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Cover page


Table of contents

1.0   Introduction

2.0   Conceptual overview

2.1   Populism political participation

2.2   Democratic process

3.0   Challenges

3.1   Institutionalization of democracy

3.2   Political finance

3.3   Constitutional limitations

3.4   Imperfections of the electoral body

3.5   Lack security guarantee

  1. Conclusion and recommendations










On the premise that democracy as a mechanism of societal governance, having remained persisting and dominating the world’s socio-political landscape, revolves around the people in cognizance of the inviolability of the political right of every human, this study focuses on the nexus between populist political participation and democratic governance in Nigeria. It examines the factors and forces limiting this populist participation in Nigeria’s socio-political clime thereby making a mockery of her claims to democracy.

The thesis of this study lies in the observation that democratic practice in Nigeria is yet to attain an ideal state owing to the challenges of limited populist participation in her democratic process as made evident in the 2015 general election. Hence the country’s democracy stands becoming an aberration. To this extent, the study lends its voice to the ongoing calls to the Nigerian state to weed herself of all impediments to populist political participation and guard against future outgrowth of any. Just as the 2015 election made evident some of these challenges, it also made evident signs that we can get it right and be a bastion of democracy. To the extent this calls are heeded, recommendations were made to the effect of marrying populist political participation with the society’s democratic governance that will truly make our democracy a government of the people, by the people and for the people.







The 2015 general election marked a watershed in the annals of our political and democratic process. From all indications, it was an electoral year that was fated to be very historic and it lived up to its billing. Of its many historic feats, two perhaps are more notable. First, it saw the defeat of an incumbent administration by an opposition party and the incumbent’s peaceful acknowledgement of defeat, both of which hitherto were deemed unthinkable in our political clime and culture. This singular act gave our democracy and political process a leap-froged growth from nascence to maturity. Secondly, the aftermath of the election did not throw the country into a state of anarchy that would have spelt down to our continued existence and oneness as was insinuated by both local and international watchers of our political events. Thus it apparently spared us much of the anticipated national calamities, substituting our palpable fear of catastrophic socio-political chaos with no small measure of political surprises.

Sequel to this, it seemed to have midwifed a new wave of political consciousness among the masses and a new political reality to the political elite and ruling class. The election echoes discernibly that political power can ultimately return to the people and as such it is instructive, and of a necessity that the party that gets the nod of the people to exercise this power henceforth performs. This has, from strong indications, ushered in an era in which the power of incumbency may no longer be a sure bet for political electoral victory. It had thus altered the political mentality and calculations of the political elite cum ruling class which hitherto has take the general mass of the people for a ride. Should this be the case, it has ushered in, albeit still nascently, an era where the fear of the people is the beginning of political wisdom, turning the hitherto neglected stone into a chief corner stone, much to the joy of the political masses, and apparently to the chagrin of the politicians. The electoral masses can no longer be taken for a ride, at least with reckless contemptuous abandon.

These all added up to give the 2015 elections a historic feat with implications for socio-political and economic development as well as solidify the country’s standing in the comity of applauable democratic states. Accordingly, Paul S.O et al (2014) noted that “for the past four decades, democracy has been an acceptable platform of intercourse among nations on the international plane as the most widely acceptable system of governing the people…a global acceptability which stems from its ideals and ethics…”.              One of these implications is that it has the potential of revitalizing popular political participation evidenced most through voter turn-out which hitherto has been in steady decline over the years. Whatever is one’s opinion and submission, that the 2015 election witnessed a healthy voter turn-out and might have birthed an era of increased popular political participation is not in doubt. Notwithstanding whatever sentiment that underlies it, this is healthy for our democracy and should be built upon as it has the tendency of availing the state of the popular will and energy needed for nation building. A strong and effective state relies on the willing compliance of its citizens (Ifesinachi 2003)

Aside this, the poll uped Nigerians standing as a fast– maturing democracy. Mind you, the election had its share of political charade and brinkmanship no doubt. But also not in doubt is that we scored a major democratic point which made our democracy less nascent. We don’t help our democratic consolidation by being over pessimistic if not we risk “throwing out the baby with the bad bath water’ as the popular adage goes. The point is that we demonstrated to the world that we can achieve political transition not imperiled by personal interest; that we can forego pecuniary political interest for state and societal stability. These are qualities characteristics of societies serious with development, and in our case can make the international community partner with us more reassuringly on national development. Should the incumbent administration get it right, we can get it right developmentally after all; development is not a phenomenon of a society not at peace with itself (Obiora, 2012).

In the light of these and more, this work centers on the examination of the challenges of democratic process as made evident in the 2015 presidential elections especially with respect to popular political participation. It tries to ascertain the nature and character of these challenges and what it believes for national development. This is to the end that we learn the lessons of history and act accordingly.


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