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The politicisation of election litigation in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic.

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Since the early 1990s, the third wave of democratisation has permeated the polity of almost all the African states as authoritarian regimes are replaced with democratic governments through the ballot process. Therefore, in line with the prevailing realities across Africa as well as in other formerly autocratic and closed systems in Asia and Latin America, participatory government was re-introduced in Nigeria in 1999. The use of regular and periodic election as a means of regime change became apparent. However, the conduct of general elections in Nigeria since 1999 has been marred with myriad of controversies thus triggering electoral disputes. This shifts the burden of ensuring free and fair elections and by extension sustaining democracy on the judiciary. This duty, the judiciary performs in the manner it handles and adjudicates over disputes arising from electoral contests. Recent developments in Nigeria have shown that electoral fraud has transcended the casting of votes and has permeated the judicial arm of government. The judiciary is not immune from manipulations by political elite in order to secure electoral victory through the courts when electoral contests shift from the polling booths to the ‘temple of justice’. It is therefore in the light of this development that this study examines the politicisation of election litigation in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic using the 2007 general elections and the ensuing gubernatorial election litigation cases in Ekiti, Ondo and Osun states of Nigeria as case studies. The study fills the gap in litereature which focuses research attention on electoral fraud around issues relating to voting. The theoretical framework for this study was eclectic combining three theories namely elite, state fragility and separation of power theories. For the purpose of this study, qualitative research methodology using case-study design was adopted. The 2007 general election was selected for study using Ekiti, Ondo and Osun states as case studies using the non-probabilistic sampling technique. Purposive sampling method was employed in the selection of research sites and participants. Instrument for data collection was through the use of In-depth Interview (IDI) complemented by data from documented sources. Data from interviews conducted were transcribed and interpreted using thematic content analysis. Data from both primary and secondary sources were systematically, objectively and descriptively analyzed making valid textual inferences from them by identifying specific characteristics as they relate to the manipulation of the judicial process of resolving electoral disputes to secure electoral victory through the courts. Research findings revealed that a combination of financial inducements, executive control through the appointment of judges, power of incumbency, delay tactics, promise of promotion and fear of persecution within and outside the judiciary were strategies political elite used in manipulating the judicial process of resolving electoral disputes to secure and/or retain electoral victories through the courts when they initially failed at the ballots. Finally, conclusions were drawn from the findings of the study and discernible recommendations made on how to reform the electoral process and the justice system of resolving disputed electoral outcomes in order to achieve democratic consolidation in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.