Nigeria as a nation, started practising democracy and returned to civilian rule when the military regime of General Abdul-Salam Abubakar handed over to the then civilian president Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 after years of military dictatorship in Nigeria.
As democracy is understood all over the world. The people (electorate) have the right to exercise their franchise by voting in elections and also run for political positions in Nigeria. Also citizens have the right to vote for the candidate of their choice without being molested or intimidated. In a democratic dispensation, citizens also have the right to question the actions and inactions of the government in power.
However, Nigeria as a country has its own unique challenges which has marred the effectiveness of this system to fully function as democratic institutions in the country have failed to produce results that will help in the development of Nigeria. Some of the challenges of this democratic system in Nigeria have been;
Absence of Free and Fair: In the history of this country there have been no record of free and fair elections except that of June 12, 1993 annulled election and to some extent the 2015 general election. For the most part, elections in Nigeria have not been free and fair whether it be at the Federal, State or Local government level. This is because elections in Nigeria has been marred by electoral violence where you see ballot boxes being snatched, rigging of election results, intimidation of voters and election candidates. Candidates who run for elective positions hardly believe the election results being announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC).
Hence most aggrieved candidates end their election results disputes at the electoral tribunal. This is one of the reason why Nigeria organises staggered election.
Bribery: The new trend now is that politicians in this part of the world during campaign and election day bribe the electorate with gifts such as wrappers, food items, cash gifts. This is done in order to gain their votes and its wrong. Surprisedly enough the electorate accept this gifts and even shower praises on such candidate not knowing that what they have received is their own dividend of democracy for the next four years as they will not be expected to enjoy social amenities when the candidate finally gets elected and not knowing that accepting such gifts will take away their right to hold their leaders accountable and they have been a beneficiary to he has distributed to them as stomach infrastructure.
The Issue of voter education: Majority of Nigerian voters don’t understand how democratic work and how democratic institutions work (which is the executive arm that includes the federal, state and local government). Also they don’t ask the right questions during campaign and all you you see in campaigns and rallies are just jubilation, shouting of party slogans and listening to fake promises by dubious politicians who don’t have the interest of the people at heart. Nigerian voters still do not know how to quiz politicians on their political manifesto.
Local government election is a sham: Votes don’t count in local government elections. in most part of the country, local government election results are rigged and most of local government chairmen are selected by the state governors in power. This one of the reasons why there low voter turn in local government elections in Nigeria. Governors install all those local government chairmen that will be loyal to them and as result the chairmen surrender their autonomy or the will to act independently and free from state government interference. That is why in many local government areas in Nigeria there is little to no development at all at the local government level and this is suppose to be a tier of government that us closer to the people.
Voting along fault lines: Voters in Nigeria have a big misconception about as a whole. They for the most part end up voting the wrong candidates. This is because we in this country vote in candidates for a numbers of reasons which includes ethnicity, religion, personality and our political affiliation. Nigerians always make the mistake of voting a candidate who is from their tribe, vote for a particular party irrespective of whether the candidate is unable to deliver if he is elected. Take for instance the current President Muhammadu Buhari, he his seen as a man of integrity. So, him being a member of the All Progress Congress saw an exodus of many politicians flocking to the APC in order for them to win elections in his name and it worked. As many Nigerians voted for candidates who contested under the platform of the APC at all levels of government. The thinking of the ordinary then was that they will vote for any candidate who is in the same party with President Buhari. Such assertion is wrong and does not bode well for democracy in Nigeria. What was the result of such move, well we ended up voting the wrong people in power. People should be voted based on how competent they are able to handle the enormous challenges that Nigeria face.
The people really for the most part are not well informed on government programmes and projects carriedout across the country.
Decisions are not made based on the problems Nigerians are facing but rather make the our current situation worse.
Personally I think more voter education needs to be done by INEC to make people understand how our democratic institutions work, how to vet candidates vying for elective positions and how to hold our leaders accountable, instead of all this merry go round we see in election campaigns and rallies.