic concepts of nation building, economic development and cultural and traditional revival were top on the list as symbolized by the founding fathers of Nigeria that developed a Nigerian personality with Nigerians rejoicing over the end of colonialism.

Nevertheless, the high expectations of the populace about the dreams of a betterment of their lives, raised by elected government, proved to be short-lived because the ‘colonial structure inherited by the independence day’ politicians was not conducive to new directions in economic policies viz;
(a) The Budget of the country struggled against or with demands for the expansion of education
(b) The Budget struggled for health care and social services—all due to the rapid growth of a population.
(c) They were also immense pressure to create jobs (employment).
The colonial structure also failed to sustain the ambitious projects of industrialization coupled with the fact that Nigeria was at this time a basic supplier of raw materials to the western European Markets.

These disappointments of the above mentioned unfulfilled promises were worsened or exacerbated by the flare up of the primordial instincts of tribalism as government priorities and the allocation of funds were questioned by groups who felt they have been discriminated against by the people in position of political power, this mood of discontentment was quickly seized upon by opposition groups that now began to organise public resentment into a political challenge to the legitimacy of the civilian government.

It was at this point in time that the governments chose not to risk testing their popularity by elections instead they resorted to silencing their critics by acts of political repression which then gave rise to the incursion of the military into politics. Thus electoral violence was born.
With the advent of the military who were merely mercenary politicians in military fatigues as has been shown the people of Nigeria had little or nothing to say about their own fate. It is obvious that Nigeria’s new political institutions were extremely weak and fragile in nature as coups and counter coups played out with the soldiers undoing themselves as power violently seized was also violently lost leading to the militarization of the Nigerian society, stifling political opposition as it were. Take into cognizance the bloodletting in the coups that took place.

Militarization of life had come to stay at this stage so that whenever the military handed over to any civilian regime that must always consist of its lackeys the already militarized society must fight back viciously because the People can hardly get justice even if they approach the courts who are also deeply enmeshed in the political imbroglios of tribalism or cronyism and corruption as a part of the degenerative Nigerian society.
Furthermore, please note that the situation described above caused the brutalization of the Nigerian society and it is one of the most alarming consequences that changed the Nigerian attitude towards traditional values where respect for life formerly occupied a central place. Now it is more of a Hobbesian existence. Today life has become very cheap, summary execution of political opponents has become common practice while crimes against humanity are the order of the day and crimes generally assuming the place of government policy.
The further effects of military rule destroyed the basic individual rights and the concept of legality of government meant that the soldiers assumed the roles of judges and executioners all rolled into one. The same reasons advanced for ousting civilian administrations; corruption, tribalism, incompetence etc were predominant in the military governments that took over as the military also failed to provide the basic conditions of legality. A coup became legitimate whenever it succeeded.

Thus, the experience of the last 54 years has brow- beaten Nigerians into a largely meek and submissive populace. Detention without trial, political Instability, unpredictable university shutdowns and the waging of violence has taken their toll.

Young Nigerians see their generation grounded by violence in this era of the gun law.
The Nigerian state is oppressive as it imposes strict inhuman controls and restrictions while the media hirelings sing praises of the infallibility of Political office holders who are not accountable to anybody. The Nigerian populace has been brought to believe that politicians form the local level to the highest office in the land are just there or struggle to get into office to loot public finds.

From the foregoing, it is obvious that Nigerians are used to being bathed in orgies of violence from the post-independence electoral violence that culminated in the bloody military interventions that followed all laced by or with bloodletting. Nigerians have never known a period of peace, from public executions in the 1960s’ through bloody military coups in the 1970s to the political show trials during the 1980s’ and the 1990s’to the present sub human pseudo democracy or civilian dictatorship.

The breakdown of government in Nigeria (not democracy) must be placed at the doorstep of the political leadership since the Western concept of human rights does not exist here under Nigerian conditions. Human Rights have become a hostage to the struggle for power; self-perpetuation and the liquidation of the opposition are government policies. The democratic process is perpetually under attack by the atavistically natured leaders.

In a nutshell, The peoples’ rights to shelter, clothing, food, work, and medical care, freedom of the individual, his right to decide about his own life, to freely express his views, to practice his chosen religion, and to have a right of protection against the abuse of power by agents of the state are under a fierce assault by the state culminating in the degradation of human rights. It is a truism that the degradation of human rights must be connected to or with economic development, there cannot be any economic progress without active participation of the people in the development process.
Anything less is the antithesis of democratic governance. Until and unless the Political leadership, groups, institutions, movements and individuals in Nigeria develop and display enough degree of concern to tackle the issues raised above in order to begin to chart a new course of responsible government, things are bound to remain the same or may even get worse. Democracy cannot be imported, the change must come from within the Nigerian society, not from outside.

This is the task facing Nigerian Intellectuals, Educational Institutions, Trade Unions, Churches, Mosques and the General Public. The situation seems worse than useless as Nigerian leaders preach observance of human rights abroad and disregard it at home.
Something must give in a system that has been full of discontent disillusionment over the last five (5) decades.

There are similarities in the cause of electoral violence in Nigeria particularly 1964/65, 1983 and 2011. It is obvious that one of the main causes of electoral violence is the exclusion of the Nigerian citizens by the powers that be from political participation or denying them the accurate results of the election after they have participated by voting their votes do not count due to the manipulative and polluting tendencies of the powers that be.

In the general elections of June 12 1993 which was a keenly contested, free and fair election another reason that reared its ugly head up, that is the fact that a group of people comprising past leaders, religious leaders, tribal war lords, intellectuals etc are intent on holding Nigeria hostage and will not let go until the majority of the docile Nigerians ask the necessary question—this was another dimension that increased the violence. The June 12 elections result lay to rest the issues of tribalism, religion, region, state, etc, the reactions of Nigerians initially eliminated these vagaries by their votes but the absolutely corrupt and satanic military government headed by one insincere General Babangida nullified the election. It became obvious that those issues already eliminated reared their ugly heads again showing us all that it was the intention of this class of inglorious political leaders that do not want the truth.

Aside of that, each election comes with more violence, the only difference being the degree of the violence as fire arms become increasingly proliferated, more handy and easily accessible the violence in future elections is guaranteed if the deliberate exclusion of willing participants and voters is not stooped or reduced.
As for the trends that influenced the outbreak of the electoral violence in the 2011 elections, ethnicity, religion, region, were added to the mix in 2011 and when this is done it captures the interests of a population barely educated enough to know their left from right. Absolutely mundane.

The truism is that in addition to the situation described therein, religion, region, tribe, state of origin etc are tools in the hands of the politicians to keep the people divided.
The political philosophy is do or die, survival at all costs, by hook or crook elections. So electoral mandates are stolen by force with the security agents and private political armies enforcing the stealing on the votes for a fee. The outcome is better imagined, people must react to oppression, especially blatant political oppression.

Nigerian political participation is non inclusive as can be gleaned for the foregoing, where peoples votes are not counted, opposition is stifled, candidates who are short-changed and cheated out of victories cannot get justice through the very weak institutions that ought adjudicate in the circumstance. It is the survival of the hardest in Nigerian politics. Participation is a rather a determiner of electoral violence rather that of electoral outcomes.
Yes, my view or opinion on electoral violence and participation apply fundamentally mutatis mutandi from the foregoing.

Definitely, because the more people denied participation after performing their civic duties the more reactions and therefore the more the violence since the cheated people know that justice cannot be achieved they have to resort to self-help.

The people are always motivated to vote because they love their country and are more patriotic than their mostly rogue leaders and they are very metaphysically inclined waiting for God to do everything for them, they expect miracles, so they go to religious houses of worship after which they go to vote and expect the miracles. Nevertheless, that remains a dumb logic because the electoral bodies and the laws of elections remain the same and so the frequent manipulations must prevail over reason in this grotty and mundane set up.
The Gutter Snipe Nigeria Governors Forum which should more aptly be called Nollywood Governors’ Forum is a reflection of the decadent mentality of the political elite. It is a soap opera, nothing more than a fickle attention should be paid in that regard.

Nevertheless, it shows who these clowns are. The worthlessness of these apocryphal characters is obvious from this unconstitutional body, so called governors that cannot accept the result of their own socio cultural organisation.

In essence, they are vote manipulators. The NGF ought to be proscribed, it is illegal, illegitimate and its’ name is calculated to deceive Nigerians. Governors should run their states effectively and not engage in creating dubious, eclectic and nebulous bodies that are drainpipes on resources of the people. The NGF is a complete bullshit. It has no bearing on Nigerian elections. It is self- serving for those that are bored running their states and seek a novel escape from their responsibilities. It is criminal and should never be encouraged. It is being used to divert the attention of the people from the pressing National issues. They look to be physically adults but mentally children.
Emuobohwo Mudiaga Odje

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