Election as one of the most essential ingredients of democracy, its conduct has remained a challenge to democratic governance not only in Nigeria but also almost all over the world. Nigeria’s electoral process has since the first one in 1922 during colonialism to the last in 2015 has been characterized with fraud such as imposition of candidates, rigging, stuffing ballots, violence etcetera. This paper reviews the features of what is and what is not democratic governance as well as election process. An attempt is also made to describe the dimensions as well as disputed elections and challenges of democracy in Nigeria’s quest for democratic governance in the Obasanjo years. The paper argues violence, legitimacy crises, corruption and other vices cannot be unrelated with electoral fraud. It concludes by recommending and suggesting strategies that would tackle challenges of electoral process thereby having viable democratic governance in the country.

1.1 Background of study
Democratic governance is a process whereby democratic principles such as popular sovereignty, empowerment, political equality, majority rule, functional constitution, rule of law, independent judiciary, periodic free and fair election and human rights and freedom are enshrined in a polity. However in Nigerian context these principles are not waxing stronger if not functioning properly, especially principle of free and fair election which perhaps is one of the essential three. Election in a democracy is very important because it is medium through which that the expression of the people are shown via legitimacy and leadership succession. According to Dickerson,.et al ( 1990) election is defined as a post mortem that investigate the record of office holders whose actual performance may have little to do with promises made when they were previously elected. However, the three general elections (2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015) conducted in Nigeria since the re-emergence of democracy in 1999, does not satisfy the quest for democratic governance in the country. Yet with exception of the outcome of 2015 election it is the same political party that has been ruling the country at the centre, thus credibility of those elections is put to question because of its characterized irregularities.

It is worthy to note that, the struggle for democracy in Nigeria was not conceived only as an end in itself to end the military rule or as an externally oriented initiative, but also as means for achieving responsible political institutions, which promote a government that is accountable to the people (Bello, 2011). Meanwhile democratic governance is not merely about election and the transfer of power to civilians but about the rule of law, respect for the constitution and for fundamental human rights, socio-economic empowerment and peace, security of lives and property etcetera. The situation in which Nigerian democracy has been in this era, in transforming political and socio-economic empowerment of its citizens still remain an illusion. It therefore raises fundamental questions such as: What is the meaning of democracy and which democracy? It is pertinent to ask these questions because when democratic government is fully in place, it is expected to create happiness for the large percentage of the population as against the happiness for the few ‘transnationally oriented elite’, within Nigeria. It is also expected to create equality, gradual and incremental socio-economic and political transformation and legitimately create an environment that will allow people at all level to exercise control and authority over political and economic activities that affects them.

Indeed the interest of this study lies in all of these features and even more, but specifically in the supremacy of the will of the electorate and regular free and fair elections because these are what Apam (2011) describes as the features of democratic state that ensure the responsibility and responsiveness of the elected leaders to the electorate, the hallmark of democracy no matter how it is defined. Ironically Nigeria’s multi -party democracy has manifest it’s in ability to conduct credible elections in 2003, 2007 and 2011. While elections and democracy are interwoven, they serve as foundations of democratic governance, expected to make government responsible and responsive. In spite the significance of credible elections to democratic governance, it is sad to observe that malpractice has been synonymous with elections in Nigeria. Elections have been characterized with fraudulent machinations which frustrate democratic aspirations of the people. Results of Nigeria’s elections have often been associated with political tension, violence and crisis. Ibrahim (2007) has noted that outcomes of many elections in Africa have been so contested that the conditions for survival of the democratic ideals have been compromised thereby making the democratic feature bleak and not promising. The tragedy of the country’s democratic experience since the re-emergence of civilian rule in1999 has been according Imobighe (2013) bizarre manipulation of electoral process, whereby election riggers turn out to be the net beneficiaries of the electoral process, and this creates a lot of frustration in the electorate. For instance the political office holders who bought their way to power, mainly use their time to accumulate more fund to again buy their way to power in the next election. They do not feel obliged to be accountable to the electorate. In the following discussion we shall grasp the challenges of democratic governance in Nigeria. While on one hand democratization era encouraged democratic governance on the other hand electoral process increases challenges and crisis of democratic governance in Nigeria during the Obasanjo years.

The term election petition as used in the above section refers to an originating process by which an unsuccessful candidate in an election or political party or any other person vested with statutory locus, seeks to question the return of a successful candidate at an election as undue either as a result of non-compliance with the electoral law or that the person who has been returned was at the time of the election not qualified to stand for the election or that a substantial number of votes by virtue of which the winner was declared were invalid or because the petitioner was validly nominated to run for the election but was unlawfully excluded from the election. The fundamental issue in election petition is to question the election of a candidate as a victor and as such, it must be shown that the purported election or return was void or that the winner was not returned by a majority of lawful votes.

The grounds forming the basis of an election petition must be one of those recognized under the Electoral Act or the Constitution and must be related to or must have arisen out of acts or omissions that were contemporaneous with the conduct of the election. It is now axiomatic and trite law that election tribunal has no power to investigate matters which took place before the conduct of election.

The grounds under which an election may be questioned are statutorily articulated in section 138 (1) of the Electoral Act viz:

That the person whose election is questioned was at the time of the election not qualified to contest the election;

That the election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the provisions of the Act;

That the respondent was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election; or

That the petitioner or its candidate was validly nominated but was unlawfully excluded from the election.

The 1999 Constitution as amended has established various institutions and invested them with powers to determine election petition. The constitution also provides for a system of appeal. S. 239 of the Constitution for example has vested into the Court of Appeal the original jurisdiction to the exclusion of any other court in Nigeria with power to hear and determine any question as to whether:

· Any person has been validly elected to the office of the president or vice-president

· The term of office of the president or vice-president has ceased or

· The office of the president or vice-president has become vacant.

The Constitution also established a clear appeal mechanism for offices of the President and Vice President. Section 233 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended provides that petitions shall lie as of right from the court of appeal to the Supreme Court in all matters emanating from the election.

1.2 Statement of the Problem
This study examines Disputed Elections and Challenges of Democracy in Nigeria. Despite efforts at democratising, Nigeria‘s democracy can not be said to be consolidated. Elections remain controversial as the menu of manipulations that characterise electoral processes remain high thereby increasing post-electin litigation. The history of Nigeria is replete with elections even before independence (Bamgbose, 2012). The trend was originated by the Clifford Constitution of 1922 in response to calls by Nigerians for increased participation in the decisionmaking process during the colonial administration especially on matters that affected the welfare of Nigerians (Awopeju, 2016). However, studies have shown that Nigeria still confronts the challenge of conducting credible elections that will ultimately reflect the choice of the electorate to choose their leaders freely (Adejumobi, 2000; Agbaje and Adejumobi, 2006; Suberu, 2007; Ibrahim, 2007; Ashiru, 2009; Yagboyaju 2011, 2015). Since the first general elections which took place in Nigeria in 1959 to usher in the much anticipated First Republic in 1960, elections have been generally mired in controversies and characterised by court cases bordering on disputes over electoral outcomes. And these cases have often revealed widespread electoral malpractices and fraud which could threaten democratic sustenance (Aiyede, 2007).

Several factors provide incentives for the widespread electoral malpractices and fraud that define Nigeria‘s electoral process. The need to maintain a patron-client relationship, described as neopatrimonialism (Bratton and Van de Walle, 1997; Zagel, 2010) in which political leaders provide their subjects with needed security, stability, material gains and favour with the clients receiving them in exchange for their loyalty (Bratton and Van de Walle, 1997: 63) has negatively impacted on the electoral and political life of Nigeria. The neopatrimonial system thus supplants many democratic institutions while muffling the voice of the people. To gain political power, politicians therefore display their loyalty to the neopatrimony as against loyalty to the electorate who has the power of legitimation. In order to attain political power, politicians desecrate the constitution, abuse the rule of law and break electoral laws (Zagel, 2010). Hence, the legitimacy of political office holders enthroned against the popular choice of the people is often challenged through election litigation. The resultant effect of this negative development in Nigeria‘s electoral democracy has increased post-election ligations in the country especially in the Fourth Republic which started on 29 May 1999. For instance, the election petition tribunals received 1,427 petitions challenging the outcomes of the 2007 general elections as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (INEC) against the 570 received after the 2003 general elections (Sagay, 2012). Clearly, this has been one of the fundamental challenges confronting the consolidation of democracy in the country.

1.3 Research Questions
This research was guided by the following questions:

1. What underlying interests and forces determined processes election outcomes in Nigeria?

2. discuss the Disputed Elections and Challenges of Democracy in Nigeria during the Obasanjo regime of 1999 – 2007.

1.4 Aim and Objectives of the Study
1. To determine the underlying interests and forces determined processes election outcomes in Nigeria?

2. To discuss the Disputed Elections and Challenges of Democracy in Nigeria during the Obasanjo regime of 1999 – 2007.

1.5 Significance of the Study
Not so many people will disagree that there is overwhelming literature on electoral manipulations in Nigeria, most of which dwell on understanding the strategies employed by political and non-political elites to influence, intimidate and repress voters, buy votes, falsify results and manipulate electoral officials to gain electoral victory. However, this study is an attempt at exploring the political behaviour of the different institutions and/or actors involved in election litigations in the Fourth Republic of Nigeria. The research examined the influence of politics in the election litigation processes in the Fourth Republic of Nigeria by understanding the manipulation of the judiciary responsible for the handling of electoral disputes as an emergent phenomenon in winning electoral contests in Nigeria‘s contemporary democracy. This study is, perhaps, among the first set of academic efforts at exploring the politics that shapes election litigations other than the legal explanations that dominate extant literature.

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