INVESTIGATION INTO THE CHALLENGES OF INEC IN CONDUCTING A FREE AND FAIR ELECTION IN NIGERIA(A STUDY OF 2023 GENERAL ELECTION)
Background of the study
Practically, it would be impossible for each and every one to lead. As such, persons with the best interest of people at heart must be chosen to represent the people’s will at various levels. An election to fill public offices at various level of government – federal, state or local – must then be conducted for this purpose. While democracy is espoused as the best form of government, elections are seen as perhaps its strongest element. According to Ebirim (2016), this is because the people have their voices heard and their opinions valued in key decision making. It is however significant to note that for an election to have this much importance, it must be one done periodically, and importantly, must be free, competitive, fair, and credible – else the whole purpose is thwarted.
Jinadu (2021), opined that election is very important in democratization process this is because it is only through election that people can choose those to represent them at all level. However, one important thing with election is that elections can hold without democracy, but democracy cannot operate without elections, with this it is clearly understood election is the heart of any democracy. Election process is very significant in democratic government because it is the procedure for choosing representatives, and the means of expressing people’s views in democratic settings, it is one of the device for changing the government, election help people to decide who should rule them at all level. It is, therefore, surprising that the democratic process in Africa in general and the developing countries like Nigeria continued to derail and collapsed elections and the electoral process. This is because of numerous underpinning problem such corruption, religions factors, ethnicity, regionalization of the political parties and power of incumbency and the politics of God fatherism that has eaten deeply in to the Nigerian political structures and the inability of electoral bodies to conduct free, fair and credible elections (Ekundayo, 2015). It has been observed by Ekundayo (2015), that right from military regime to the current administration, Nigerian’s quests for real democratic governance which was challenged with many problems. The power of the electoral body is a main factor underpinning Nigerian democracy.
Prior to 2023 general elections INEC persistently worked to conduct free, fair, credible and acceptable elections in the subsequent elections, it may be said that at this moment the INEC has impressively prepared some essential devices for a successful and fruitful election. But with all the efforts of the INEC which is specially burdened with the job of organizing and conducting a credible election in Nigeria, still it is faced with numerous challenges which if care is not taken the work of the electoral organization to bring a satisfactory election results for the nation will not be truthful.Sadly, owing to election results manipulation, corruption, blatant rigging, perversion of justice, and violence, Nigeria's election process, which is at the heart of every stable and successful democratic state (Osakwe, 2019), is barely tolerable. Okafor (2013) posits that elections should be conducted in a peaceful atmosphere,, devoid of the usual violence that has come to characterize election in Nigeria, Thus when periodic elections are held without free and fair play, the strongest pillar of democracy and an important mechanism that ensures orderliness in the process of leadership change has been hampered which is against the ideal hallmark of a true democratic state.
1.2Statement of the problem
The Nigerian experience with general elections has shown that the political elite has not fully come to terms with the referents of elections for democratic sustenance and national security. More often than not, the elite has failed to play by the rules of competitive electoral politics which prioritizes politics of tolerance, conflict and consensus, bargaining and compromise however has resorted to bribing of electoral body and buying their way into seat which makes a mockery of free and credible election.
Prior to the introduction of permanent voter cards, as well as the BVAS and IRev technologies, electorates were frequently sidelined by unfettered manipulation, with powerful opponents losing elections or having their votes stolen or invalidated. Yet, when the new technical input was introduced in the Nigerian political area, it was anticipated that results would be exceedingly difficult to manipulate, either by anonymous persons or by arbitrarily and illegally changing data. However, Nigerians were shocked by the recently concluded Nigeria presidential elections, in which the Electoral Body, which was supposed to be a transparent application of this electronic device and its embodied security features, refused to upload polling unit results in real time and instead resorted to old methods of arbitrarily and fraudulently manipulating figures.
According to Ogheneakoke (2023), the recently finished presidential election in Lagos and Rivers States experienced the greatest degree of election fraud, with voters being beaten and assaulted because of their desire to vote Labour Party against the Governor's favoured choice in APC. It is worth noting that politicians are ruthlessly intent on seizing political power at any cost, disregarding the sanctity of the rule of law and the protection of electorate rights from political intimidation and the imposition of governance that is not genuinely generated by the electorate's popular mandate. On the hand, the large number of political parties competing in the election looked to have exceeded INEC's logistical capacities, including as its capacity to make timely purchases. The Situation Room witnessed material acquisition, deployment, and sufficiency issues. There were reports of crucial election documents being supplied to the incorrect places, which led to the observed delays in the start of voting. Thus this ill preparation by INEC and the unethical behaviour exhibited by its staff during the election according to Osakwe(2023) questioned the intergrity of the presidential election and has continue to keep the masses abazed on the credibility of the election. This dreadful state endangers political development and in the long-term hampers Nigeria's democratic consolidation. Against this backdrop, the study seeks to investigate the challenges of inec in conducting a free and fair election in Nigeria.
1.3 Objectives Of The Study
The primary objective of this study is focused on investigation into the challenges of inec in conducting a free and fair election in Nigeria. Other objectives of this study are :
Determine the various challenges that encumbered INEC’s conduction of a credible election in Nigeria
Investigate factors promoting INEC’s inability in conducting a free and fair election in Nigeria.
Explore the implication of INEC’s inability to conduct free and fair election on Nigeria political development.
To make recommendations that INEC’s utilize to improve and strengthen the electoral process.
1.4 Research Question
What are the various challenges that encumbered INEC’s conduction of a credible election in Nigeria?
What are the factors promoting INEC’s inability in conducting a free and fair election in Nigeria?
What are the implication of INEC’s inability to conduct free and fair election on Nigeria political development?
What are the recommendations INEC’s can utilize to improve and strengthen the electoral process in Nigeria
1.5 Significance of the study
This study will be significant to the government as it will be exposed to the several atrocities committed by political party gents during election, thereby deploying security agents to allow for the protection of ballot papers and voters respectively. The study will also be significant to the independent national electoral commission (INEC) as it will be exposed to the challenges in the present electoral practices been used and will put measures in place to tackle these challenges.This study will be of benefit to the academic community as it will contribute to the existing literature.
1.6 Scope of the study
The scope of this study borders on investigation into the challenges of inec in conducting a free and fair election in Nigeria. The study will further determine the various challenges that encumbered INEC’s conduction of a credible election in Nigeria, investigate factors promoting INEC’s inability in conducting a free and fair election in Nigeria, explore the implication of INEC’s inability to conduct free and fair election on Nigeria political development and make recommendations that INEC’s utilize to improve and strengthen the electoral process. The participant for the study will cover INEC staffs in Abuja.
1.7 Limitation of the study
The researchers encountered slight constraints while carrying out the study. The significant constraint was the scanty literature on the subject owing that credible election discourse is vast thus the researcher incurred more financial expenses and much time was required in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature, or information and in the process of data collection, which is why the researcher resorted to a limited choice of sample size covering only INEC staff in Abuja. Thus findings of this study cannot be used for generalization for other states within Nigeria. Additionally, the researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work will impede maximum devotion to the research. Howbeit, despite the constraint encountered during the research, all factors were downplayed in other to give the best and make the research successful.
1.8 Definition of terms
Free And Fair Election: A free and fair election involves political freedoms and fair processes leading up to the vote, a fair count of eligible voters who cast a ballot (including such aspects as electoral fraud or voter suppression), and acceptance of election results by all parties.
INEC: Independent National Electoral Commission
Ogheneakoke, M.A. (2023). The 2023 elections and the imperative of electoral reform in Nigeria. Covenant Journal of Business and Social Sciences, 1 and 2, 123-141.