Say No To Election Violence: Election Violence And Its Consequences On The Electorate

Before 1999, Nigeria had recorded 300 deaths from election violence, according to statistics that covered the period from 1964 to 1998. Regardless of the quadrennial routine of Nigeria’s election, the spark of violence that accompanies the democratic process is undoubtedly a serious sociopolitical problem that must not be ignored for any reason, considering that anyone can be a victim of the menace, either from the electorate or the gladiator’s camps.

There is no election that has been held in Nigeria (Cross River State inclusive) without the NEWS of violence, either due to dissatisfaction, instigation, vote buying, or thuggery. Sometimes these anti-democratic activities are allegedly sponsored by the politicians themselves under the guise of support groups, or political organizations financed and organized by them. Even the 1993 presidential election, widely adjudged to be the freest in Nigeria’s history and with no serious episodes of violence, did not have a clean record. Its annulment by the Ibrahim Babangida-led military administration triggered public outcry and a wave of protest upon protest.

In all these unprecedented developments surrounding our democracy, Cross River state has a fair share of it. In 2003, the election between the Late John Okpa, and other candidates that were flag bearers of their parties including Donald Duke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was an election that recorded violence in different towns and communities across the state. Houses were burnt, and lives too were lost. This is one instance out of the many that exist in the southern state.

Nationally, the 1999 general elections recorded 80 deaths. Followed by another 100 deaths in 2003. In 2007, a whopping 300 lives were lost nationally. Also, in 2011, another 800 lives were lost to the general elections. While the 2015 and 2019 elections recorded 100 and 150 deaths respectively, according to the International Crisis Group and the European Union Election Observation Mission.

This means that between 1999 to 2019 Nigeria lost about 1, 530 (one thousand five hundred and thirty) lives all to election violence. Who knows, out of these numbers, Nigeria would have had legendary Economists, Engineers, Footballers, Businessmen and women, Lecturers, and even politicians too. 

Consequently, the above statistics show that the 2011 election was by far the most fatal in terms of election violence, with an alarming figure of 800 deaths. Even though the system was more of a one-party system, this violence thrived.

However, now that Nigeria is operating a multiparty system, with three very popular presidential tickets competing for the presidency, there are concerns surrounding the conduct of the elections and electioneering processes, especially with the high level of political participation in the country, it is important that factors such as weak governance to the ineffectiveness of security forces, poverty and unemployment, abuse of power, political alienation, a climate of impunity, a ‘winner-takes-all’ political system, and the proliferation of small arms, be subjected to serious checks, to avoid the worst election violence hit ever.

This is necessary because, according to the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), between April 2014 and May 2022, press reports cataloged by the tracker, show that at least 350 people lost their lives to electoral violence in Nigeria. Fifty-one (51) others, mostly officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), were abducted in the same period. This poses a big threat to the highly expected 2023 general elections.

The repercussion of election violence is not far-fetched as it promotes political apathy, which is one of the leading causes of election rigging, inconclusive elections, and post-election protests in Nigeria. Also, violence comes in various forms, such as arson, assassinations, ballot box snatching, coercion, forceful disruption, kidnapping, hate speech-induced crises, shooting, thuggery, and so on. Most of the victims are civilians but security personnel also lost their lives. Furthermore, with about 90,000 Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) uncollected in Cross River state, there should be peaceful reassurance beyond every reasonable doubt to encourage the electorate to go all out for these PVCs, or else the turn out in the 2023 elections would have already been cut down by 90,000 due to fear of possible election violence, only in Cross River state.

However, the role of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in this electioneering process is of estimable value. The body should ensure that it partners with the security and legal institutions to ensure that different political parties adhere to and abide by the new Electoral Act 2022, for the overall good of the Nigerian people, because one life lost, is never recovered forever.

Article by: Ojang, Godwin