BACKGROUND OF STUD
The Nigerian state assumed a new governance status
in 1999 following the demise of authoritarian regime in the country.
Military dictatorship was replaced by representative democracy with the
hopes and aspirations of good governance much higher than what the
seemingly collapsible democratic institutions could fulfill. The source
and nature of transition in 1999 was later found to constitute threat
to the foundation of democracy and obliterates the current efforts at
The reality of the attempts to subvert the
concept of democracy to serve the interests of a few, rather than a
greater majority, still looms high. The emerging democracy was
artificial and reflexive of external imposition. It is a weak democracy
that repudiates inalienable ethos of its true identity. Democracy and
political participation are related to good governance are interrelated
and complementary but appear to be antithetical in Nigeria. Democracy
in Nigeria is alien and its practice has proved difficult.
Democracy is abused , good governance becomes elusive and evasive.
This is what Darl (1989) describes as “virtual democracy”, democracy
that shares resemblance with true democracy but lacks basic tenets of
democracy. Democracy in Nigeria has three unique features which
include: insulation of economic matters from popular participation,
manipulation and monopolization of democratic process including the use
of violence and electoral fraud to secure legitimacy and peripheral
participation of citizens. Surface-level participation does not have
far-reaching influence on the outcome of policy choices.
According to Oke (2010) democracy involves the
opportunity to participate in decision making in the political process.
It repudiates arbitrariness and authoritarianism. It extols the
consent of the governed and it protects human personality and values
(Ake, 1991). Democracy, whether liberal, African or modern, includes
equal opportunity for all, fundamental recognition of popular
sovereignty, representativeness, majority rule, minority rights,
popular consultation, right of choice between alternative programmes,
consensus on fundamental issues, as well as essentially periodic
elections (Oke, 2005). The concept of democracy confers the opportunity
to participate in decision making by all.
Democracy here goes beyond opportunity of
election. Although, the centrality of elections to democratic process
can not be over-emphasized, democracy is not wholly centered on
election. For democracy to evolve good governance, it must be liberal
and participatory. In this sense, Liberal democracy entails not only
free and fair elections in terms of voting administration, it requires a
more comprehensive fairness of political competition embodied in the
concept of a just and open competition. In a liberal democracy, the
electoral arena is open, and the playing field is reasonably level.
Only in a free society with opportunity of free
participation and respects for citizens’ rights can good governance be
achieved. True democracy places emphasis on freedom, and open
competition, popular and meaningful participation, responsiveness,
transparency and accountability. Freedom to organise, freedom to
protest anti-people policies and freedom to demand and assert citizens’
rights and interests, freedom of the press to report, investigate and
expose government policies and actions without fear or favour.
According to Diamond (2005), “Only in a climate of true political and
civil freedom can a country achieve the absolute fundamental condition
for development: responsible government—that is government that is
committed to the advancement of the public good, rather than the
private interests of its own officials and their families and their
1.2 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
The experience with citizens’ participation in electoral politics
in Nigeria generally and Delta state in particular has not been
encouraging. Even where development of local participation is an
important tool of rural development and where political education in
mass participation is a key element of the development strategy,
programmes have not developed genuine participation and responsibility
among the people.
The people have become recipients of development
as if development is something outside their realms of experience and
right respectively. There are political, socio-cultural and
bureaucratic constraints to political participation.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF STUDY
The main objective of this project work is to consider the nature
and extent of political participation by the people in a democratic
system. This, as noted above, will be carried out by assessing the
involvement of the people in electoral process in Asaba, Delta state.
Besides, this research work also aims at achieving other important
objectives which are also fundamental to the smooth operations of
governance in a democratic set up. The other objectives are enumerated
i. to establish any possible relationship between
political education and political participation in order to clearly
state the crucial ingredient of political participation;
ii. to examine the legal framework of electoral system and
election administration in Nigeria in order to spot their inadequacies
and provide possible amendments;
iii. to propose a number of strategies to mobilize citizens for
increased political participation and effectiveness respectively in the
country as a whole; and
iv. to know the degree of confidence the people have in the
electoral system of their state/country as it is assumed that this is
reflected in their participation in electoral politics.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
This research work is significant because it is aimed at
explaining political participation in the context of good governance.
This will enables us to appreciate the fact that the formulation of a
national agenda through dialogue by all stakeholders is a prerequisite
for political participation.
Participation needs to be part of a broader
conceptualization of development, with much more attention to
organizational structures and linkages. However, participation has
turned into a cliché for those administering development; its values
have been overemphasized, while doing little to make it a reality.
1.5 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This project work shall discuss the concept of
political participation, focusing mainly on what it is and what it is
not within the African context. The history of Nigeria’s politics shall
be traced from the colonial era to the present. The gathering of views
on the electoral politics shall be restricted to Asaba Delta State
with reference to the 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 general elections
covering Gubernatorial, House of Assembly and Local Government elections
in the state.
1.6 RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS
The research hypothesis that will serve as the yardstick for the
administration of the questionnaire shall be based on the theoretical
framework that political education is fundamental to political
participation. Therefore, the research hypotheses are:
H0: That the extent of the political participation of the people
in electoral politics is not related to their political education.
H1: That the extent of the political participation of the people
in electoral politics is related to their political education.
Where H0 is the Hull Hypothesis, while H1 is the Alternative Hypothesis
1.7 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The following research questions shall serve as guidelines towards
the achievement of the objectives of this project work:
i. Is political participation restricted to voting?
ii. What has been the trend of political participation over the years?
iii Are people politically informed and active in Asaba?
iv. Is political participation affected by socio-cultural factors?
v. Is there any correlation between awareness and political participation?
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS
DEMOCRACY; A system of government in
which power is vested in the people, who rule either directly or
through freely elected representatives.
POLITICAL PARTICIPATION; Political participation can be defined as those actions of private citizens by which they seek to influence or to support government and politics.
ELECTION; An election is a formal decision making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office.