This study unfolds the contributions of political parties in issues and challenges of free and fair elections in Nigeria with specific focus on Kogi State 2011 gubernatorial election. The study through the understanding of the typologies of political culture and political participation as frame work of analysis focuses on the concepts: political mobilization and education, party primaries and interparty contest as units of analysis for discussing the Nigerian electoral process. The study thus argued that the low turnout of electorates during elections which was less than 50% of registered voters during the Kogi State gubernatorial election is an indication of the poor mobilization and educative function of political parties which poses a major challenge to free and fair elections. The study further stated that, party primaries in the Nigerian state, especially in major political parties as manifested in Kogi State is often characterized by electoral manipulation and thereby adversely affecting aggregative function of political parties. This tends to have a far reaching implication on interparty contest as political environment in most cases is charged with divisiveness, party indiscipline, thuggery, ballot box snatching to mention a few.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The history of elections in Nigeria can be traced back to 1922 as was conducted by the British Colonial government in response to the pressures of the nationalists who were agitating for greater participation in the colonial administration. Subsequently, Nigerians were offered the first opportunity to occupy certain political offices. Though the franchise was restricted and representation limited, it was nonetheless an achievement for the nationalists who were struggling for the enthronement of democratic order as a pre-requisite for greater participation of the people in the process of governance. After 1922, several other elections were conducted in different parts of the country to elect leaders at national, regional and local levels. However, it was the 1959 General Elections that paved way for the emergence of Nigeria as an independent state. Since then, various elections have been held either in transition from one civilian government to another or in transition from military regimes to civilian administration.
Organizing a free and fair elections in an emerging democracy such as Nigeria has been viewed as a challenging process that needs functional input from democratic bodies such as the political parties, the electoral body, the electorates as well as the political entities whose activities are geared towards controlling the machinery of government (Omodia, 2011a). Free and fair elections has also seen viewed as the mechanism that oils the democratic process which enables for democratic stability, and maturity (Ibodje and Dode 2007; Omodia 2011a). From the perspective of this paper, relating the first conception of free and fair elections to the latter as stated above, is indicative of the fact that although functional inputs are needed from political elites, the electoral body, electorates, political parties and in the Nigerian environment, to a great extent security agents, it is important to note that the structure, pattern and functioning of political parties tend to affect the institutions mentioned above. According to Omodia (2009) the structure of political parties: masses, elitist/cadre and mass-elite could vividly impact on the freeness and fairness of the electoral process in that: an elitist dominated process would lead to excessive monetization of the electoral process, experience the manipulation of the masses by the political elites for selfish and class benefits, an ineffective and restrictive political mobilization of the citizenry for voter registration and enhanced political participation in voting, a non-issue based political education that will not enable the electorate to make informed electoral decisions among others. The implication therefore is that it is important to accentuate that, the role of political parties in a competitive environment is of utmost importance to ensuring free and fair elections. This is because parties are expected to regulate the activities of their members by ensuring that they keep to rules specified by electoral body for hygienic contest. This is coupled with such other functions as; political mobilization and education of electorate, instilling confidence in the electoral process through an open and transparent conduct of party primaries, making sure that parties are represented at polling booths and collation centres by party agents among others.
The conception of free and fair election is an embodiment of a joint process where the people are the driving force and determinant of political representation or the outcome of the electoral process. In other words, the conception here is not only for inter-party elections to be free and fair especially in new democratic states of Africa, but, the need for electoral activities to be centered on the people in such a way that it would aid the emergence of political leaders at the intra party level, aid informed political decisions at the polling booth and where the people’s choice would be the major determinant of electoral contest. In order to achieve the above, political parties are expected to effectively perform the function of political education, political candidates or parties are not supposed to be restricted to access to mass media or any other functional means of political campaign, a candidate or party is not expected to be unduly financially advantaged through the use of state fund, the electoral body is also expected to be independent in such a way that it could effectively discharge the functions of transparent voter registration exercise, collation and declaration of electoral results among others.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Nigeria, a country with different ethnic groups and corrugated different political agendas ranging from the individual perspective to the political parties. The menace with Nigeria electioneering process is the wheel to be on power at all cost irrespective of the interest of the people, every political party that is on power want to retain power for their selfish interest, while doing this, they map out strategies that will enable them to rig the election either by crook or hook, this things are not mostly peculiar with the Nigeria system alone but is common due to the fact that most of the leaders even come out openly to declare their stands to fight with their last breath to win election.
Political malpractice has taken a new formation in the history of Nigeria, most of the country’s religious leader are now praise singers of politicians, they have ignore their vows and responsibilities to the people by preaching the gospel which proffers rather to rain encomium on politician(s) who come to their congregation for thanks giving to God. Instead of religions leaders playing their role of lordship over these politicians, by chastising any dubious person that warrant such in other to cleans the society from bad eggs. Thus, the focus of study is to unfold the role of political parties in enhancing free and fair elections in Nigeria with specific focus on Kogi State Gubernatorial Election of 2011.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The sole aim of this research is to examine the role of political parties in issues of free and fair election in Nigeria, the researcher intend to address the following sub objectives in the course of the study;
- To examine the contributions of political parties to sustaining a free and fair election in kogi state.
- To examine the performance of INEC in the management and conduct of 2011 general elections in kogi state.
- To examine the level of success recorded by political parties at the end of the elections in kogi state.
- To determine the problems associated with conducting a free and fair election in kogi state.
- To proffer solutions to the problems and challenges mitigating against free and fair election in Nigeria.
1.4 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
The researcher formulated the following null and alternate hypotheses to guide the study;
H0: there is no significant relationship between political parties and conducting free and fair election in kogi state.
H1: there is a significant relationship between political parties and conducting free and fair election in kogi state.
H0: INEC does not perform any management role in conducting a free and fair election in kogi state.
H2: INEC performs management role in conducting a free and fair election in kogi state.
H0: There was no free and fair election during the 2011 gubernatorial election in kogi state.
H3: There was a free and fair election during the 2011 gubernatorial election in kogi state.
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The following are the significance will be achieve at the completion of the study;
This study will educate the general public on the activities of political parties with specific focus on the management role of 2011 general election in the state with a view of ascertaining the success and problems associated with free and fair election.
To political parties’ leaders and members, it will serve as a mirror of reflection on the need to represent not imposing representatives on the masses. The need for a credible election to be conducted, where every votes cast can be accounted for even in the nearest future.
This research will be a contribution to the body of literature in the area of the effect of personality trait on student’s academic performance, thereby constituting the empirical literature for future research in the subject area.
1.6 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
This study is limited to the role of political parties in conducting a free and fair election, with specific reference to the 2011 general elections conducted in kogi State. It will also cover the successes and challenges associated with the 2011 general election in the state.
In the course of the study the researcher encountered the following constraint;
Financial constraint– Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
Time constraint– The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work
1.7 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Political parties: A political party is a group of people who come together to contest elections and hold power in the government. The party agrees on some proposed policies and programmes, with a view to promoting the collective good or furthering their supporters’ interests.
While there is some international commonality in the way political parties are recognized, and in how they operate, there are often many differences, and some are significant.
PDP: this is an acronyms for Peoples Democratic Party in Nigeria.
APC: this is an acronyms for All Progressives Congress in Nigeria.
INEC: independent national electoral commission is an independent body that is saddle with the responsibility of voter’s registration and conduction of elections in Nigeria.
Election: An election is a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative democracy has operated since the 17th century. Elections may fill offices in the legislature, sometimes in the executive and judiciary, and for regional and local government. This process is also used in many other private and business organizations, from clubs to voluntary associations and corporations
Credible election: The legitimacy of democratic government is established, in large measure, by genuine elections, and they are much more than what happens on Election Day. A genuine electoral process requires an open pre-election environment in which citizens can participate without fear or obstruction; political parties, candidates and the media can operate freely; an independent judiciary functions fairly and expeditiously; and electoral authorities operate impartially. Since its earliest days, NDI has been working with partners around the world to help ensure that elections reflect the will of the people.
1.8 ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY
This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows. Chapter one is concern with the introduction, which consist of the (background of the study), statement of the problem, objectives of the study, research questions, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope of the study etc. Chapter two being the review of the related literature presents the theoretical framework, conceptual framework and other areas concerning the subject matter. Chapter three is a research methodology covers deals on the research design and methods adopted in the study. Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding. Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study.
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