Ethno-Religious Sentiment And Voting Behavior In Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Ethno-Religious Sentiment And Voting Behavior In Nigeria


This study was carried out on ethno-religion sentiments and voting behavior in Nigeria. The resurgence of voting pattern along ethnic identities during the 2015 presidential election never took an average Nigerian by surprise. The nature of Nigerian politics has always been premised on primordial factors that keep defining who gets what, how and when. The paper examines the ethnic colouration in the voting pattern of Nigerians during the election. The paper employs primordial theory of ethnicity to explain the strength of ethnicity in voting behaviour. The paper exploits qualitative and quantitative components comprising questionnaire and content analysis of two dailies and review of literature as secondary data. A sample size of one hundred respondents in Ibadan, Oyo State was analyzed on the considerations such as ethnic identities: language, religion, region, and custom among those that participated during campaign, those that voted and those that served as INEC officials. The findings showed that 86.4% of the respondents with Hausa ethnic identity and 72% of the respondents with Igbo background agreed that some variables such as ethnicity and religion were strong factors that influenced their voting behaviour in the election.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Ethnicity and religion are two phenomenon that can hardly be divorced from a human being, while Ethnicity gives humans the sense of belonging to a group which fosters solidarity and unity, Religion plays a vital role in human lives by connecting them to the spiritual and giving them hope of a better life on earth and after death (Conroy, 2013). The two phenomenon are important in a human being as there is hardly an individual that doesn’t belong to an ethnic group or practices one form of religion.

The two phenomenon though important can be very dangerous when taken to the extreme and brought to public life especially politics. Politics is an activity that brings people together to relate with one another and provide solutions to problems affecting their society, when Ethnicity and Religion is brought into politics it leads to division based on sentimental feelings and cleavages. As Horowitz (2013) explains that ethnicity and religion are non-evaluative variables and are ascriptive, more segmented, pilloried and rigid.

Ethno/religious tendency has hindered the development of national parties, national identities and democratic culture. This is because ethnic and religious groups while competing for political positions could easily manipulate them for compromise and bargain which could easily invoke ethnic-focused conflict with dire consequences for democratic stability and national survival (Branton, 2013).

In Nigeria, ethnic and religious politics, sentiments and cleavages had been nurtured since colonial era with new trends and dimensions taking place in the contemporary era (Nwachukwu, 2014). Political parties and candidates are easily perceived as representatives of a particular ethnic or religious group and voting pattern in Nigeria largely mirrors the various cleavages in the country – North-South, Christian-Muslim, among others.

The dominant role of ethnicity in Nigerian democratic and partisan politics and the struggle for political power has been reflected through the results of previous elections from the First Republic to the recently concluded 2015 general elections. The first ever elections held in Nigeria (1959 General elections) was characterized by political parties which were mainly offshoots of ethnic and religious identities.

In the North there was the North Peoples Congress (NPC) which emerged from the Northern Group Jamiamutaniarewaarewaorganzation, in the South there was the Action Group (AG) which emerged from the Yoruba Group Agbe Omo Oduduwa and finally in the East was The National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroon (NCNC) which was an ethnic group for the Igbos. The three political parties failed to bring about unity and adopt a national coloration principle instead they leveraged on ethnic and religious factors to score political votes and win followers (Olukoshi, 2013).

Thus, ethno-regional cleavages have continued to remain a major determinant of electoral outcome and related political issues with attendant implications for democratisation and nation building in Nigeria. The study of ethno-regional cleavages and voting behaviour in the 2015 general elections is significant, not just for analyzing political participation, but also for its potential consequences for democratization and nation building. It is based on the above that this research intends to examine the impacts of Ethno-religious sentiments on voting patterns in Nigeria, a case study of 2015 General elections.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Since the introduction of elections in the Nigerian political history, the factors influencing voting behaviourshave been left speculated. This is majorly due to political development in the country which many describe as unpredictable. Going by the issue of voting,it is very crucial to understand that the most important part of election is casting votes on the day of election by eligible voters. Nnoli (2003) stated that the voting process raises a lot of issues that bother on the fairness and freeness of the elections. Most electoral malpractices occur during voting. They include impersonation, voting by ineligible people, multiple voting, possession of unauthorized voter’s cards, alteration of voter’s cards, unlawful possession of ballot papers, unlawful possession of ballots boxes, vote buying and unruly behaviour at polling stations, etc. It is the voting pattern of the electorates that builds determine whether the reliability and credibility of the candidates. In Nigeria, this is rampant not necessarily because the electorates are apolitical, but because the electorates are usually biased in choosing the qualified candidates that can represent their interests at the national helm of affairs. They tend to do blind voting by voting for their candidates based on their ethnic affiliation rather than merit.

1.3 Research Objectives

The following are the objectives of this study

  1. To identify the main cause of ethno-religious sentiments in Nigeria.
  2. To examine how Ethno-religious conflict determined voting patterns in the 2015 general elections.
  3. To investigate the credibility of the 2015 general election vis-a-vis sentimental voting patterns.

1.4 Research Questions

The following are questions the research seeks to answer

  1. What is the main cause of Ethno-religious sentiments in Nigeria?
  2. How did Ethno-Religious Sentiment determine voting patterns in the 2015 general elections?
  3. Was the credibility of the 2015 general election undermined by the sentimental voting patterns?

1.5 Research Propositions

The following are the research propositions

  1. Ethno-Religious politics is the major cause of Ethno-Religious sentiment in Nigeria
  2. Ethno-Religious sentiments were responsible for the voting patterns in the 2015 general elections
  3. Sentimental voting patterns undermined the credibility of the 2015 general elections

1.6 Significance of the Study

This research studies Ethno-Religious sentiments and its effects on voting patterns in the 2015 in Nigeria. This study therefore will be significant in the following ways

Firstly, the research will discover the reasons for Ethno-Religious sentiment in Nigeria which will therefore enable the government, and private organization to take steps to address the issue and foster national unity.

Secondly, the research will also look at the effects if Ethno-religious sentiments on voting patterns, in the 2015 elections, this will fill in the gaps in existing literatures as there are not much literatures on this topic.

Finally, the research will add to the academia and serve as reference point to further Researchers who will want to investigate issue pertaining to Ethno-Religious sentiments.

1.7 Scope of the Study

The research examines Ethno-Religious sentiments and its effects on voting patterns in the 2015 general elections. Special attention will be given to Ibadan, Oyo state.The research will also be careful to use materials that were published during this time period for a better conclusion.

1.8 Limitation of the Study

Any shortage in research requirements that might influence the quality of results or clarity of the research outcomes is a limitation (Gyatt et al., 2011). Several limitations existed in conducting this study. The major limitations of the study will be time, finance and access to important sources of primary data. The research would have loved to interview the former INEC Chairman as well as resident INEC Commissioners however this will pose as a difficult task owing to the academic level of the researcher and the busy schedules of the personalities.
This limitations however will in no way hinder the reliability and validity of the project, as the researcher will do all within her care to ensure that the project is properly written and its finding properly articulated.

1.9 Definition of Terms

a. Ethno-Religion

Ethno-Religion is a combination of the word Ethnic and Religion. The word is primarily used to describe members of an ethnic group which are also practitioners of a religion. It is also used to refer to a situation where majority of individuals in an ethnic group practice a particular religion (Conroy,2013).

b. Sentiment

Sentiment is a thought, opinion or idea based on a feeling about a situation or a way of thinking about something which is based on sympathy, pity, ethnic or religious inclinations rather than based on facts or reason (Ali, 2003).

c. Voting Behaviour

Voting behaviour is defined as a set of personal electoral activities, including participation in electoral campaigns, turnout at the polls, and choosing for whom to vote (Bratton, 2013).

Chapter Five

Conclusion and Recommendation

This study was carried out on ethno-religious sentiment and voting behavior in Nigeria. It is limited in term of the size of the sample which should have included samples from other geopolitical zones of the country. Also, the adoption of content analysis of two dailies in addition to the questionnaire administration technique would have revealed the voting behaviour of Nigerians during the election. It is expected that further research will be conducted to identify other variables that are predictors of voting pattern in Nigeria.

The study reveals that some significant relationships existed between ethnicity and voting behaviour of the electorates. The results show that some variables such as common ancestry and language of the voters, ethnic and religious affiliation and other primordial bonds did significantly influence voting behaviour of the electorates during the 2015 presidential election. This was evident among the Igbo and the Hausa ethnic identities because the major contestants emerged from the two ethnic identities. Most Igbo voted for the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan because he is from south-south region. Most Northern settlements in Ibadan voted massively for Muhammadu Buhari because they shared a common ancestry irrespective of the location they cast their votes.

The election witnessed an intense politicization of the Muslim-Christian divide and the north-south dichotomy in th ‎country.‎ The ‎name‎‘ political ‎south ’‎and‎‘ political ‎north’‎ was induced by voters particularly in the south-east, south south and north-east, north-west regions. The result released by INEC in the south-south and south-east saw PDP securing 87.55% and 89.66% respectively of the entire votes for Jonathan while north-west and north-east saw APC securing 81.34% and 75.28% respectively of the votes for Muhammadu Buhari.

Primordial ties with the presidential candidates during the 2015 presidential election played a vital role in the emergence of such candidates emerging winners in such places of the ties.

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