Civil Society and Election Observation in Nigeria: Participant versus Non-Participant Observers (Published)
Since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, election observation, by domestic Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s) and international organizations has become an integral part of the electoral process. The post-election reports submitted by them have become the indices for measuring the credibility of elections, locally and internationally. This study interrogated the central question: does domestic Civil Society Groups mere witnessing of Election Day activities qualify them to pass verdicts on the credibility of elections in Nigeria? We relied on the explanatory variables of Systems Theory to answer this question. Data was generated through documentary method and Key Informant Interviews and analyzed using content analysis. The study discovered that while international observers, witness the entire electoral cycle, non-partisan domestic observers like Civil Society Organizations, do not. The latter focus mainly on Election Day activities, while pre-election activities are hardly observed. Some aspects of results collation are also kept outside their purview. Therefore passing a verdict on the entire electoral process, based on a selective observation could be misleading. The study recommends that for credibility, CSO’s should observe the entire electoral process viz. pre-election, election day and post election activities. In addition, they should be given unfettered access to the collation rooms to observe all the processes that lead up to the final announcement of results for all contested positions.