Ethnic Politics And Democratic Consolidation In Nigeria, 2015-2020

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Ethnic Politics And Democratic Consolidation In Nigeria, 2015-2020


This study investigated ethnic politics and democratic consolidation in Nigeria, 2015-2020. An evaluation and understanding of the political development in Nigeria requires a consideration of the impact of ethnicity. Without doubt, one can say that ethnicity influences political development in Nigeria as several events and activities such as the civil war, creation of states and the formation of political parties can best be explained from the ethnic perspective. The questions which arises from this include; what are the factors that encourage ethnicity in Nigeria? What are the effects of ethnicity in Nigeria? And in what practical ways can ethnicity be best contained in Nigeria? The framework of analysis adopted by this study is the group theory which holds that in the society there are no effective individual interest, that every group has its interests, that these interests always result in group action and that there is no one group interest that includes everyone in the society. Research questions were formulated to determine whether the opinions about the relationship between ethnicity and political development were influenced by sex, religion or educational qualification. Simple percentage method was used to analyze the numerical information obtained and findings reveal that there is a relationship between ethnicity and political development, but this opinion was not influenced by sex, religion or educational qualification and lastly the study arrived at the following recommendations: that leaders should look beyond ethnic differences and formulate unifying goals which will put ethnic sentiments as second place; Nigeria should discard the belief and notion of three main ethnic groups (Hausa, Igbo & Yoruba) in order to give the other numerous ethnic groups identity; and that federal character commission should be scraped so that employment or appointments should be based on merit and not based on quota system.

Table of Contents

Chapter One:


  • 1.1 Background to the Study
  • 1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
  • 1.3 Objective of the Study
  • 1.4 Research Questions
  • 1.5 Significance of the Study
  • 1.6 Scope of the Study
  • 1.7 Limitation of the Study
  • 1.8 Definition of Terms
  • 1.9 Organization of the Study

Chapter Two:

Literature Review

  • 2.1 Conceptual Review
  • 2.1.1 Ethnicity
  • 2.1.2 Interplay Of Ethnicity In The Body Politics Of Nigeria
  • 2.1.3 Democratic Consolidation
  • 2.1.4 Why Democratic Consolidation Is Elusive In Nigeria?
  • 2.1.5 Implications of Ethnicity and Prebendal Politics for Democratic Consolidation
  • 2.1.6 Ethnic militias in Nigerian politics
  • 2.1.7 The Social Reality of Ethnicity and Democracy in Nigeria
  • 2.1.8 Activities of Political Parties in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic
  • 2.2 Theoretical Review
  • 2.2.1 Theory of Pattern Variables
  • 2.2.2 The Elite Theory
  • 2.3 Empirical Review

Chapter Three:

Research Methodology

  • 3.1 Research Design
  • 3.2 Population of the Study
  • 3.3 Sample and Sampling Technique
  • 3.4 Source and Method of Data Collection
  • 3.5 Instrument for data collection
  • 3.6 Validation of Instrument
  • 3.7 Reliability of the instrument
  • 3.8 Method of Data Analysis
  • 3.9 Ethical Consideration

Chapter Four:

Data Presentation and Analysis

  • 4.1 Data Presentation
  • 4.2 Data Analysis
  • 4.3 Discussion of Results

Chapter Five:

Summary of Findings, Conclusion and Recommendations

  • 5.1 Summary of Findings
  • 5.2 Conclusion
  • 5.3 Recommendations
  • Appendix
  • Questionnaire

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

It is incontrovertible that Nigeria is multi-ethnic and the inter-play of this ethnic factor pose a centrifugal and daunting challenge to the corporate existence of Nigeria as a nation. Expectedly, politics by its nature and character is to give birth to a democratic structure capable of engendering development. However, in Nigeria, owing to incessant military coups coupled with the ethnicisation of politics even before independence, it has assumed a dangerous dimension by becoming a barometer for measuring contribution to nation building. It is now an instrument for allocating and distributing power and national resources. As Nigeria experiences a new democratic drive with the rising spate of insecurity, pundits believe this has ethnic as well as political undertone but dressed in Boko Haram garment. It is therefore trite to handle it with utmost caution and sincerity. Thousands of lives not to mention properties have gone as a result of this insurgence(Adele&Oloruntele, 2019).

Hitherto, no serious effort have been made at nipping the menace in the bud. It is against this background that this paper discusses implications of ethnic politics on democratic consolidation in Nigeria.

Nigeria, without doubt is a heterogeneous society made up of two hundred and fifty ethnic groups (Adele &Oloruntele, 2019). These ethnic groups have different languages, religion, cultural and other differences. These other differences manifest in form of dress, diet etc. In the light of these differences and diversity which the country is noted for, the effect these have for democracy and sustainable development generally is better imagined than discussed. Furthermore, the consequence of these also for politics in the country is quite grave. Thus work, arising from the foregoing looks at the impact of the cancer-worm of ethnicity and thehydra-headed malaise of prebendal politics on democratic consolidation and or substance in Nigeria. The position this country finds itself in is not an enviable one. A country blessed with both human and material resources that stand tall amongst all the other countries in African cannot boast of a commensurate economic standing judging from its vast resources. Rather than rank amongst the most prosperous, its gross domestic product (GDP) is ranked amongst the lowest in the continent. No thanks to the plague of corruption (and prebendalism) that is the hallmark of Nigerian politics. In spite of being the most populous country in Africa, this asset (population) has not been converted to advantage like other countries in this category such as China, India, America, etc(Alulo, 2017).

Nigeria is a multi-ethnic nation-state with socio-cultural differences among its component ethnic groups all of which have resulted into cultural dissimilarities. These cultural dissimilarities have been manifested by, the differences in culture which may include language, diet, dress and type of social system. The ethnic virus has been one of the most important causes of social crisis and political instability in Nigeria; and ethnicity has been perceived in general as a major obstacle to the overall politico-economic development of the country (Attoh&Soyombo, 2020).

Unarguably, Nigeria is a country that is blessed with enormous human and material resources, but ironically, the same country has become the bastion of inequitable state policies, injustice, barefaced corruption, social decay, poverty-ridden, etc., where ethnicity has pervaded every facet of the Nigerian life, and more fundamentally determines who gets what, when and how (Azeez,2019).

1.2 Statement of the Research Problem

Ethnicity has been considered to be the cause of the 1967-1970 Civil War in Nigeria, elections which have been rigged and those which have failed can be blamed on ethnicity, the manipulation of census figures can only be understood from the ethnic dimension. Therefore, this study seeks to provide answers to the following questions: What are the effects of ethnic politics in Nigeria’s political development?; why has ethnicity persisted in Nigerian politics?; what factors encourage ethnicity and ethnic politics in Nigeria? And in what practical ways could this ethnic coloration be contained(Azeez, 2019).

1.3 Research Objective

The main objective of this study is to investigate ethnic politics and democratic consolidation in Nigeria, 2015-2020 the specific objectives of this study include to:

  1. Assess the impact of ethnic politics on Nigeria’s political development
  2. Investigate and recognize the role of ethnicity in Nigerian politics.
  3. Proffer possible solutions to the menace of ethnic politics in Nigeria.

1.4 Research Questions

The following research questions were formulated in this study:

  1. What is the impact of ethnic politics on Nigeria’s political development?
  2. What is the role of ethnicity in Nigerian politics?
  3. What are the possible solutions to the menace of ethnic politics in Nigeria?

1.5 Significance of the Study

This study is significant to students, scholars and the Nigerian population in general. The findings and recommendations of this study will add significantly to the previous knowledge of the Nigerian populace with respect to democratic consolidation and ethic politics in Nigeria. The recommendations that are made in this study will serve as a tool for appropriate policy implementation for the Nigerian government in line with the menace of ethnicism tics in Nigeria.

1.6 Scope of the Study

This study focuses on ethnic politics and democratic consolidation in Nigeria, 2015-2020. The study also considered the impact of ethnicity on the political development of Nigeria.

1.7 Limitation of the Study

This study was constrained by the unavailability of material with respect to its topic. Also, the time allocated for its completion determined its quality and quantity to a large extent. On the part of the respondents, their unwillingness to respond to the administered research instrument affected the outcome of this study.

1.8 Definition of Terms


A form of government in which the people have the authority to deliberate and decide legislation (“direct democracy”), or to choose governing officials to do so (“representative democracy”). Who is considered part of “the people” and how authority is shared among or delegated by the people has changed over time and at different rates in different countries. Features of democracy often include freedom of assembly, association, property rights, freedom of religion and speech, inclusiveness and equality, citizenship, consent of the governed, voting rights, freedom from unwarranted governmental deprivation of the right to life and liberty, and minority rights.


The set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations among individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status. The branch of social science that studies politics and government is referred to as political science.

Political Party:

An organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country’s elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas about politics, and parties may promote specific ideological or policy goals. Political parties have become a major part of the politics of almost every country, as modern party organizations developed and spread around the world over the last few centuries. It is extremely rare for a country to have no political parties. Some countries have only one political party while others have several. Parties are important in the politics of autocracies as well as democracies, though usually democracies have more political parties than autocracies. Autocracies often have a single party that governs the country, and some political scientists consider competition between two or more parties to be an essential part of democracy.

Democratic Consolidation:

The process by which a new democracy matures, in a way that it becomes unlikely to revert to authoritarianism without an external shock, and is regarded as the only available system of government within a country. This is the case when: no significant political group seriously attempts to overthrow the democratic regime, the democratic system is regarded as the most appropriate way to govern by the vast majority of the public, and all political actors are accustomed to the fact that conflicts are resolved through established political and constitutional rules.[1] The notion of democratic consolidation is contested because it is not clear that there is anything substantive that happens to new democracies that secures their continuation, beyond those factors that simply make it ‘more likely’ that they continue as democracies. Many scholars have attempted to explain the factors that are responsible for democracies consolidating, which has led to the emergence of different ‘consolidation theories’ in the academic literature. Unconsolidated democracies often suffer from formalized but intermittent elections and clientelism.[2]

An Ethnic Group:

A grouping of people who identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups. Those attributes can include common sets of traditions, ancestry, language, history, society, culture, nation, religion, or social treatment within their residing area.[1][2][3] The term ethnicity is often times used interchangeably with the term nation, particularly in cases of ethnic nationalism, and is separate from the related concept of races.

Social Equity:

Concerned with justice and fairness of social policy. Since the 1960s, the concept of social equity has been used in a variety of institutional contexts, including education and public administration.


A formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold public office.

Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative democracy has operated since the 17th century.[1] Elections may fill offices in the legislature, sometimes in the executive and judiciary, and for regional and local government. This process is also used in many other private and business organisations, from clubs to voluntary associations and corporations. The global use of elections as a tool for selecting representatives in modern representative democracies is in contrast with the practice in the democratic archetype, ancient Athens, where the elections were considered an oligarchic institution and most political offices were filled using sortition, also known as allotment, by which officeholders were chosen by lot.


A method by which a group, such as a meeting or an electorate, can engage for the purpose of making a collective decision or expressing an opinion usually following discussions, debates or election campaigns. Democracies elect holders of high office by voting. Residents of a jurisdiction represented by an elected official are called “constituents,” and the constituents who choose to cast a ballot for their chosen candidate are called “voters.” There are different systems for collecting votes, but while many of the systems used in decision-making can also be used as electoral systems, any which cater for proportional representation can only be used in elections.

1.9 Organization of the Study

There are five chapters in this study, the first of which discusses the background, statement of the research problem, aims, research question, and research hypotheses as well as the study’s significance, scope, and limitations. Chapter 2 contains conceptual, theoretical, and empirical reviews. The study methodology is covered in Chapter 3. This chapter covers the research design, the study’s population, the sample size and technique, the data collection source and method, the study’s instruments, the data analysis method, the validity and reliability of the study as well as ethical considerations. Chapter four entails data presentation, data analysis and discussion of findings. Chapter five encompasses summary of findings, conclusion and recommendations.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1 Summary of Findings

Having presented and analysed the data using tables, frequencies and percentages, and also tested the hypotheses of the research using the chi-square method, the study arrives at some findings which are discussed as follows: The findings revealed that 82% of the respondents which constitute the majority agreed that ethnicity has an impact in political development in Nigeria. After testing the first hypothesis which attempts to determine whether the opinion about the relationship between ethnicity and political development is influenced by sex, the findings revealed that out of the male respondents, 76.7% and out of the female respondents, 90% agreed that there is a relationship between ethnicity and political development, however, these opinions were not influenced or determined by the sex of the respondents. Also the test of the second hypothesis which attempts to determine whether the opinion about the relationship between ethnicity and political development is influenced by religion revealed that 76.9% of Christians and 100% of Muslims agreed that ethnicity has an impact on political development, but their opinions were influenced by their religion. The findings also revealed that 68.5% of the FLSC/SSCE respondents, 90.9% of the OND/NCE respondents and 86.9% of the HND/B.Sc. /B.A. /B. Sc. Ed respondents all agreed that there is a relationship between ethnicity and political development; however, their opinions were not influenced by their educational qualifications.

5.2 Conclusion

From the numerous literatures reviewed and from the data collected, analysed and from the hypotheses tested, the following conclusions have been drawn. The problem of ethnicity is inherent in the Nigerian political system. This factor of ethnicity developed as a result of the colonial activities which isolated the public and masses from the benefits and convenience/security of the system, thus, leaving the people with little or no choice than to seek comfort, security and material as well as socio-psychological support and sense of belonging from their various ethnic organisations/associations. This spate of ethnic arrangement led to the formation of ethnic driven political parties and militia groups to promote, represents and protect their primordial interest. Furthermore, competition for scarce resources has been the more common bases of ethnic consciousness and tensions. This competition include in areas like land, boundary, natural resources and also for political power and control. In the political sphere and in relation to political development, especially in areas like elections, formation of political parties, voting in elections and support for candidates, the impact of ethnicity cannot be overemphasised. Politicians seeking mass support found out that the only platform on which they can win the votes of the masses or appeal to the interest of the populace is to appeal to communal cries and sentiments rather than universalistic appeal and ideology. This explains the process of political party formation over the years. The Action Group (AG) leaders for instance were quick to find out that they could best get Yoruba backing, only by focusing on anti Ibo images. The idea was that if the people were not ready or comfortable with the domination by strangers, then they should give their support to AG

It is unarguable that unfolding developments within the nation since the inception of this democratic experiment have generated debates and anxiety across all walks of life about the future of Nigerian federation. Attesting to this are the challenges of democratic consolidation chronicled above as a result of failure of Nigerian nation to contend with them. Singling out the insurgency question – Boko Haram, it has been so much exaggerated and mystified that phobia and mutual suspicion determines every aspect of public relationship. This is not to be because economic and social activities have been in comatose in most commercial cities in the Northern states, thereby justifying the basis for the debate that the state of the union is in jeopardy particularly as another major elections draw nearer and democratic sustenance is imperative. This however makes the issue of National Question a desideratum.

Commenting on it, (Ajayi, 1992) argued that the National Question is … the perennial debate as how to order the relations between the different ethnic, linguistic and cultural groupings so that they have the same rights and privileges , access to power and equitable share of national resources. In alliance with the above position is (Ayobolu, 2013) “the country’s cultural diversity is a veritable strength, a critical resource that should be tapped for our collective benefit. The way to do this is not to pretend that these significant cultural differences do not exist or try to suppress and dissolve them into a mythical Nigerian nationhood”. “Rather free reign and institutional expression must be given to diverse cultures, values, beliefs, ideas, mores and norms of the component peoples of Nigeria so that the maximum realization of the potentials of each part becomes the collective strength of the whole”.

5.3 Recommendation

Ethnicity is a social construction that is mobilized for access to resources and valued goods in the Nigerian state. Ethnic diversity in itself is not a challenge as diversity can be mobilised to enhance development in various ethnicities. Ethnicity is the bane of the democratic process as well as development in Nigeria today. Ethnic cleavages can be used to enhance distinctiveness, organise development efforts within ethnic groups. The paper suggests a re-orientation of Nigeria in terms of their ethnic cleavages. There can be mobilised for benefit and not as a tool for suspicion and competition. Allegiance to Nigeria as a country should be preached in religious sectors, taught in schools. Agencies of socialisation should socialize individuals and group about the dangers of ethnicity.

The political process and structure in Nigeria will have to be addressed. It is important for leadership to be on the basis of merit and not just because an individual comes from an ethnic divide. Some have argued against this on the premise that some ethnic groups may be marginalised on the basis of this. Inspite of this, this paper is of the opinion that merit should not be sacrificed for inclusion. Efforts can be made to enhance the supposedly „disadvantaged people‟s‟ capacity for leadership and other opportunities. The political class needs to be reoriented to lay aside exclusionary politics and work for the development of their communities and the nation in general. Development in any society can only thrive where the social environment is conducive to it.

It is in the light of the above evaluation that the following recommendations are made to assuage the daunting challenges of democratic sustenance. These are:

  1. Strengthening democratic institutions
  2. Transparency and accountability
  3. Addressing the national question through convocation of National Conference
  4. Reduction of hunger, poverty, unemployment and Youth restiveness
  5. Participatory democracy – broadening participation through political education by National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the Mass Media
  6. Building of institutional capacity in citizens’ welfare
  7. Addressing security question
  8. Diversification of the economy while focusing attention or agricultural and food security
  9. Result-oriented Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) at all levels of government
  10. Re-orientation through churches, mosques and schools
  11. Promotion of gender balance.

Even though the recommendations made above are by no means exhaustible, one may rest one’s case by saying if the above are considered and followed, a lot will be achieved. And ethnic politics reduced to its bearest minimum with democratic consolidation, two sides of the same coin with good governance.

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