It turned out a qualitative crowd typical in matters and events concerning the late Professor of (African) Political Theory even after four years of his death. National commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) were there, with one of them – Mallam Mohammed Haruna – chairing the occasion. His colleague, Prof Okey Ibeanu was also there as well as civil society activists, gender warriors and academics.
They were there to attend the 4th Annual Memorial Lecture by The Electoral Institute, (TEI) – the research arm of INEC. This year’s lecture was delivered by the self-same Prof Adele Jinadu June 30th, 2021 at TEI in Abuja.
Jinadu who taught Prof Momoh Political Science at the University of Lagos captured the Momoh persona so powerfully that the lecture is published below without editing except the boxed excerpts from a CDD study which was formatted in a manner that could not be reconfigured to fit into Intervention’s typeface setting. It could be argued that section takes away nothing from the text titled “Security &Elections: Implications for Anambra State Governorship & the 2023 General Elections”.
Prof L. Adele JINADU is a member of the Governing Board, The Electoral Institute, Abuja as well as a Non-Resident, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Democracy & Development, (CDD), Abuja in Nigeria.
“…violence mitigating features needed to make elections ‘free and fair’ (include) an independent electoral management body…prompt and substantially fair judicial resolution of election disputes, effective and non-partisan oversight of the security of the electoral process (non-partisan police and an uninvolved army), and the assurance that losing parties will not be permanently disadvantaged.” (David K. Leonard, 2011:49)
Introduction: Points of Departure
Abubakar Momoh, the eponymous beneficiary of this series of memorial lectures, was my student. But he was more than that. I drew inspiration from his counsel and intellect. If he appeared brash, it was because he did not suffer fools gladly. But he was a fine, caring, and beautiful person from whom I found inspiration. He believed in the transformative power of the intellect and was a prominent figure whose radiance shone across the bridges of intellectual networks linking older and younger generations of African political scientists, other social scientists, and historians. It was within these networks that he carved out a niche for himself as a serious scholar on elections. He agonized seriously about the unfulfilled possibilities of democratic elections in Africa. Yet he entertained unfailing hope in achieving those possibilities, and his tenure as the Director-General of the Electoral Institute strengthened that hope. My approach to the topic of this lecture is deliberately chosen to reflect this mixture of hope and despair, and the need to bring the transformative intellectual power to bear on the “perpetual crisis of democracy” in our country. These are troubling times for our federal republic and I approach this lecture with a sense of despair about the hostile environment of democratic elections in the republic. Recent developments in the republic are ominously reminiscent of the deadly violent political and electoral violence precipitated by the tottering ethno-political electoral realignments that saw the country go down to the precipice in the early- to mid-1960s. We are very close to the precipice.
Yet, I am also convinced that in the long run, hope will be restored and unfulfilled possibilities of electoral politics will become fulfilled ones to strengthen our Republic. Against this background, I begin my lecture
II: The political economy of Nigerian elections
In its authoritative report on the need for electoral reform in Nigeria, the country’s Electoral Reform Committee in 2008 lamented that “the 85-year history of Nigeria’s elections [dating back to the early 1920s] shows a progressive degeneration of outcomes…” The dimensions of the degeneration are varied and have been amply documented by scholars of the country’s party and electoral politics. But a salient dimension, with roots in the country’s colonial history and its political economy, is the combined effect of the complex intersection of the human security deficits of the country’s development and the political mobilization of ethnicity in precipitating violent political and electoral conflict in the country. This is the argument I advance in this Lecture. But before the elaboration, I must before begin with a brief statement about (a) my understanding of the political economy providing the context within which I advance my argument; and (b) the senses in which I use security in this lecture, if only to show how it connects with violent political and electoral conflict.
To illustrate how security connects with the conduct of elections in Nigeria, I contextualize the connection within five important defining structural-material and cultural features of Nigeria’s political economy. The features partly explain why elections have historically and typically assumed the form of deadly violent political and electoral conflict.
Briefly the features are: (a) the structural character of the Nigerian state as the site for zero-sum competitive electoral politics, with politics pursued as if it were the continuation of war by other means; (b) the country’s huge human security or human development deficits that raise the social question of distributive and social justice, combined with the massive social and physical infrastructure with their attendant human and resource capacity deficits that are exploited to inflame politics and fuel violent electoral politics. Taken together, the deficits undermine state capacity by denying the state the social capital essential for the state to withstand assault on its core political institutions; (c) the historic intersection of competitive party and electoral politics with the mutual fear of ethnic domination among the ethnic fractions of country’s political elite.
This has led to the formation of ethnic-base political parties and with it the political mobilization of ethnicity with the tendency of politicised ethnicity to descend into violent conflicts to secure and defend ethnic voting banks.
(d) the progressive violation of one critical institutional hallmark of liberal democratic politics, the abuse or misuse of the power of incumbency by political officeholders, particularly in the executive branch, for unfair partisan electoral advantage, including the deployment of the police force and security agencies for that end.; and (e) the combination of a political culture and an electoral legal framework, including an electoral adjudication process, which encourages, condones and even in a number of instances rewards impunity, even to the extent of assault on the judiciary and independent commissions. The result is the undermining of faith in the credibility of elections as a mechanism for ensuring that today’s losers can become tomorrow’s winners, and today’s winners, tomorrow’s losers.
I shall use security not only in the narrow and negative sense of the absence of war or violent conflict but also in its broader and positive sense of human security or human development. This positive sense of security is the core ideological statement behind Chapter II of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, where the rudiments of a theory of the developmental state are set out under the provisions of Section 13 and Section 14(1) and Section 14(2)(a)(b)(c). Under the provisions of the two sections “the security and welfare of the people…as the primary purpose of government,” as a fundamental objective of state policy is emphasized and is linked to ensuring the “participation by the people in their government,” as a directive principle of government.
The link serves a purpose: without security in the positive sense of “the welfare of the people,” “the participation by the people in their government,” for example in the sense of exercising the unfettered right to vote to elect public political office holders, cannot be ensured. This link also serves to underscore radical African critiques of “choiceless elections,” as elections in which “people (are) voting without choosing.” It raises questions about the feasibility of democracy in Africa under existing material and cultural conditions of underdevelopment.
The explanatory value of the hypothesis is that it underscores how poverty and the huge deficits in the condition of the social condition and the physical infrastructure of Nigeria and huge leakages due to corruption pose serious challenges to national security, in the narrow sense. Thus it provides fertile grounds not only for anomic behavior, such as banditry, but also for the political mobilization of ethnicity. The political mobilization of ethnicity turns the human security question and its resolution into a narrow ethnic question, not a national question about social and distributive justice. Rather it misrepresents it as a question of how to secure ethnic voting banks in the competitive electoral politics for ethno-political hegemony for controlling state power.
Let me return to the intersection of the country’s human security deficits with the political mobilization of ethnicity. The intersection is a significant contributory factor in precipitating the security challenges, in the form of threats and risks of violent political and electoral conflicts that have historically featured in the conduct of free and fair elections in the country. Addressing and minimizing the threats and risks remains, as before, the heavy burden Nigeria’s electoral bodies must bear and not crumble under. But what this also means is that the responsibility for addressing the challenges is not only that of the country’s electoral body but also, and more importantly, that of the public authorities and the political leadership of the political parties. This is due to the following reason. In failing to carry out their “duty and responsibility,” i.e. “to conform to, observe and apply the provisions” of Chapter II of the Constitution, the political leadership created a tinderbox of discontent and anomic social behavior that has imploded to ravage the country, with the offices of the INEC targets of incendiary attacks. Elections and INEC are now under a siege of incendiary attacks by forces that see INEC as proxies for their enemies. The political mobilization of ethnicity, couched in hate-speech, and pursued under a zero-sum approach to competitive electoral politics, has heightened the human security deficits that are fueling internal wars on the scale the country is now experiencing. Viewed in this way, the mobilization serves as more fodder for security in the negative sense of physical violence, inflaming electoral politics, pursued as the continuation of war by other means. As a result, there are now serious apprehensions and a nervous sense of forebodings about upcoming elections in Anambra and the 2023 general elections in the country, and beyond them about whether credible elections can ever be conducted in the country.
This is another cause for concern, set against the positive perception in the country that the investment of INEC in high technology and internal reform, particularly since the 2011-2015 electoral cycle, has progressively brought about more transparency and credibility to the electoral operations of INEC and enhanced public trust in the Commission. The successes of INEC in this respect require consolidation, if the security threats and risks involved in the conduct of elections in the country are to be contained. This is why electoral and political reform should begin to address the more difficult inclement environment that the economic, legal and political framework of electoral politics in the country is feeding and nurturing, both as cause and effect. This is because the environment has been further darkened by what some perceive as the deepening partisan embeddedness of the judiciary through judicial decisions that are substituting the courts for the electorate in choosing winners of elections, particularly in high profile elections. This is the paradox of the success of INEC in sanitizing its electoral operations: it has also resulted in sadly generating a loss of confidence in electoral outcomes, as those who feel the development is not in their favour fight back, using more devious means, such as voter harassment, vote-buying, contrived violence, the compromised role of the courts in deciding losers and winners of elections, and the abuse of the power of incumbency, including alleged deployment of security for partisan political advantage during elections, to disrupt elections and violate their sanctity and integrity . Relatedly, it has become increasingly clear too, since the post-2011 general elections, that state resources are being used with impunity and at an alarming rate as part of election-related and electioneering campaign war-chests of governing parties at the federal and state levels. According to a CDD study “the more INEC succeeds in reducing electoral malpractices through the administrative reforms and the application of integrity enhancing technology in its operations, the more is there an increase in vote-buying and recourse to the abuse of power of incumbency for illicit electoral gain.” This development portends a grave threat to the conduct of credible democratic elections and to national security in the country.
III: What is to be done? —Some navigational Aids
What measures in the medium- to short-term are needed to build a bridge over the troubled waters of the risks posed by electoral and political conflict to electoral integrity in the country? The scope, enormity and sources of the problem as outlined in this lecture makes it difficult to resolve. It requires more than the response of INEC. It requires a multi-pronged collective action by state and non-state stakeholders.
In the rest of this lecture I attempt to draw attention to a number of violence -mitigating strategies to assist Iin designing and building the bridge. Doing so, I draw on and expand a shopping list of what needs to be done in this respect by a study group set up by the Centre for Democracy and Development and from some of the recommendations in the Report of the ERC. The CDD study identifies four essential items for inclusion in a “shopping” list for urgent and political reform to galvanize a public interest electoral reform movement in the country and diminish the corrosive effects of the country’s anti-democratic political and legal culture and the danger they continue to pose for limited government, the rule of law and national security.
The four items target the following: (a) the zero-sum approach to politics and the inadequacy of the country’s first-past-the-post”/ “winner-takes-all” electoral system, both of which predispose to, and precipitate violent electoral competition; (b) a “single-track” electoral management body, lacking strong regulatory capacity for electoral administration ;(c) a flawed electoral dispute adjudication architecture; and (d) toxic cultural and political and socio-economic of electoral politics by the country’s human development/human security deficits.
This Box containing summary of recommendations in the CDD study under reference is removed
Uncertainty over and controversy trailing the on-going constitutional reform process, and party realignment and the reconstitution of the National Executive Committees of the two major political parties in the country. ahead of the 2023 elections and in particular the politics of presidential succession, including the reappointment and appointment of members of INEC and state Resident Electoral Commissions, are already heating up the political and electoral process.
Deepening poverty, intractable insurgency, rising unemployment, and poor public service delivery are already exploding into civil disobedience, anomic behavior, and extra-constitutional incendiary activities. In a context of lack of the political will and national leadership among the country’s fractious mainstream political class to take decisive action to address the social question, the road to Anambra and 2023 is a difficult mine-infested one for any electoral body to navigate. More ominously, the odds seem to be weighed against the feasibility of the conduct of credible elections under these circumstances, with fears expressed that the controversial, indeed nebulous doctrine of democracy may be proclaimed again as an easy way out.
In the words of the Catechist, God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform! But it would be unscientific for us to think we can muddle through to Anambra, 2023, and indeed beyond as we did in earlier elections, waiting for God’s Grace to help us muddle through. God, they say, help those who help themselves –which is to say we have the power of agency to direct our lives. On this note, I want to end on the following note and I believe the Electoral Institute is as good a place to do so. The intertwined problem of elections, democracy and national security require commitment to fundamental and applied research to understand and resolve it.
This faith in the power of intellect is the idea behind the re-envisioning and reinvention of the Electoral Institute. It was to that end that Abubakar Momoh, despite debilitating illness in the last years of his short life, committed himself. Like Fanon who knew he was dying of Leukemia but never gave up the struggle, Abubakar, despite being held hostage by Leukemia, like Fanon, held on to the vision of a reinvented Electoral Institute. This, not just a memorial lecture, important as it is in appreciation of his leadership of the Institute, must be and must remain his Legacy to INEC.