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ELECTORAL ADMINISTRATION AND THE CONSOLIDATION OF DEMOCRACY: A SYSTEMATIC ANAYLSIS OF THE 2007 GENERAL ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA

BY MOVEH, David Omeiza DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AHMADU BELLO UNIVERSITY, ZARIA Email: damoveh@yahoo.com

Moveh David Omeiza is an Assistant Lecturer and a Doctoral student in the Department of Political Science Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. His research interests are in the areas of Political Economy and Election Administration.

ELECTORAL ADMINISTRATION AND THE CONSOLIDATION OF DEMOCRACY: A SYSTEMATIC ANAYLSIS OF THE 2007 GENERAL ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA ABSTRACT Democratic consolidation in Nigeria is complicated by the apparent malfeasance of the countrys electoral management body (the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC) - yet; the problematic of electoral administration in the country is scarcely studied in a systematic manner. By adapting Elklit and Reynoldss (2000) framework for the analysis of Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) which builds on a close scrutiny of the electoral management systems performance through clearly defined stages of the electoral process, this paper exposes some major flaws in the administration of the 2007 general elections in Nigeria and makes a case for strengthening INECs institutional capacity. INTRODUCTION The management of elections occupies a significant and strategic position in the electoral process and the consolidation of democracy- particularly, as the centrality of elections to liberal democratic politics presupposes the existence of impartial electoral administration. Indeed, the indeterminacy of elections, that is, the possibility of erstwhile winners becoming losers and erstwhile losers becoming winners- which is an inherent and necessary prerequisite of liberal democratic politics is to a large extent a function of an impartial administration of elections (Jinadu: 1997). In contrast with the foregoing however, Nigeria has had a checkered electoral history with successive elections being marred by serious irregularities and controversyparticularly in the conduct of its electoral commission. This has led in some cases to the collapse of democratic experiments as occurred in 1966 and 1983. The 2007 general elections in Nigeria provided a good opportunity to occasion a break with the past and rekindle public confidence in the electoral and democratic process of the country. However, this was not to be as the elections, according to several local and international observers turned out to be the worst in Nigerias political history (European Union: 2007,

Human Rights Watch: 2007, Transition Monitoring Group: 2007). Like its predecessors, INEC was accused of not being able to engender public confidence in the electoral process or organize transparent and credible elections. Unfortunately, this position has scarcely been demonstrated in a systematic manner. This paper is a systematic analysis of the 2007 general elections administration (presidential) in Nigeria by INEC. The paper is divided into five parts; following this introduction is an overview of the outcome of electoral administration and the challenge of consolidating democracy in Nigeria since independence. This is followed by a presentation of Elklit and Reynolds (2000) framework for the analysis of electoral management bodies- EMBs and electoral administration -which is adapted for our purposes here. The fourth part of the paper attempts a systematic analysis of INECs performance in the administration of the 2007 presidential elections and finally, part five is the conclusion. ELECTORAL ADMINISTRATION AND THE CHALLENGE OF CONSOLIDATING DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA Electoral administration generally entails the organization and conduct of elections to elective (political) public office by an electoral body. This definition as noted by Jinadu (1997) subsumes both structure and processes. By structure is meant the bureaucracy that is set up or established to organize and conduct elections which is usually an electoral body like the INEC. It should however be noted that apart from this specific bureaucracy whose primary function is the administration of elections, there are agencies or institutions of the state like the civil service, police and security agencies and civil society groups whose support and co-operation through the provision of logistical support is vital to the operation of the electoral body. By process however, is meant the rules, procedure and activities relating to among others the establishment of electoral bodies, the

appointment of their members, selection and training of electoral officials, constituency delimitation, voter education, registration of political parties, the registration of voters, the nomination of candidates, balloting, counting of the ballots, declaration of results, and in some cases supervision of party nomination congresses (Jinadu, 1997). In another submission, electoral administration is defined as the management and organization of all stages of the electoral process (i.e. the pre-election, election and postelection stages) by an electoral body (Ajayi: 2007). It follows therefore that the electoral administration process consists of a complex set of events and not just an event- polling as some tend to assume. Democratic consolidation on the other hand according to diamond (1999) can be seen as the process of achieving broad and deep legitimation such that all significant political actors. Both at the elite and mass levels believe that the democratic regime is the most right and appropriate for their society, better than any other realistic alternative they can imagine. Realities in contemporary times indicate that rather than being consolidated, democracy in Nigeria has always been threatened by the inability to conduct free and fair elections. This is particularly so as virtually all elections in post independent Nigeria has been controversial. Indeed, the inability of Nigerias EMBs to conduct free and fair elections that reflect the wishes of Nigerians is one of the factors that led to military (mis) adventure in the politics of post independence Nigeria. Over the years, the autonomy and capacity of EMBs in Nigeria has been suspect- as reflected in its endless renaming and restructuring by successive governments (Agbaje and Adejumobi, 2006:31). At independence in 1960, the Tafawa Balewa administration (1960-1966) launched a new

EMB christened the Federal Electoral Commission (FEC) to replace the erstwhile Electoral Commission of Nigeria (ECN) inaugurated in 1959 by the departing colonialist. In the Murtala / Obasanjo political transition programme, a Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) was constituted, while under the Babangida regime it was renamed the National Electoral Commission (NEC). Sani Abacha replaced NEC with the National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON), while General Abdulsalami Abubakar rechristened it the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Prior to 1999, Nigerias EMBS successfully produced only two elected governments (i.e. the first and second republic) and both were overthrown in military coups before completing a second term in office. In the first republic, the FEC organized general and regional elections in 1964 and 1965. The polls returned the government of Tafawa Balewa and the Northern Peoples congress (NPC) to a second term in office but were characterized by wide spread complaints of fraud, violence and intimidation (Osaghae, 1998:31-54). Protest in the wake of the elections, particularly in the western region degenerated into a violent exercise in competitive rigging. As a result, In June 1966 a group of five army majors planned and executed Nigerias first coup d etat, seizing and citing the lingering post election crisis and other alleged government failings as their justification. By 1979, the second civilian government under President Shehu Shagari whose election was supervised by FEDECO was also alleged to be a product of conspiracy by the Murtala/Obasanjo regime, FEDECO and the judiciary in favor of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Shagaris regime was in place for only four years; and his administration was blamed for widespread corruption at both federal and state levels, deepening level of poverty and internecine political warfare that led ultimately to the

electoral debacle of 1983. The elections organized that year (i.e. 1983) were alleged to have been massively rigged in favor of Shagari and his National Party of Nigeria (NPN). The countrys Federal Electoral Commission and the security forces were widely accused of actively colluding to rig the elections. A nation wide outcry greeted the election results and the government proved unable to quell the political chaos that ensued (Joseph, 1987: 151-184). Four months after the 1983 elections conducted by FEDECO, the military struck again, overthrowing Shagaris government and retaking control under the leadership of General Muhammadu Buhari. As in 1966, the coup plotters defended their actions by pointing to the chaotic and illegitimate 1983 elections along with massive corruption and government failure to meet its basic responsibilities toward ordinary Nigerians. Nigerias military remained in power until 1999 when the fourth republic came into being. However, in 1993 General Babangida organized the only elections that have severally been described as free and fair in Nigerias political history but annulled the results of the presidential polls and imprisoned the winning candidate -Abiola who ultimately died in detention. Since the end of military rule in 1999, Nigeria according to many observers has only added to its history of fraudulent elections. The 1999 elections that brought Olusegun Obasanjo to power were said to have been marred by such widespread fraud that observers from the US based carter center concluded that it is not possible for us to make an accurate judgment about the presidential elections (Carter Center and National Democratic Institute, 1999: 12). Nigerias next round of general elections in 2003 were also widely seen as a test of Nigerias progress towards more open and accountable governance after four years of civilian rule under Obasanjo. However, the 2003 elections

too were said to be more pervasively and openly rigged than the flawed 1999 polls. In the same light, Nigerians 2007 general elections were widely regarded as a crucial barometer of the federal governments commitment to the notion of democratic consolidation, but according to Human Rights Watch (2007) the polls marked a dramatic step backwards, even when measured against the dismal standard set by the 2003 election. Electoral officials alongside the very government agencies charged with ensuring the credibility of the polls were accused of reducing the elections to a violent and fraud ridden farce (Human Rights Watch: 2007). Suffice it to say that prior to 1999 the notion of democratic consolidation was not an issue in Nigeria owing to the failure to establish an enduring civilian administration. And since 1999 the challenge of consolidating democracy continues to be complicated by several reports on the recurring problem of electoral malfeasance. Although a lot has been written about Nigerias history of flawed elections, it has almost never been done in a systematic way- particularly as hardly any framework for evaluating electoral administration has hitherto been developed. The tendency has been to focus on voting processes on Election Day or on the outcome of elections. The question of what a good electoral administration process entails has been virtually neglected. ELKLIT AND REYNOLDS FRAMEWORK FOR ANALYZING EMBS AND ELECTORAL ADMINISTRATION Having noted that the electoral administration process is not an event but a complex set of events overseen by an EMB, how can EMBs be analyzed? And what are the constituent elements of such agencies? How also can one approach the concept of electoral administration quality? For analytical purposes Elklit and Reynolds (2000:6), categorized EMBs into three:

1.

An office or agency within the civil service or governmental structure, most often in the ministry of home affairs (or its equivalent). This model is primarily found in older democracies in western industrialized countries; and it is the least numerous category.

2.

A model similar to (1) above but under some supervisory authority; and this is the second most numerous category

3.

A more or less independent and self- contained EMB (often termed electoral commission). This form of EMB is usually established under a board of directors with an implementing secretariat under a chief electoral officer. This construction is usually found in most new democracies (including Nigeria) but also in countries like Australia, Canada and India

According to Elklit and Reynolds (2000: 7) one should be particularly concerned about the inclusion of the following five factors in the analysis of electoral administration. 1. EMBS organizational structure: How is the relationship between the commission and head of staff regulated? What is the day to day reality? Are commissioners on good terms among themselves so that they can work as a group or do internal tensions surface from time to time? Such questions are particularly pertinent if the commission is composed of representatives of the political parties running for office and also in situations where commissioners may feel some kind of commitment towards some of the political actors or are seen by others as having such commitment. A similar problem exists when commissioners are appointed as representative of ethnic groups.

2.

The EMBs level of independence from the political forces: A perceived lack of independence, often times raised by losing electoral contestants is sometimes so serious that it taints the legitimacy of the entire electoral process

3.

Internal EMB motivations: Narrow organizational interest can also play a role. For example the interest among commissioners and staff at all levels in seeing their organization prosper and grow- even at the cost of other organizations may lead to an organizational interest in taking over functions that could just as well be handled by state agencies.

4.

EMB staff motivations: Fights over salaries, per diems, various allowances, working hours etc are in abundance and the pursuit of such interests can compromise the organizations ability to perform its management and delivery functions within restricted budgets and narrow time lines.

5.

EMBs transparency: The level of transparency in the work of the EMBs is another important factor. When parties and voters are given some insights into what goes on and the basis of decision making they tend to accept EMBS decisions more willingly.

Against the foregoing and following Kimberly (1991), Elklit and Reynolds sub-divide the electoral process into twelve basic steps, which are at the same time systematic and largely chronological. In their model, each step consists of between two to six constituent elements; and to systematically analyze an electoral process each element is precisely operationalized and the electoral management systems performance is measured. Table one below presents the framework of such a model.

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TABLE ONE:
Steps in electoral process 1. legal framework

ELKLIT AND REYNOLDS (2000) FRAMEWORK FOR SYSTEMATIC EVALUATION OF ELECTORAL PROCESS AND ADMINISTRATION
Important element in step Constitutional/legal basis Rules and regulations Seat allocation system EC appointment and independence, including terms of tenure Commission/ administration relationship Allocation of resources Relevant body identified and active Principles for delimitation identified Rules about automatic periodical revision Adequate resources available Rules for handling complaints in place Timing Quality Outreach Adequate resources available Relationship between EC efforts and efforts by parties and NGOs Automatic or voluntary registration Appointment and training of registration personnel Adequate time for registration and access to Provisions in case country Output of process Written rules in constitution, statutory law and regulatory law Functioning of EC Indicators of performance Elections held and on time Wasted votes LSQ ids ENEP/ENPP EC activities Consumption of resources Elements to look at to gauge effectiveness/ success of step Identifiable constituencies (in accordance with the electoral system chosen) and registration and polling districts Accessibility of information about constituencies and lower level districts Malapportionment Compactness Geographical sensitivity Communities of interest % of ballots spoiled or invalid Resources per capita spent (related to literacy rates and previous voting experience) Is legislation easily available and understandable? Perceived legitimacy of electoral system Perceived legitimacy/ acceptance of EC by parties and voters Adequacy of resources allocated Accessibility/ transparency Are the boundaries accepted? Are they temporarily sensitive?

2. Elections management

3. Constituency and polling district demarcation

4. Voter education

Voter education sessions conducted % of voters exposed to voter education (related to literacy rates and previous voting experience)

5. Voter registration

Registered voters Co-ordination of voters register with polling districts

Registration /VAP Pattern of registration/VAP across regions, ethnicity, gender age, etc No of complaints filed % of complaints processed

Scope/ extent /penetration into marginalized communities Adequacy of resources allocated Are vote education efforts by various groups complementary or overlapping? Level of registration Equality of registration across the country Complaints procedures

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6. Access to and design of the ballot, nomination and registration of parties and candidates 7. Campaign regulation

registration stations Rules for public scrutiny of voters register Complaint procedures Registration of parties/ candidates Rules about independent candidates Mechanism for ballot paper access Ballot paper design Spending rules Public funding of party expenditure/ campaign costs Access to public media Rules for meetings and rallies Codes of conduct Rules for handling of violations of codes of conduct and campaign regulations Plan for distribution and location of polling places Appointment and training of polling station personnel Procurement of polling materials Polling observation by representative of political parties and candidates as well as by local and international observations Security and integrity of polling Clear rules for assistance to incapacitated voters Counting procedures established ( including whether to count at polling station level or at counting centers)

prior to issuance of final voters register

Parties and candidates registered and nominated for participation in the election

Political parties and candidates having media access to the electorate

% of parties of parties registered of those who in good faith sought registration % of candidates nominated of those who in good faith sought nomination Disputes over ballot paper design/ spoilt ballots Air time allocated to and used by the political parties and the independent candidates No of substantiated complaints about violation of campaign regulations, spending rules e.t.c

Is access to the ballot inclusive of the diversity of political opinions? Were parties and candidates rejected for no obvious legal reason? Acceptance of ballot paper design Acceptable distribution of public campaign funding, if any Do funding laws facilitate a level playing field? Reasonable equal access to public media?

8. Polling

Unhindered and reasonable access to voting for all voters

9. Counting and tabulating the vote

A complete count of the vote, aggregated according to relevant rules and needs A complete list of

Turnout as votes /registration Turnout as votes/VAP % of polling stations operating % of polling stations that lack integrity % of constituencies (wards/polling stations) where polling was invalidated %of return elections % of first time voters who turned out to vote No of complaints Number of individual recounts undertaken Time elapsed before the conclusion of the count

Are polling places in place? Do they function in accordance with their expected roles? Do they function adequately? Are polling stations personnel able to fulfill their role? Are polling places secure? Are procedures for observation functioning? Are papers counted in accordance with the law (including regulations about what constitute an invalid ballot)?

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Availability of counting results to party agents and others at the lowest level of counting immediately after completing the count Access for interested parties to observe the count and request a recount Provisions for special electoral courts and/ or adjudication system Time limits for handling election disputes and complaints Verification of the final results verified Certification of the election Procedures office for taking

persons elected

and announcement of results Incidence of incorrectly allocated seats

10. Resolving election related disputes and complaints, verification of final results. Certification

11. Election results implementation 12. Post election procedures

Provisions for publication of election results at all levels of electoral administration EMB subject to ordinary accounting

Settling of all election related complaints and disputes not handled by the EC and electoral the administration Verification of the election A certification decision Seats filled in accordance with results Easily accessible and well documented election statistics Accounting reports

Number and nature of complaint % accepted Time elapsed before the last complaint or electoral court case is settled Elected body having its first meeting at the time foreseen in legislation (if any) % of seats not taken by those properly elected Time before electoral statistics are publicly available Statement by accountants

Are special ballots accesses on their merits? Is the count conducted without undue delay? Are observation rules followed? Are interested parties provided with a copy of the counting tallies? Is an adjudication system available? Are electoral court cases and complaints handled efficiently and without undue delay? Does verification follow the guiding law?

Why do elected candidates not take office? Are election results (at all levels) made available to all interested parties and persons without delay?

Source:

Jorgen Elklit and Andrew Reynolds (2000), The impact of electoral administration on the legitimacy of emerging democracies: A new research agenda

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The first two columns of table one represents the twelve basic steps in the electoral administrative process as well as the forty seven elements into which Elklit and Reynolds (2000) sub-divide these steps. The fourth column attempts to identify the specific output of each step, that is, it identifies the immediate identifiable objective of the particular activity. The next column, the fifth list the various indicators of performance Elklit and Reynolds propose for study, while the sixth and final column identifies indicators to gauge the effectiveness or the successes. It should be noted that the framework is intended to be general, so it can be used as a basis for scrutinizing the work of EMBs in all kinds of elections; and the formulations and terminology of the table, as well as its specific content will continue to be a matter of discussion and challenge. However, the practicality of this framework was demonstrated by Elklit and Reynolds (2000), in their pilot study of eight sub-Saharan countries (Botswana, Burkina-Faso, Ghana, Mozambique, Sierra-Leone, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia) where they found the model particularly helpful in coming to grips with the electoral process in these cases. A SYSTEMATIC ANALYSIS OF THE 2007 GENERAL ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA For the purposes of this paper the framework presented in table one above is simplified and adapted to capture some of the most contentious issues in the administration of the 2007 general elections in Nigeria. Therefore, particularly of interest to us here are the claims that: 1. INECs independence was not guaranteed in the administration of the 2007 general election in Nigeria.

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2.

Not all eligible voters were registered in the 2007 electoral administration in Nigeria.

3.

Not all qualified candidates and political parties were duly registered in the administration of the 2007 general elections in Nigeria.

4.

The voters register was not displayed and therefore did not accommodate the observations and complaints of the electorates.

5.

Voting did not take place across the entire country in the 2007 general elections in Nigeria.

6. 7.

The process of counting the 2007 general election results was not transparent. Election related disputes in the 2007 general elections in Nigeria have not been treated fairly.

With these issues in mind, the twelve steps identified by Elklit and Reynolds (2000) in the electoral administrative process have been collapsed into three broad periods namely; pre-polling, polling and post polling periods. From these three periods, questions were posed in a chronological order towards substantiating the validity or otherwise of the seven foregoing claims. This framework is presented in the table two below. It must however be emphasized at this point that a coverage of the electoral administrative process across the entire country is beyond the scope of this paper; rather, the object here is to demonstrate how to approach the issue of electoral administration quality.

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TABLE TWO: NIGERIA


Steps in electoral process Pre- polling period: (comprising of steps 17 of Elklit and Reynolds model in table one above)

A SYSTEMATIC ANALYSIS OF INEC THE 2007 GENERAL ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATION IN


Important element in step Constitutional and legal basis of INEC Adequate time for registration and access to registration stations Registration of political parties and candidates Rules for public scrutiny of voters register Output/ object of element identified in the electoral process 1999 constitution and the 2006 electoral act/ purportedly to ensure INECs independence All eligible voters should be registered (i.e. citizens of 18years and above) All qualified parties and candidates should be registered Elements to gauge effectiveness/ success of steps in the electoral process Was INECs independence guaranteed? Were all eligible voters duly registered? Were all qualified political parties and candidates duly registered? Was the voters register displayed as stipulated by the law? (i.e. the 2006 electoral act) Evidence indicating performance of EMB in each step No! the 2006 electoral act retained the presidential involvement in the appointment of INEC chairman and commissioners, INEC was also financially dependent on the executive

Eligible voters should be able to make complaints and confirm their registration

Polling period: (comprising of step 8 -9 of Elklit and Reynolds model in table one above) Plan for distribution and location of polling stations Counting procedures established ( including whether to count at polling station level or at counting centers) Unhindered and reasonable access to voting for all voters across the country Counting process should be transparent Did voting actually take place in all parts of the country? How were election results counted and was the process of counting transparent?

No! of the 33,000 direct data capturing machines required for the registration across the country, only 5000 were available (laptops were used to make for the inadequacy) and the dependence of these machines on power compounded the problem A record number of 50 political parties were registered. However, a number of candidates were disqualified by INEC in the run-up to the elections in view of indictments by an administrative panel of inquiry set up by president Obasanjo No! not at local level as required by the 2006 electoral act No! e.g. In Ogun waterside LGA, ward 1 of Ogun state, Obudu cattle ranch of cross rivers state, Kastina ala, Vendekaya and Buruku LGA of Benue state, Ashige LGA of Nassarawa state e.t.c elections did not hold at all! In many parts of Ogun state also polling closed as early as 11am due to violence Counting of polls was characterized with excessive delays and a lack of transparency safe guards. E.g. the chairman announced the results of Ondo and delta states even though the resident electoral commissioners had not yet announced the results. Similarly, only the results of the presidential polls form 12 states were

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collated by the time the INEC chairman announced the results Post polling period: (comprising of step 1012 of Elklit and Reynolds model in table one above) Provisions for special courts and/ or adjudication system Time limits for handling election disputes and complaints Settling of all election related complaint and disputes Election related disputes and complaints to be handled fairly and without undue delay How were election related disputes and complaints treated? Are electoral court cases and complaints handled efficiently and without undue delay?

No record of pre- election related complaints was kept and no evidence of an official response to complaints was found With regard to presidential petitions a serious obstacle to election petition was the lack of co-operation by INEC to provide the parties with relevant documentation; prompting council for the petitioners to seek a court order to compel INEC to do so.

Source:

Adapted by author from Jorgen Elklit and Andrew Reynolds (2000), the impact of electoral administration on the legitimacy of emerging democracies: A new research agenda

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It is apparent from table two above, that there are obvious discrepancies between INECs actual performance as indicated by the evidence presented in the fifth column and the original output and object of the elements identified in the electoral administration process. For instance while the 1999 constitution and the 2006 electoral act promote the notion of establishing an independent electoral commission, in reality, the 2006 electoral act retained the presidential involvement in appointment of INEC chairman and commissioners. This coupled with its financial dependence on the executive arm of the government contributed significantly in undermining the independence of INEC. Similarly, while the output and object of having adequate time for voter registration and access to registration stations was to ensure that all eligible voters (i.e. citizens of 18years and above) were registered, this goal was not achieved due among other problems to the inadequacy of the direct data capture machines and the associated problem of lack of electricity to power them; especially in remote places. With regard to polling, it will be noticed in table two above that the reason for having a plan for the distribution and location of polling station- whatever that plan was- was to facilitate unhindered and reasonable access to voting for all voters in the country. However, this objective was also not achieved as voting did not take place in many places, and in some cases; like in some parts of Ogun state, voting had to be stopped as early as 11 am due to rampant cases of violence. In essence, when set against the object of the important elements in the electoral administration process, INECs performance in many cases fell far below expectations.

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CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION This paper has attempted to show that the 2007 general elections in Nigeria was flawed not necessarily because local and international election monitoring groups share this view; but because when set against the object of clearly defined stages of the electoral process INECs performance was clearly below expectations. The implication of this for democracy in Nigeria is that its consolidation will continue to remain elusive. Rather than a mere documentation of acts of electoral malfeasance, the imperative of undertaking a systematic analysis of the electoral administration process can not be overemphasized for the simple reason that it is only on this basis that a viable electoral reform agenda can be instituted. Reforms must be targeted towards the object of all steps in the electoral process so as to enhance INECs institutional capacity and technical ability to conduct free and fair elections if democracy is to be consolidated.

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