Conflict Mitigation in Nigeria’s 2015 Elections: Lessons in Democratic Development

The 2015 general elections represent a positive step towards democratic consolidation in Nigeria. The peaceful and positive outcome of the elections came to many as a surprise considering the difficult political and security environment under which the elections were conducted. Factors which nearly impeded the smooth conduct of the elections include the grave security threat posed by Boko Haram insurgency, the competing claims to the presidency by northern and southern politicians, a keenly contested campaign smeared by inflammatory messages, and serious gaps in electoral preparations. Against the backdrop of these challenges, this paper examines the measures taken by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other election stakeholders to tackle the challenges, and explains why logistical lapses, electoral irregularities, and outbreak of violence were not completely avoided despite the concerted efforts of the Commission. The paper contends that elections in Nigeria cannot be entirely hitch-free unless the exogenous and endogenous factors that obstruct the smooth conduct of elections in the country are significantly addressed. These factors include ineffective electoral governance, weak national bureaucracy, poor state of national infrastructure, deteriorating standards of public education, fierce contest for power, worsening state of insecurity across the country. In conclusion, the paper draws some lessons for electoral governance and peace-building in Nigeria based on the role of INEC and other stakeholders during the 2015 elections.

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