INVESTIGATION INTO THE CONSEQUENCES OF HIJACKING BALLOT BOX DURING THE GENERAL ELECTION IN NIGERIA
Background of the study
Elections are critical aspects of the democratic framework for governing modern political societies. They serve as instrument of political choice, mobilization and accountability. In the context of liberal democracy that has become the most popular form of democracy in a unipolar world, elections are to facilitate the smooth transition from one civilian administration to the other and help in legitimizing sitting governments. According to Umaru (2015), in a democratic system where elections are devoid of crisis, long term disputes or political violence, are amicably resolved. Such system enhances the prospect for political stability, peace, development and continuity in governance. But where elections are characterized by violence, thuggery, intimidation, rigging, ballot box snatching and stuffing and other forms of electoral malpractices, they bring to question the very essence of democracy and compromise the nation's security.
Conversely, electoral fraud is the single most potent threat to democratic transition in Nigeria. Ballot box snatching and stuffing is perpetrated by all political parties relative to their strength. However, it is the party with “incumbency factor” that can rig to make the differences between winning and losing an election. Incumbency, particularly at the federal level guarantees access to and control over election materials and the electoral commission, security agencies and limitless state resources (Kyari in Sofekun, Oyakhiromen, Ige & Obayemi 2022). For Kyari, the lack of free and fair elections will ultimately lead to total loss of faith in the system and that, though the court may make a difference in few cases but, the building and sustenance of democratic culture is beyond the capability of the judiciary.
In other words, factors precipitating hijacking of ballot box in Nigeria includes poor electoral administration, rigging, ethnicity, religious sentiments, poor security system during election, political intolerance, lack of well define ideology by the political parties, chronic economic crisis and poverty (Ogundiya 2017). Such violence is characterized by wanton destruction of lives and property in what scholars like (Ijayi, 2015) term it as warfare. For Ogundiya (2017), elections in Nigeria since independence have become a political liability and source of instability and that various experiences regarding elections in Nigeria have brought the worst of political thuggery and brigandage as well as unmediated and unrestrained violence.
According to Ogheneakoke (2023), general elections in Nigeria have been marred by crises and undemocratic practices such as mass rigging, rioting, kidnapping, murder, ballot box theft, and thuggery, among other things, from 1960 to the present. 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. This dreadful state endangers the long-term growth of Nigeria's democracy.
1.2 Statement 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. They see elections as warfare, characterized by gangsterism and political disorder. Political parties which organize for elections are also, like armband of men and women going to war, where there must be victors and the vanquished. Elections have become warfare, where it is a sin to lose. This dominant pattern of elections and electioneering threatens to tear the nation apart and put its tenuous peace at great risks.
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. Furthermore, numerous electorates witnessed significant violence during the 2023 general election, including the theft of vote boxes by electoral thugs, the destruction/burning of ballot papers, the vandalization of polling places, and so on. Furthermore, the CDD, a civil society group (CSO), discovered in The cable (28th February 2023) that four important factors — operational obstacles, violence, money influence, and internet lies — affected the 2023 presidential electoral process. Against this backdrop, the purpose of this study is to investigate the consequences of hijacking ballot box during the general election in Nigeria.
1.3 Objectives Of The Study
The primary objective of this study is focused on investigation into the consequences of hijacking ballot box during 2023 general election in Nigeria. Other objectives of this study are to:
Ascertain the prevalence of ballot box snatching during 2023 general election in Nigeria in Kogi State.
Investigate factors prompting hijacking of ballot box during 2023 general election in Kogi State.
Determine whether hijacking of ballot box during 2023 general election exerts a significance influence on political participation in Kogi state.
Find out out if hijacking of ballot box during 2023 general election hampers the realization of democratic consolidation.
1.4 Research Questions
The study will be guided by the following questions;
What is the prevalence of ballot box snatching during 2023 general election in Nigeria in Kogi State?
What were the factors which prompted hijacking of ballot box during 2023 general election in Kogi State?
Did hijacking of ballot box during 2023 general election exerted a significance influence on political participation in Kogi state?
Did the hijacking of ballot box during 2023 general election hampered the realization of democratic consolidation?
1.5 Significance of the study
This research is significant in such a way that it examines the phenomenon of election malpractice and how it threatens the efforts at democratization in Nigeria’s fourth republic. It also x-rays the fundamental factors associated with election violence and ultimately recommends ways for obviating them. It will serve as an eye opener to researchers, government officials and general readers who truly intend to understand the impediment to democratic consolidation in Nigeria. Again, it will serve to sensitize the public and create awareness as to the destructive potentials of election malpractice towards the aspiration for democratization in Nigeria. Empirically, the study will contribute to body of knowledge and serve as a reference material to student and scholars who wishes to conduct further studies in related field.
1.6 Scope of the study
The scope of this study borders on investigation into the consequences of hijacking ballot box during 2023 general election in Nigeria. The study further ascertain the prevalence of ballot box snatching during 2023 general election in Nigeria in Kogi State, determine factors prompting hijacking of ballot box during 2023 general election in Kogi State, investigate whether hijacking of ballot box during 2023 general election exerts a significance influence on political participation and hampers the realization of democratic consolidation. The participant for the study will cover residents adults who participated in just concluded 2023 presidential Lagos State.
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 ballot box snatching 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 residents of Kogi State. 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
Election: An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold public office.
Election Malpractice: Election malpractice refers to all illegitimate acts carried out before, during and after elections in order to influence the outcomes of an election to the advantage of a particular political party and to the detriment of the other(s). Such illegitimate acts include rigging, thuggery, violence, intimidation, fraud, bribery, vote buying, misrepresentation and all sort of illegal manipulations hinged on altering the otherwise anticipated outcome of an election.
Electoral violence: Electoral violence is any random or organized act that seeks to determine, delay, or otherwise influence an electoral process through threat, verbal intimidation, hate speech, disinformation, physical assault, forced “protection”, blackmail, destruction of property, or assassination.