AN EXAMINATION OF PARTY POLITICS AND ELECTORAL VIOLENCE IN JAMA’A LOCAL GOVERNMENT
1.1 Background to the Study
Political parties are an important institutional component of liberal democracy and successful electoral machination and processes. Parties produce the candidates, set the parameters of issues and political agenda within which elections are to be fought and are furthermore expected to perform these duties
from one election to another (IDEA, 2000: 226-227).
The size and complexity of modern society makes it impossible to practice democracy as in the ancient city-states of Greece. The emergence of modern societies led to the constitution of political parties with the primary responsibility of capturing and running for democratic government. Thus, the survival of democracy in modern society rests partly on the ability of political parties to recruit people into the party and elective offices, aggregate and articulate interests, politically educate, socialize and integrate the people (Norris, 2005; Montero and Gunther, 2003 and Ujo, 2009).
There is evidence of declining public confidence in parties the world over; political parties have deteriorated in membership, organization, and popular involvement and commitment to democratic ideal. The Nigeria situation is not an exception. Since the Nigerian State returned to democratic governance in 1999, party activities especially in the areas of selection, election, accountability, discipline, etc appear to be far below expectation such that Nigeria democratic project has been the subject of intense debate in many quarters (Obah-Akpowoghaha 2013). Besides, political parties were neck-dipped into all manners of antidemocratic activities including electoral manipulations during primary and secondary elections, thuggering, hooliganism and vandalism during elections, party cross-carpeting, assassination of political opponents, arising from unfair method of selecting party flag bearers and general lack of party’s internal democracy (Dike 2003). Research has shown that most Nigerians believed that internal party democracy does not only
affect the credibility of elections, but also the quality of leadership, governance and economic development.
Moreover, according to Sartori and Duverger (2012), internal party democracy is very important for the functioning of the democratic system as a whole.
The democratization process in Nigeria, following the successful completion of what Omotola (2008) called the longest and most expensive transition program in the country (1983-1999) with the handing over of power to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo from the military regimes, who was democratically elected and sworn in on May 29, 1999, radiates new hopes and faltering prospects (Aremu and Omotola 2006). One threatening dimension is the unprecedented rate of political party defections. Party (political) defection or cross-carpeting certainly predates Nigeria‘s independence and is older than her sovereignty.
Since the 1999 to the 2007 elections, the Nigeria electoral and political landscape has fallen from bad to worst and has moved from violence to greater violence. The level and magnitude of electoral and political violence has risen and the political elites have often converted poverty ridden unemployed Nigerian youths into machinery for the perpetration of electoral violence. This is linked to the political system and institution that in theory has failed in political participation and in practice whereby the political elites formed bulk of the sponsors and perpetrators of electoral violence.
An examination of the political antecedents reveals evidence of political and electoral violence in Nigeria before 1999. There were repeated scales of violence and political and/or religious rift between the Christian and Muslim on the one side and North and South on the other. Cases of Kano Riot, Jos crisis amongst others are still fresh in our memory. According to Campbell, this has often resulted to sectarian violence with particular reference to the geographical centre formerly called the middle belt and the Niger Delta (Campbell, 2010). The pattern of violence in the former is such that cuts across political, sectarian and electoral, while in the latter, the activities of the militant (so called freedom fighters) transcend just the struggle for the control of the resources to include both covert and overt participation in perpetrating electoral violence.
According to Anifowose (1982), violence or threat of violence is a universal phenomenon, because, where ever there is political competition, there is always an element of violence mostly associated with election. Individuals and groups throughout history have in one form or another resorted to violence or its potential use as a tactic of political action. Interestingly, politics is expected to manage the conflict in the society, even though no political system has succeeded in eliminating political violence. The problem with Nigeria, is that the politicians whose responsibilities are to manage electoral violence, are the ones promoting it, arming and funding violence. Consequently, electoral violence has become a recurrent feature of the Nigerian democratic process (Odofin and Omojuwa, 2007).
Thus, electoral violence has proved to be Nigeria’s harbinger of national instability as unabated festering irregularities that manifest at different stages of election subject almost all Nigeria’s election below the minimum democracy standard. However, for elections to be termed democratic, it must be free and fair. Political parties are traditionally the most significant intermediary organization in democratic societies. Students of political parties have commonly associated them with democracy itself (Orji, 2013:1). Political parties, as “makers” of democracy, have been so romanticized that scholars claim that neither democracy nor democratic societies are thinkable without them (Omotola 2009). In other words, the existence of vibrant political parties is a sine qua non for democratic consolidation in any polity (Dode, 2010). It is patently ironic that political parties largely pursue (and profess) democracy outside the gates and resist it within the gates (Ibeanu, 2013:1). Competitive party and electoral politics is expected to deepen and consolidate the democratic transition, which the country embarked upon in May 1999 (Jinadu, 2013:2). Well-functioning political parties are essential for the success of electoral democracy and overall political development of Nigeria (Adetula and Adeyi, 2013:3).
Indeed, democracy is unthinkable in the absence of viable political parties. Parties are expected to participate in the political socialization of electorates, contribute to the accumulation of political power, facilitate recruitment of political leadership, and serve as a unifying force in a divided polity (Omotola, 2010:125). The objectives which party regulation seeks to achieve, including the lingering question of internal party democracy, namely the push and pull of struggles to get political parties to respect their own rules and act in line with democratic principles in the conduct of their internal affairs, all remains central to the wider consolidation of democracy in Nigeria (Ibeanu, 2013: 1).
Political parties are associations formally organized with the explicit and declared purpose f acquiring and or maintaining legal control, either singly or in coalition with other similar associations, over the personnel and the policy of the government of an actual or prospective state (Dowse and Hughes, 1972). Strictly speaking, political parties occupy an enviable position in the representative government in modern states. As a matter of fact, political parties are the major hallmarks of democracy. The extant literature is replete with definitions and tenets of democracy and we do not want to rehearse it here (Dahl,1971, Makinda, 1995). Since political parties are essential components of a democratic machine, it is imperative that they should be democratic in their internal operations as one cannot give what he does not have. This, therefore, makes internal (intra-party)democracy a crucial feature which political parties must possess in order to be able to make fundamental input to any democratic arrangement and speed up democratic consolidation (Alfa, 2011).
Electoral violence in Nigeria is most often carried out by gangs (commonly called thugs) whose members are openly unemployed and thus recruited, financed and armed by public officials, Democracy in Nigeria, especially the conduct of elections, has always been characterized by pessimism, uncertainty and fears for the safety of people’s lives and property. Conflict ridden situations have historically featured in all elections conducted in Nigeria since the 1950s. Hence, issues surrounding the electioneering processes potentially relate to violence and violations of the rights of individuals. Thus, rather than serve as a means and a process of exercising legitimate political rights, elections in Nigeria have since independence, turned out to be a serious political liability; causing serious political turmoil and threatening the survival of corporate Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the Research problem
In present Nigeria democracy, where winning election has become a thing of do or die affair, political party’s members participate in various forms of violent activities against other party’s members in a bid to show their disappointment, desperation or frustration. This usually lead to conflicts which has devastating effects on the socio-economic situation of the society like; destruction of lives and properties. The problems and challenges associated with party politics and internal democracy in Nigeria in most cases hinders the growth and development of democracy in the society. It also mitigates democracy consolidation.
The inability of political parties to enforce or play politics according to the rules of the game both within the party and in the art of governance have turned politics to warfare. This has led to a legion of politically motivated killings across political parties. The conspicuous dearth of internal democracy in Nigerian political parties since the emergence of the nascent democracy in the Fourth Republic has far reaching implications for the survival of the democratic project. As Tenuche (2011) aptly asserts; “the immediate fall out of compromised primary elections since the commencement of the Fourth Republic has been tragic for the democratic project in Nigeria”. Some of these include the bitter conflicts between “Godfathers” and their “anointed political sons”, gruesome murder of candidates, inter-party violent conflicts, carpet – crossing, ballot snatching and kidnapping and elongated judicial processes, that ended up annulling the election of those that claimed victory at the polls”.
The people of Jama’a local government area are active politicians but have been seriously marginalised in terms of democracy consolidation. These has resulted in pronounce poverty, unemployment of youths and adults and underdevelopment of study area. Consequently, electoral process is usually marred by electoral violence due to grievances of political party members. This research seeks to examine; the problems associated with party politics that usually results in electoral violence in Jama’a Local Government area.
The problem under investigation by this research study, is the electoral violence that results from lack of proper internal democracy played in political parties by both the parties leaderships, candidates and members.
1.3 Research Questions
This research studies seeks to address the following research questions:
- How does party politics affect electoral violence in Jama’a Local Government?
- What are the effects of electoral violence in Jama’a Local Government?
- How can electoral violence resulting from party politics be prevented in in Jama’a Local Government?
1.4 Objectives of the Research
The major objective of this research study is to examine party politics and electoral violence in Jama’a Local Government. More specifically, the objectives of this research study are to;
- Determine how party politics affect electoral violence in Jama’a Local Government.
- Identify the effects of electoral violence in Jama’a Local Government.
- Suggest ways of minimising electoral violence resulting from party politics in Jama’a Local Government.
1.5 Propositions/Basic Assumptions
The following are the basic assumptions of the researcher on the research study;
- Party politics activities usually determine the presence and absence of electoral violence in Jama’a Local Government.
- Majority of the people of Jama’a Local Government participate in active politics.
- Electoral violence has prevented the socio-economic and political development in Jama’a Local Government.