Today, electorate will file out to vote for their choice candidates in governorship and state assembly elections. The elections will be the fifth in the series since 1999. However, the greatest obstacle to democratic consolidation in Nigeria is electoral violence. This is as a result of the rascal politics that the political elite engage in. Sometimes, the violence is intra-party, but most of the times it is inter-party.
Apart from that, the fact that this phenomenon
affects the credibility of the electoral system, the democratic system and the rule of law, the nature, extent and magnitude of violence and rigging associated with elections in Nigeria had assumed alarming proportions.
Election is an irreducible feature of democratic governance. Elections are supposed to be competitive, free and fair both substantively and procedurally in which the ability of the elected representatives to exercise decision-making power is subject to the rule of law. It should also be moderated by a constitution that emphasises the protection of the rights and freedoms of individuals which places constraints on the leaders and on the extent to which the will of the majority can be exercised against the rights of minorities.
Despite the legal framework that guides the electoral process, there is usually a contest between those who want to acquire power and those who are likely to lose power. The contest wears the toga of violence because some politicians usually want to cut corners. This development in part had made democratic consolidation somehow problematic and on the other hand has made it difficult for Nigeria to be referred to as a democratic state even though operators vehemently lay claim to it.
The point has to be made that historically, violence has been a major feature of political life everywhere around the world. Only that politics-related violence varies in intensity, trends and dimensions from one political system to another.
Over the years, our elections have been dogged by violence cutting across the entire country. The violence that attended 2011 elections is still fresh in our minds. Sources of pre-and post-election violence include: ignorance and low civic education; lack of internal democracy in political parties i.e failure of political parties to respect their constitution; the “do-or-die” attitude of politicians to politics; thuggery in politics and the use of thugs to achieve political victory; inflammatory and hate speeches by politicians; unwillingness to accept election outcomes; heavy monetisation of the electoral process by politicians and attempts to compromise election officials.
While we reaffirm our confidence in the electoral process, we need to state that the role of the electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and its staff are paramount. They must remain transparent in all engagements and strive to resolve tensions, suspicion and speculations that could lead to election violence. INEC officials must work closely with state institutions such as the security agencies to identify early enough, areas prone to violence in order to mount preventive actions.
On pre, during and post-election violence, something has happened that we have failed to pay attention to. What is the most recent evidence of people snatching ballot boxes that we can reach to and what is the recent evidence of electoral failures? People have been disenfranchised because electoral materials were not delivered to their polling units or vote cancelled; that is what has been largely prevalent.
You cannot deny people access to justice and expect peace. The reason for electoral violence is that people still do not understand this it is just a contest for service and that the ultimate decider is the electorate. Some have ignorantly described it as a do-or-die affair.
Another argument is that electoral violence is a reaction to stimulus. A stimulus that suggests if others can do what they like to get power, you can also do what you like to get yours.
We call on the members of the political class to refrain from acts that would incite youths to violence. Only free, fair and transparent polls can curb electoral violence. This is because, once the process is free and fair, politicians must learn to accept defeat gallantly and those who win must be generous in victory.

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