Election is an integral part of a democratic process that enables the citizenry to determine fairly and freely who should lead them at every level of government periodically and take decisions that shape their socio-economic and political destiny, and in case they falter, still possess the power to recall them or vote them out in the next election. This was Obakhedo, (2011) aptly defined election thus: Election is a major instrument for the recruitment of political leadership in democratic societies; the key to participation in a democracy; and the way of giving consent to government (Dye, 2001); and allowing the governed to choose and pass judgment on officeholders who theoretically represent the governed Obakhedo, (2011). In its strictest sense, there can never be a democracy without an election. Huntington is however quick to point out that, a political system is democratic ‘to the extent that its most powerful collective decision-makers are selected through fair, honest and periodic elections in which candidates freely compete for votes, and in which virtually all the adult population is eligible to vote’ (Huntington, 1991). In its proper sense, the election is a process of selecting the officers or representatives of an organization or group by the vote of its qualified members (Nwolise, 2007). Anifowose (2003) defined elections as the process of elite selection by the mass of the population in any given political system, Bamgbose (2012). Elections provide the medium by which the different interest groups within the bourgeois nation-state can stake and resolve their claims to power through peaceful means (Iyayi, 2005). Elections, therefore, determine the right way of ensuring that responsible leaders take over the mantle of power.
An election itself is a procedure by which the electorate, or part of it, choose the people who hold public office and exercise some degree of control over the elected officials. It is the process by which the people select and control their representatives. The implication of this is that without an election, there can be no representative government. This assertion is, to a large extent, correct as an election is, probably, the most reliable means through which both the government and representatives can be made responsible to the people who elect them.
Eya (2003) however, sees the election as the selection of a person or persons for an office as by ballot and making choice as between alternatives. Ozor (2009) succinctly gives a more encompassing and comprehensive definition of the election when he noted that the term connotes the procedure through which qualified adult voters elect their politically preferred representatives to parliament legislature of a county (or any other public positions) for the purpose of farming and running the government of the country. Thus Osumah (2002) elucidates what the basic objective of election is which is to select the official decision makers who are supposed to represent citizens-interest. Elections, according to him extend and enhance the amount of popular participation in the political system. However, elections in Nigeria has always been marred by violence and a heightened sense of national insecurity because of the level of tribal and religion sentiments showed by the countrymen.
Nigeria’s 2016 general elections the fifth since 1999, was scheduled for 14th and 28th February 2016 respectively and later changed to 28th March and 11 April 2016 respectively. All 36 states held presidential, federal parliament and House of Assemblies (state parliaments) elections. Gubernatorial polls were held in 29 states. General elections in Nigeria have always been turbulent and violent affairs. Indeed, the 2007 election polls were widely condemned as the most violent, poorly and massively rigged in the history of Nigeria’s electoral history. Even the winner of the presidential poll, a person of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, conceded flaws. Some analysts and observers considered the April 2011 elections as the most credible since the return to democracy, unlike 2007 elections were over 1,000 people were killed in post-election protests. Nigeria has had a checkered electoral history with successive elections being marred by serious irregularities and controversy- particularly in the conduct of its electoral commission. This has led in some cases to the collapsed of democratic experiments as occurred in 1966 and 1983. The 2007 general elections in Nigeria provided a good opportunity to occasion a break with the past and rekindle public confidence in the electoral and democratic process of the country. However, this was not to be as the elections, according to several local and international observers turned out to be the worst in Nigeria’s political history (European Union: 2007, Human Rights Watch: 2007, Transition Monitoring Group: 2007). Like its predecessors, INEC was accused of not being able to engender public confidence in the electoral process or organize transparent and credible elections. Unfortunately, this position has scarcely been demonstrated in a systematic manner.
March 28th and April 11th, 2016 election marked another turn in Nigeria’s democratic history as registered voters took to the polls to elect the next set of leaders into the Presidential and National Assembly positions. The elections, conducted in the thirty-six states of the country and the Federal Capital Territory, witnessed the emergence of the opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate. This outcome was also the first time an opposition party would unseat the ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since Nigeria’s transition to civil rule in 1999.
This study covers the issues of electoral process and national security with focus on comparison between 2011 and 2016 general elections in Nigeria