Book Review:Security Challenges of Election Management in Nigeria

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Book Review:Security Challenges of Election Management in Nigeria

Edited by ‘Lai Olurode and Attahiru Jega

Publishers, Independent National Electoral Commission and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Abuja, 2011, 172 pages

Reviewer:Dr Jibrin Ibrahim

This book is an output from a conference convened in 2010 to reflect on and plan against the growing culture of electoral violence and security challenges that have bedevilled our electoral system. It was one of the indications that the then newly appointed Attahiru Jega led INEC was determined to turn the tide of Nigerian elections in which each election was worse than the previous one and engage on a new path of organising elections that are free, fair and credible. It’s an important book because the authors are among the best political scientists and political sociologists in Nigeria and include Professors Attahiru Jega, ‘Lai Olurode, Adebayo Adekanye, Adele Jinadu and Etannibi Alemika. They are all scholars with a long track record both in quality analysis of our politics and a commitment to deepening democratic politics.

The conference objectives were to sensitise both citizens and core stakeholders in election management on security challenges that could affect the 2011 elections and that needed to be addressed; to anticipate and rank order the security challenges to help the planning process for the elections and to assist and prepare security operatives to be good players in running free, fair and credible elections. As Jega explained in the book preface, the goal is to turn the tide in which “elections are seen as fight-to-finish and do-or-die” (p.ix).


The book is written in clear and accessible language, the ten chapters are short and it is a very readable publication. There are a few annoying typos such as the missing first letter at the beginning of the chapters on pages 15, 53 and 87. The book is a must read because it addresses in a succinct and logical manner the reasons why Nigerians have been denied their passion to fully exercise their electoral mandate for such a long time.


The introductory chapter by ‘Lai Olurode is entitled “The Feasibility of Election Security in an Unsecured Global Environment”. The author sets the scene by making a passionate plea against despondency with the Nigerian condition. He acknowledges that elections are organised in a whirlpool of corruption and generalized insecurity but argued strongly that there are some people who are determined to improve the system. In his own words – there are “institutions and individuals that continue to operate outside of the generalized corruption and moral laxity” (p. 2. The editors of the book, Attahiru Jega and ‘Lai Olurode are indeed two such individuals who were considered of upright character and integrity by people who knew them when they were appointed into INEC. The message of the chapter is that there is indeed a general climate of insecurity surrounding Nigerian elections but it is possible to begin to change the political culture that breeds it. He defines election security as “the safety of electoral personnel, election materials and information and electorates and its array of stakeholders participating in the electoral process” (p. 7). The search to improve election security must be done in measured terms he argues as excessive security presence might have the negative effect of scaring off the voters.


The second chapter is written by ‘Bayo Adekanye and Rachael Iyanda on the theme “Security Challenges in Election Management in Nigeria: An Overview”. They emphasise that the security question is not just a military one but is also increasingly political and economic (p. 20). Violence, they argue, crystallises around elections because the stakes are high and the politicians are determined. Nigeria law, they point out, bars the use of thugs in electioneering but the law is systematically disregarded as both the politicians and security personnel are implicated. They point out however that it is possible to groom security personnel that carry out their election duties correctly. They point to India where security personnel organise logistics for 668 million voters in an efficient and non partisan manner.

Violent conflicts and elections often and sadly go hand in hand in many parts of the world. In Nigeria, the correlation is so strong that in many instances, citizens willingly forego their franchise in a desperate attempt to avoid being engulfed in election related conflicts. In the build-up to the 2011 elections, there have been violent conflicts that really posed concerns to analysts and Nigerian election managers. Their assessment was that the 2011 elections will face serious security challenges with the growing insurgency in the North east and in Plateau State. The insurgency, they argue, will escalate election management beyond the normal task of policing the process. Among the other key challenges they point out are the high level of corruption and bribery in the electoral system, the reckless use of security votes by executives to corrupt election officials and the ways in which the President and State Governors abuse their powers as chief security officers.

The third chapter written by Adele Jinadu is on “Comparative Analysis of Security Challenges of Elections in Nigeria.” He takes a broad view of security that goes beyond security agencies and incorporates distortions, violations and manipulations of the process of electoral governance. This approach is important as it places emphasis on the whole electoral cycle not just acts carried out during election time. After his review of comparative African experiences, he makes the argument that the main security challenge we face is that of managing diversity in an inclusive and participatory manner to ensure that unproblematic political succession occurs. This is drawn from examples in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria among others. In a sense, this points to the lack of commitment of too many African power wielders to accept the basic tenets of democracy. He argues that elections are the largest peace time deployment of people and resources in a short time so leaders can find sufficient opportunities to distort the system.

Professor Jinadu points out another security challenge that is internal to the process of electoral governance. He posits that internal politics could develop within INEC itself if members are beholden to forces outside the Commission and bring in their biases. Internal bickering can cripple INEC creating a security challenge. He adds that the tendering and procurement system subject to cumbersome civil service rules can also create blockages in operations and logistics that can pose security concerns. The path to addressing these security challenges, he argues, is promoting voter education and adopting the Neighbourhood Watch approach both of which place emphasis on the citizen and the community.

Chapter Four by Usman Maitambari is entitled “Emerging Pattern of Security Challenges: Some Reflections on 1983 and 2007 Elections”. The 1983 elections were the first elections conducted by an incumbent civilian regime in nearly twenty years. It produced what the then ruling National Party of Nigeria called a landslide victory. The author however points out that that another appellation coined by General T. Y. Danjuma might be more appropriate, it was a “gun slide” election that precipitated the coup d’état of December 1983.The election was poorly planned and executed. The voters list lacked credibility and claimed 63.3 million voters which meant a 34% increase over the previous election four years earlier. It was basically an election that was designed to fail. Of course the 2007 elections under Professor Maurice Iwu was similar and the comparison of these two elections produces the conclusion that sometimes, the core of the security challenge in electoral management emanates from within the Electoral Commission itself.

Chapter five by Iyom Josephine Anenih is on the subject of: ”Gender and Security Issues in Election Management”. She makes two strong arguments. The first is that escalating electoral violence over the years has affected women disproportionately and added to the disadvantages they suffer in political participation. The cost of entry of women into the political arena is too high. She therefore believes INEC must make spirited efforts to promote gender equality in the political system starting by instituting gender balance within the permanent and adhoc staff of the Commission itself. Her second argument is on the internal battle for gender equality in politics among women themselves. She says she has had numerous statements by women that they have an obligation to vote according to the dictates of their husbands. She believes this is an unfortunate situation and women should be conscientised to take autonomous political decisions.

Chapter six by ‘Lai Olurode is on “Incumbency Factors: Appropriation of State Security Resources and Electoral Governance in Nigeria.” The author identifies incumbency as a factor that has allowed members of executive branch of government to impede the participation of citizens in electoral activities. They are able to use these resources to produce outcomes that do not reflect choices by the voters. He points out that some of these incumbents even develop a siege mentality in which they see the people as rebels refusing to do what they should do. That is why they use the security agents to brutalise the people. The people instead of being the decision makers in the electoral process become victims who are punished by security agents acting on behalf of incumbents. An adequate response to the security challenge Nigeria faces during elections will therefore require addressing this problem of the abuse of incumbency powers.

Chapter seven is authored by Etannibi Alemika and is on the theme: “Privatisation of Security, Arms Proliferation and Electoral Violence in Nigeria.” He identifies electoral violence as an obstacle to the conduct of free and fair elections in Nigeria. It’s a threat to democracy because it influences electoral outcomes. Electoral violence is widespread because the stakes in politics are so high. Politics is the pathway to “unrestricted means of illegal acquisition of wealth” (p.124). It is therefore not surprising that we have so many cases of the assassination of political opponents, disruption of registration and voting processes by thugs and armed bandits. He points out that the levels of violence in the 2003 and 2007 elections were particularly high. The core problem, according to the author, is that some politicians are able to appropriate public security and law enforcement for their personal purposes. Secondly, they are also able to pay for private security to do their bidding. This process is fuelled by the massive circulation illegal arms. He proposed a number of policy measures that could be adopted to address the problems posed.

Chapter eight is written by Lancelot Anyanya and is entitled: “Security Challenges of Election management: Nature and management of Rivalry between State Security Forces for Effective Electoral Management in Nigeria”. He points out that given the growth of the Boko Haram insurgency and growing communal clashes in other parts of the country, the threat profile for the 2011 elections was worsening. Secondly, the response architecture was weakened by rivalry between the security agencies themselves. He therefore calls for careful planned by INEC to carry them along on the basis of a coherent strategy and clear definition of the roles to be played by each agency.

Chapter nine by ‘Lai Olurode is on: “Reflections on Security Challenges in Recent Elections”. He reviews the Ekiti bye election of December 2010 and the Delta re-run gubernatorial election of January 2011 to see what trends were emerging. The key security agencies used were the police, state security service and the civil defence corp. The police were however preponderant and provided the leadership. The key message from the chapter is that violence has persisted in the electoral process in spite of all the efforts of INEC to stem it. The good news however was that the integrity of the elections themselves was much better that what had been witnessed in 2003 and 2007.

The book ends with a short concluding chapter in which ‘Lai Olurode and Attahiru Jega reflect on: “Resolving the Paradox”. They note that the paradox on elections and democracy can be identified at three levels. The first is that democratisation in Nigeria has not been accompanied by “life more abundant” and poverty has not been declining with the consolidation of democratic rule. Secondly, democratisation has failed to stem the tide of ethno-religious conflict and violence. Thirdly, democratisation in Nigeria is a domain in which the military remain key drivers both because the funds they have looted allows them to play the game in town of money politics and their access to arms allows them to also play the card of electoral violence to influence electoral outcomes. These considered thoughts provide food for thought in terms of medium term planning about processes that would allow us deepen democracy in Nigeria.

The conclusions of the book are as follows. First, there is a high violence threat level for the 2011 elections. Secondly, election security must be understood as a sub set of the wider security dynamics of the country. Thirdly, the real lesson from the chapters is that all hands must be on deck to change the zero sum game of political system. Finally, a clear framework for engagement with security forces must be evolved in which there is a clear framework and specific roles for each security agency. As I am writing this review one year after the elections, I give myself the privilege to review how the predictions in the book written before the elections actually played out.

The date April 2, 2011 will stand out for a long time in the annals of elections and elections administration in Nigeria – it was the first of the three polling days for the 2011 General Elections. That date became an indicator of three statistics vital to the determination of the state of ‘health’ of the electoral process. First, it was an early indicator of the massive turnout that would eventually characterize the 2011 General Elections; secondly it provided Nigerians the opportunity to assess the extent of preparedness of the electorate and the INEC for the elections. Finally, the date exposed the severe logistical flaws that had not been addressed in the electoral process and thus drawing the attention of the planners to these.

The decision of INEC to adopt the modified open ballot system entailed that the electoral procedure was broken into two phases with accreditation of voters between 8 a.m. and noon and voting by the accredited prospective votes from 12:30 p.m. Therefore, accreditation processes had commenced in large parts of the country with voters and many polling unit officials not being aware of the logistical challenge that was to mark the elections, namely the non-delivery of result sheets by the contracted vendor for some states. The moment of shock was when the Chair of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega addressed the nation to announce the Commission’s decision to postpone the National Assembly election from Saturday, 2nd April to Monday 4th April 2011. At that time, the elections were in various stages across the country. While accreditation was yet to commence in some polling units, most polling units were still accrediting, and some polling units had concluded and were waiting for 12:30 or for voting materials to commence voting. But in a few instances, voting had already commenced before the expected commencement time of 12:30pm. The cancellation however stopped completely the entire process across the country and invalidated all that been done up til that time. The National Assembly elections were eventually conducted on April 9, thereby shifting forward all voting days by a week. The event created huge doubts about the election process in some parts of the country and created the ideological foundations for the violence that emerged in some parts of the country. This development underscores the argument in the book about the multiple sources of violence including the political class and incumbents and even the electoral commission itself.

Violence is always an expensive affair. Besides the moral and psychological trauma that the post-election violence unleashed on the nation, the human and material cost of same was daunting. According to Mr. Hafiz Ringim, the then Inspector General of the Nigeria Police[1], a total of 520 persons were killed in the post election violence that erupted in Kaduna and Niger States alone. He explained that 518 persons, including 6 policemen were killed in Kaduna State while 2 persons were killed in Niger state. Also, 157 churches, 46 mosques and 1435 houses were burnt as well as 437, 219 motor-cycles, 45 properties (mainly police stations) belonging to the police were also burnt.”

The Human Right Watch claim was that the total figure of casualties from the post election violence in Nigeria was 800. They observed that the “protests degenerated into violent riots or sectarian killings in the northern states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara. Relief officials estimate that more than 65,000 people have been displaced Implication on electoral process: Postponed election in Kaduna and Bauchi States; constitutional crises; turn out in re-scheduled elections, boycott of elections by some corpers.”[2]


[1] Hafiz Ringim, 2011 General Elections’ Review: Experience-Sharing, Lessons Learnt and the Way Forward – The Nigeria Police Perspective – being a paper presented at a post election colloquium organized by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, Abuja, June 1, 2011

[2] Human Rights Watch: Nigeria: Post-Election Violence Killed 800 (

Jibrin Ibrahim PhD is Director Centre for Democracy and Development  16 A7 Street, CITEC Mbora Estate,
Jabi/Airport Road By-pass, Abuja, Nigeria


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