Ethnicity And Electoral Process In Nigeria’s Politics Using The 2019 Presidential Election As The Case Study

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Ethnicity And Electoral Process In Nigeria’s Politics Using The 2019 Presidential Election As The Case Study


This study examined ethnicity and electoral process in Nigeria’s politics using the 2019 presidential election as the case study.

The study adopted qualitative method. It uses content/document analysis which are journals, articles, textbooks, internet based materials, class notes.

The study revealed that; Election has taken the dimension of money politics where the issue of godfatherism has come to play. The issue of violation of electoral rules and other irregularities has affected the electoral process and its outcome in Nigeria. The pattern of voting during the Presidential Election in Nigeria was in accordance to their ethnic, religious and regional belongings. Ethnic voting has had a great impact on the institutionalization of democracy in Nigeria. Democracy can only be achieved through the practice of true federalism.

The Study concludes that Nigeria should practice what is termed true federalism in order to harmonize and unify all the different ethnic groups across the country and to fashion out a political culture that will downplay. The study further recommends that: The issue of godfatherism in Nigeria politics should be seen as a way of depriving citizens their constitutional right. The independent electoral commission (INEC) should ensure that necessary facilities are in place and to also ensure that they work hand in hand with the different security agencies. The issue of ethnicity be given utmost attention in Nigeria simply because it has turned out to play a role in the past elections in Nigeria. Ethnic voting should be based on individuals’ personalities in order to enhance and foster collective identity in a multi-ethnics country like Nigeria. Nigeria should aim at fashioning out a political culture that will downplay, if not totally eliminate feelings of mistrust, deep-seated animosity that exists among the various ethnic groups in the country and as well examine the issue of perceived domination of some sections by others.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Nigeria is country made up of more than 450 ethnic groups, however, there are three frequently mentioned ethnic groups which are the Hausas, Ibos and Yorubas with the Hausas dominating the northern part of the country; the Ibos in the eastern part and the Yorubas in the western part of the country (Mudasiru, 2015). The 1996 state creation and reorganization of the state structure in Nigeria saw these ethnic groupings being reorganized into six geo-political zones with the Hausa-Fulani comprising the north east, north west and north central; the Ibo concentrated in the south east and south south while the Yorubas taking the south west. The 1996 re-organisation was the last effort by the Abacha regime in ensuring relative distribution of power and resources within the country.

However, the agitation for state creation and the resultant effect of this reorganization has continued to have various effects on the politics of the land and every ethnic group has continued to vie for political office in order to enrich both individual and group interest (Sule, Azizuddin, Sani, & Mat, 2017). Political party formation is not left out in this ethnic and aggressive patriotism, hence party campaign also follow ethnic sentiments which both the 2015 and 2019 elections in Nigeria witnessed in terms of ethnic colouration (Mudasiru, 2015).

As a shared common consciousness with respect to origin and tradition among a group of people ethnicity refers to a social identity formation that rests upon culturally specific practices and unique set of symbols and cosmology (Nnabuihe, Aghemalo & Okebugwu, 2014). There are clear evidences that show how much evil ethnicity has brought upon the nation of Nigeria. Data from different sources have indicated beyond reasonable doubt that ethnicity influences a voter’s decision in choosing who to cast their votes for during elections.

Olayode (2015) alongside Nwobashi and Itumo (2017) demonstrated that ethnic configurations and structure of the Nigerian state have shaped voting patterns in previous elections in the country including presidential elections since the colonial period and post-independence era. Abdullahi (2015) further notes that election in Nigeria usually has the political culture and voting pattern of ethnicity, religion and regionalism which is part of the issues that are bedeviling the successful choice of good leaders in the country while some political parties were formed through a lot of ethnical designs and motivations as a way of giving their group a sense of common identity (Nnabuihe et al., 2014). In contemporary heterogenous societies ethnic group affiliation gives each member of that society an ethnic identity because ethnicity, like any other social science concept is based on the assumption that collectivity has its roots in common ancestry, heritage, religion, culture, nationality, language and a territory (Afkhami, 2012).

The question now is that what are the effects of ethnicity on the evolvement of true and modern democracy especially in Nigeria where the interest, wellbeing and the rights of the citizens are protected, irrespective of the ethnic, racial, religious, geographical, social and economic background of the individual?

Elections in Nigeria since the colonial and post-independence period have been keenly contested by the candidates. The 12 June 1993 election between Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola of the Social Democratic Party and Bashir Tofa of the National Republication Convention (NRC) and the 2019 election between President Muhamadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress and Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party among others are some of the closely contested in the history of Nigerian Presidential Elections in history. The 2019 election specifically was heralded with tensions, accusations and counter-accusations, intense campaign, trade of blames by the ruling and major opposition parties and other related issues. Political behaviour determines electoral process and voting pattern in every democratic regime. In Nigeria, the political and socioeconomic settings as well as historical background of the country shaped the behaviour and voting pattern of the electorates in the Presidential elections that took place in the history of the country so far.

1.2 Statement of Problem

Several elections conducted in the political history of Nigeria have been overshadowed with the challenge of ethnic and religious affiliation which have considerable influenced the voting patterns of the Nigerian electorate. Even though the government has always stressed the need for the citizens to put national interest above individual, ethnic and religious considerations, yet there is no politician in Nigeria who will win an election without the support of people sharing the same ethnic or religious ideology. This is why most politicians tend to give priority attention meeting needs of their ethnic nationalities even at the detriment of national interest.

In Nigeria, the choice of who becomes the President of Nigeria is often decided by a group, comprising the retired generals, traditional rulers and the captains of the Nigerian industries (Sule et al (2017). It is the preferred candidate of this group that subsequently emerges the winner in every election.

Voters’ turnout determines the voting pattern of the electorates during elections in the country as political apathy is recorded in General Elections in Nigeria because of the attitude of the political office holders who promised earth and heaven to the voters during electioneering campaign and after assumption of power, reneged against their promises and transformed themselves into emperors who enrich themselves from the public treasury at the expenses of developmental projects.

Elections in Nigeria are marred with a political behaviour of rigging, the manipulation of religion, ethnicity, regionalism and nepotism while voters are voting during elections based on their affinity with leaders that belong to the same religious groups, ethnic cleavages, region and other sentiments. Elections were marred with the culture of rigging, malpractices, intimidation of both voters and opposition, use of violence and political thuggery most especially by the ruling party using the power of incumbency which has in times past invited military to overthrow the civilian regimes. Therefore, voting for a candidate most times bores down to whether a particular candidate belongs to a voter’s ethnic group with checking whether the candidate has any concrete plan to take the country forward and this continues to be responsible for the dividing lines between ethnic nationalities and religious institutions in Nigeria, thus explaining the rationale for the study.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The main objective of the study is to examine ethnicity and electoral process in Nigeria’s politics using the 2019 presidential election as the case study.

The specific objectives of the study are to:

  1. Analyse the process, conduct and outcome of the 2019 presidential election
  2. Determine the role of ethnicity in the voting pattern of the people during the 2019 presidential election.
  3. Interrogate the implications of ethnic voting behaviour on the institutionalisation of democracy in Nigeria.
  4. Understand the pathways to true democracy in the face of ethnic and religious divisions.

1.4 Research Questions

The research will attempt to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the process, conduct and outcome of the 2019 presidential election?
  2. What is the role of ethnicity in the voting pattern of the people during the 2019 presidential election?
  3. What are the implications of ethnic voting behaviour on the institutionalisation of democracy in Nigeria?
  4. What are the pathways to true democracy in the face of ethnic and religious divisions?

1.5 Significance of Study

This research work is important to be undertaken because it will serve as an eye-opener in understanding the importance of a credible government without biases or ethnic and political affiliation. Also, the study will serve as a residual of knowledge in educating and creating awareness about fair and credible voting instead of voting based on ethnic affiliation or religious beliefs.

Furthermore, the study will benefit the electorates, politicians and the academia in understanding the danger of choosing a candidate or voting along ethnic lines rather than choosing based on the potentials that the candidate has in improving the lives of people. By doing this, true nationalism can be promoted in place of ethnicity which is seen as an avenue for personal gains both politically and economically.

1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study

This study focuses on Nigeria and the electoral process considering the place of ethnicity as a major influencing factor. Therefore, it will focus in Nigeria’s previous elections especially from the inception of the 4th republic (1999) till date (2019) which will be the scope of the study under consideration while it will rely on data from secondary sources for analysis. This is also the main limitation because a lot of information might be lost due to the fact that they will be extract from published sources such as books, journals and online sources compared to a primary source of data wherein data is collected in its raw form.

1.7 Operational definition of Terms


This is a terminology used to categorize a group of people inhabiting the same state, country or economic area and consider themselves biologically or culturally different from each other.


Politics is a multifaceted word which can be defined as a set of activities associated with the governance of a country or an area. This involves making decisions that apply to group of members. Also, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance or organized control over a human community particularly a state.


Is a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office and consequently invest a government with authority to rule.


Is a form of government involving the distribution of political power in the hands of the public which forms the electorate, representative government and freedom of speech whereby citizens can hold their leaders accountable and responsible for their actions while in government.

Voting Behaviour:

This is a form of electoral behavior exhibited by the electorate putting certain factors such as gender, race, culture or religion into consideration.


A religion in an institutional sense, consists of any association of practices, rituals or ceremonies intended to confirm, manifest, express or promote a belief, which for some persons is operationally religious

1.8 Organization of the Study

This research work is comprised of five chapters. The first chapter entails the introduction which consists of the background information of the study, the statement of the problem of the study, the objectives for carrying out the study, research questions and significance of the study, scope and the limitations of the study, organization of the study and the definition of terms used in the study. The second chapter encompasses the literature review and theoretical framework used to back up the study. The third chapter takes care of the research methodology employed in the data analysis technique used for the data gathered.

The fourth chapter covers the data analysis, the description of research instruments used in the analysis, the results achieved from the analysis and the discussion of findings. The fifth chapter is made up the summary, conclusion and recommendations.

Ethnicity and electoral process in Nigeria’s politics: A study of the 2019 presidential election

Ethnicity And Electoral Process In Nigeria’s Politics Using The 2019 Presidential Election As The Case Study

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Ethnicity And Electoral Process In Nigeria’s Politics Using The 2019 Presidential Election As The Case Study


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