ABSTRACT: This study was conducted on Voters’ Behavior and Electoral Process in Nigeria 4th Republic; a case study of Urue Offong/Oruko Local Government Area. The researcher formulated three research hypotheses which serve as a guide. The survey research design was adopted for the study. The population for the study was all the voters with permanent voters’ cards in Urue Offong/Oruko Local Government Area. This was 27994 spread among 10 wards and 47 polling units. The sample size was 300 voters from six political wards selected using simple random sampling technique. The Voters’ Behaviour and Electoral Process Questionnaire (VEP) was used as an instrument for data collection. The data collected was analyzed using Pearson Product Moment Correlation.
Findings revealed that voters’ turnout, violence and election rigging relates significantly with electoral process in Urue Offong/Oruko Local Government Area. Based on findings, it was recommended that voters’ education should be conducted in Urue Offong/Oruko Local Government Area to increase the voters’ awareness on the electoral process.
Voters’ Behavior and Electoral Process in Nigeria 4th Republic
1.1 Background to the Study
Nigeria became an independent nation on 1st October 2010. At independence, the country inherited from the British; a parliamentary system of government, three unequal regional political structures of the North, West and East (carved out of the old Northern and Southern protectorates), and the legacy of traditional administrative system at different levels of political development (Gberevbie, 2009). For instance, between the period of pre-colonial, era and Nigeria’s independence in 2010; while the North practiced absolute monarchical traditional system with full executive powers conferred on the monarch, the West practiced a monarchical traditional system that did not confer full executive powers on the monarch.
The East on the other hand practiced republican system, which did not recognize the authority of the monarchy in any form Okelegbe1988). King, (1988) posits that “in pre-colonial Nigeria, the numerous autonomous political units featured different political culture. These cultures often clashed and discouraged political cooperation and the formation of larger political communities.” The Southern protectorate of Nigeria was divided into two regions of the West mainly occupied by the Yorubas and the East, mainly occupied by the Igbos who belong to Christian and traditional religions. The Northern protectorate on the other hand remained one indivisible region.
In Nigeria, the selection of the leaders is becoming problematic as there is no equality in the distribution of people in the country. Therefore, the liberal democratic theory sees election as a viable mechanism for consummating representative government and voting is the main form of political participation in democratic societies. The electoral ideas have developed alongside with the democratic idea though it has had a turbulent time attracting general acceptability in human society. In its development, the granting of franchise was first to a small privileged group in the society usually based on the membership of an estate. It was gradually extended to possessions of property.
Age restriction and even sex discrimination also existed but the latter has virtually been abolished in all democratic societies. However, age restriction is still in most democracies, only citizens that are eighteen years can vote in some countries like Nigeria and USA while some other countries have fixed theirs at twenty or twenty-one years (Nnabuihe, Aghemalo and Okebugwu, 2014).
Election is believed to serve several purposes in a democracy where everyone has the opportunity to participate in politics; it is used to gauge the political health of a society or government by serving as a stamp of legitimacy for the government of the day. At the same time, election acts as checks on the government, since the elected are aware that they may not be re-elected for another term unless they fulfilled their electoral promises to the satisfaction of the electorate who gave their mandate (Omotalo, 2011). It means of bringing periphery into the political arena (Dowse and Hughes, 2012).
Election is seen as providing peaceful change of government, it also provides social groups with the chance of resolving their conflicting needs peacefully. Voters are considered to be rational and intelligent in their choice among candidates. However, an opposing view sees elections as merely ̳symbolic in character. According to this position, elections are a secular ritual of democracy (Niemi and Weisberg, 2016). This view is in opposition to the one which holds that voters are intelligent and informed about their choice of candidates and that voters vote as a fulfillment of their civic duty. Voters are aid to know next to nothing about the candidates is irrelevant to governance.
In Nigeria as a democratic state, voting for leaders has remained a hallmark for political participation. Thus the voters and the candidates know the importance of voting which enable the candidate to go into offices of his choice and since voting is regarded as a rational act and voters are seen as rational decision makers. Thus, they balance the cost of voting against its benefits. Thus the candidates and political party will try to make sure that they win the public office by influencing the behavior of the voters. Experience in this country has shown that the character of the candidates do not appear to be very importance consideration while running for public office. It would appear that as long as a candidate has the money to run his campaign and influence the voter, he stand the chance to be voted into office.
The introduction of money politics influence the voters’ behaviour, as it is required for all purposes thereby giving room for the prevailing electoral malpractices in the country. Money is needed for recruitment of political thugs, bribing of electorate to vote for manipulate the electoral officers, buying off police and security agents to condone electoral irregularities, assassination of political opponents which therefore tends to produce negative effect on the electoral processes. However, there is an indicative evidence of decline in voters’ participation in the electoral process. It is imperative to understand the sources of this low turnout and thereby proffering solutions to the problem. It is from this background that this present study intends to investigate voters’ behaviour and electoral process in Nigeria’s 4th Republic using Urue Offong/Oruko Local Government Area as a case study.
Voters’ Behavior and Electoral Process in Nigeria 4th Republic
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Political participation involves membership of a political party, involvement in political campaigns, contributions to political debates, funding political activities and contesting elections. Apart from its qualification as the most important form of political participation, voters behavior such as turnout, thuggery, rigging and violence has also been seen as an important indicator of the state of health of any democracy, old or new, consolidated or in transition, where a high turnout is usually associated with a healthy democracy and a low one with an unhealthy one. Thus the voters and the candidates know the importance of voting which enable the candidate to go into offices of his choice and since voting is regarded as a rational act and voters are seen as rational decision makers.
Despites the importance of voters in the electoral process, their participation in Urue Offong/Oruko Local Government Area is seen to have been deteriorating using the turnout in the 2015 electoral process where only 36.34% of the registered voters participate in the voting process. The electoral process also witnessed thuggery, killing of people, burning of election materials and rigging making the voters turn out to be poor in Urue Offong/Oruko. Also, the action of voters in the area during election also make the result of the just concluded chairmanship and counsellorship elections to be rejected and protested for by some Political parties. The researcher is of the view that these problems of electoral rigging, thuggery and violence experienced in Urue Offong/Oruko if not attended to may cause the voters from abstaining from voting in the forth-coming election and may also result in an inconclusive election in the area. The low voters’ turn out as experience in the area may also lead to the selection of wrong leaders in the area. This backdrop therefore motivated the researcher to investigate into voters’ behavior and electoral process in Nigeria 4th Republic.