Nigeria’s Electoral Politics and the Legitimacy Crisis in the Fourth Republic: An Overview

Sakariyau Rauf Tunde, Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Saini, Ummu Atiyah Ahmad Zakuan


The significance of election to any democratisation process cannot be undermined. This clears the cloud on the centrality of election to democracy. After all, elections remain the legitimate mechanism of changing government in any democratic setting. However, since the inception of Nigeria’s modern democracy in 1999 after years of military incursion in the political terrain that resulted to political instability in the country, electoral conduct is seen to have been perverted in one way or the  other which invariably raised question of legitimacy among the power holders. Given this, many governments have suffered from legitimacy crisis due to flawed elections that failed to meet the international best practises. Leaders emerged from such ugly electoral trends have been accused of imposition, selection rather than election. The electorates indirectly have been robbed of their constitutional mandate to freely choose government representatives of their choices. It is against this background that this study assesses Nigeria’s electoral politics in the present fourth republic with regards to legitimacy crisis. The paper infers that the failure of the electoral commissions to conduct free and credible elections has made it easier for the political elites to impose candidates against the peoples’ will to occupy leadership positions. By implications, those anointed candidates served selfish interests and could not get the masses support leading to political cynicism in the country. This questions and challenges the legitimacy of the government and remains a threat to Nigeria’s democracy. However, to ensure peoples’ commitment and supports for government, the paper calls for stakeholders’ cooperation towards ensuring credible and transparent elections so as to enhance political leadership that enjoys popularity within and outside the country.


Election, Politics, Legitimacy, Leadership, Democracy

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