Prior to her amalgamation, the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria were represented by traditional rulers and leaders to her colonial master Great Britain. In 1919, elective democracy was introduced by the then Governor-General Sir Fredrick Lugard when the Township Ordinance gave the right to vote for a limited slot of three seats in the Lagos Town Council to some men. The first elections to the council were held on 29 March 1920.
In 1922, a new constitution was promulgated under the regime of then Governor-General Sir Hugh Clifford. The new constitution, which was known as Clifford Constitution, introduced a slot of four elected seats to the Legislative Council, three for Lagos and one for Calabar.
In 1959, prior to the independence of Nigeria, an electoral body known as the Electoral Commission of Nigeria was established to oversee and conduct the elections to usher in the first indigenous leadership. Following independence in 1960, the body morphed into the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) to conduct the 1964 and 1965 federal and regional elections.
Citing corruption and civil disobedience among several other allegations, some military officers conducted the first military coup d’etat killing almost all top civil government leaders. Those who were left were displaced and jailed. A counter-coup ensued immediately and that brought in military rule. This resulted in the dissolution of the electoral body and a recurrence of coups and counter-coups left it literally non-existent. In 1977, driven by a proposed transition to civilian, democratic system of governance, then Head of State General Olusegun Obasanjo constituted the Federal Electoral Commission to conduct elections which ushered in the Second Republic under Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
An alleged state of corruption prompted the military under the leadership of General Sani Abacha to seize power, sack and jail top government officials of the civilian government. This affected all democratic institutions thus plunging the electoral body into a non-existent state. However, in December 1995, the military government re-established the national electoral body under a new name of National Electoral Commission Of Nigeria (NECON). The electoral body conducted a set of elections but the elected institutions were not inaugurated before the sudden death of the then military Head of State General Sani Abacha in 1998.
On takeover of leadership of the military government, General Abdulsalami Abubakar dissolved the electoral body NECON and established the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The newly established electoral body organized the elections which saw a transition of governance from military rule to democracy ushering the Fourth Republic. However, due to the nation being used to the system of military rule, the masses were ignorant of the core understanding of democracy creating a loophole for the last military government to dictate and orchestrate the results of the election in favour of its preferred candidate in the person of General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd).
The transition of governance to democratic rule resulted in the creation of political juntas and machineries which has continually played an influential role on the electoral body INEC. However, this influence has continually edged towards the negative part thus playing the electoral body’s credibility on doubt. International election observers and bodies have continuously cited the 1999, 2003 and 2007 general elections of Nigeria as proof of prevalent electoral misconduct. This elections have been described as a combination of disorganization and fraudulent electoral activities which saw the stealing, rigging and hijacking of the mandate of the masses by a caucus of political elites.
Over the years, elections in Nigeria have been marred by violence and fraudulent electoral activities. Political machineries of thuggery have been continually sponsored by members of political parties to intimidate, harass and sometimes kill members of opposition parties. Also, rigging and vote-buying have become a norm where the votes of several persons are exchanged for a certain amount (usually a very little stipend) and resulted can also be tipped in favour of a candidate.
Recently, the world observed with dismay the electoral abnormalities prevalent with Nigerian elections. Few days ago, the Osun State gubernatorial election shocked the nation and world at large with the supposedly impartial electoral body INEC declaring the elections inconclusive while the opposition party People Democratic Party (PDP) was in the lead. A re-run election was scheduled and conducted amid a show of brutal force by political thugs and security forces loyal to the ruling party All Progressive Congress (APC). Blockades were created preventing loyalists of the opposition access to polling units to cast their votes. Violence reigned supreme on that day as thugs delivered the services they were paid for.
Despite protests and factual evidence, the electoral body INEC declared the re-run election as smooth and peaceful with an eventual announcement of the ruling party’s candidate as winner. This has drawn condemnation from national and international organizations and is being challenged in court. However, with the level of democratic dictatorship being exhibited in all the arms of the government, it will surely be difficult for mandate of the masses to prevail and all they can do is use the adaptive mechanism learnt, to keep suffering and smiling.
With basis on the ideology of Martin Luther King Jnr, Nigerians have a dream where we can really be accorded excellent and impartial governance.
Happy New Month/Independence Anniversary to all Nigerians nationwide and in diaspora.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
God bless Nigeria!
Article by Agwah Michael
(Founder 247NewsUpdate Blog, Researcher, Human Rights Activist, Social Critic and Political Analyst)
LinkedIn: Agwah Michael