In 1964, when Nigeria held her first-ever election, it was reported to be marred with rigging, and other electoral malfeasances. And from the first election to date, no election process in Nigeria has got a good score of success.
One of the major reasons for military interventions or democratic interruption in Nigeria would largely be attributed to the manipulation of the electoral process and management. Some people have also attributed the cause of the civil war to electoral manipulations. Ugo Jim Nwoko in his article Nigerian elections: A history and a loss of memory said “All the sad developments and occurrences of the period that culminated to the Nigerian civil war were the consequences of the rigging and violence of the 1964 elections. “These sad political situations justified military rule for thirteen years – 1966-1979.”
At the centre of these electoral process and management, underperformance from 1999 till date are some presidents of the federal republic of Nigeria and chairmen of the Independent Electoral Commission INEC: PresidentS Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari, Professor Maurice Iwu and Professor Mahmood Yakubu. They have been described as “supervisors of the worst elections in Nigeria’s history.”
In 2003, under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Professor Maurice Iwu conducted a highly rigged election in that the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, christened it as “win everywhere.” According to Ugo, “That election was massively rigged by the PDP and tended to destroy the growth and emergence of opposition parties in Nigeria’s democracy. The champions of that era however never enjoyed the four-year controversial mandate as it was a period of free for all fight in the presidency. Nigeria was the loser!”
In 2007, the elections took a similar pattern to 2003: rigging, ballot snatching, and results falsifications. Obasanjo rigged the election to foist Governor Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on the country as President while making sure the ambition of his Vice President, Atiku Abubakar did not fly. And Ugo captured it thusly: “The election was so badly and violently rigged under the chairmanship of Professor Maurice Iwu’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), that the European Election Observer Mission in Nigeria reported that “Nigerian leaders had deceived their people”. This drew the anger of Obasanjo’s government which asked the foreign election observers to leave Nigeria.”
When President Yar’Adua assumed office, he confessed to the fraudulent electoral system and began corrective measures of amending the electoral act. Justice Mohammed Uwais made far-reaching submissions in their report which was applauded by the nation but never fully implemented. President Goodluck Jonathan and Professor Attahiru Jega conducted one of the most peaceful elections in the country where the incumbent President Jonathan was defeated by President Muhammadu Buhari.
However, the era of President Buhari and Professor Yakubu as INEC chairman has eroded the gains from the Jonathan and Jega era and taken us back to the do-or-die era of Obasanjo and Iwu.
The 2019 election was violent and massively rigged and many people were killed. For the 2023 election, it could be tagged as a win-at-all-cost for the All Progressives Congress, APC. This is because of the Yoruba slogan of emi l’okan’ which means ‘it is my turn’ that came from the President-elect Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
The 2023 general elections are marred with massive rigging, ballot box snatching and violence. The results, many Nigerians have expressed disappointment about it. They have lost trust in the system.
While the 2023 elections results are heavily being contested in the courts by the Labour Party and PDP presidential candidates, Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar, the mood for the change of government is not exciting as many Nigerians do not agree with the outcome of the election results as a true reflection of their choice.
When will Nigeria’s electoral system improve? This is the question that is yet to be answered.