AN INVESTIGATION ON THE IMPACT OF TRIBAL AND RELIGOUS CONFLICT ON 2023 ELECTION OUTCOME IN NIGERIA
1.1 Background of the study
Nigeria is characterized by its diverse ethno-religious composition, and the dynamics between religious groups become particularly prominent during general elections. The influence of ethnicity and religion is a key phenomena within contemporary Nigeria. The subject has generated significant interest among Nigerians, becoming a prominent topic of conversation in many media outlets including as newspapers, magazines, radio, and television. The majority of Nigerians exhibit a notable inclination towards religious engagement due to the perceived advantages associated with it. Nigeria, being a pluralistic culture, is characterised by the coexistence and unrestricted interaction of many faiths adherents as they engage in their everyday pursuits (Aluko, 2017). Ethnicity, as a concept, pertains to individuals who share a common heritage, language, or culture, often residing predominantly within a certain geographical region. Ethnicity is influenced by the collective awareness of sharing a shared ancestral heritage. Ekpo (2023) posits that ethnic identity may be seen as a gloss, whereby individuals possess shared historical and cultural antecedents. A social construct is established based on certain cultural practises and distinctive symbols. The impact of ethnicity on social relationships and personal identity is often seen due to the intricate nature of its social construct. There is a discernible distinction in treatment between those belonging to the in-group and those belonging to the out-group, which may be classified as a kind of discrimination. In contrast, Ayantayo (2019) defines religion as a social-cultural framework that establishes a connection between humanity and supernatural, transcendental, and spiritual elements through prescribed rituals, behaviours, values, beliefs, worldviews, texts, sacred sites, prophecies, ethics, and organisations.
Regrettably, the aforementioned challenges of colonialism, ethnic diversity, and religious disparities were encountered by a nation including over 250 distinct ethnic groups, each with their own unique customs and languages. Consequently, this provided a conducive environment for the emergence of ethno-religious conflicts of varying degrees inside the country. Currently, the political landscape in Nigeria is characterised by the influence of ethnicity and religion. The allocation of public office appointments still reflects tribalism and nepotism. Inter-group dynamics are strained, as individuals exercise caution in their interactions, particularly with those perceived to belong to a different social group.Nigeria is characterised by the presence of three primary faiths. The religious traditions discussed in the literature include Christianity, Islam, and African Traditional Religion (ATR) (Aluko, 2017). In addition to the aforementioned faiths, Nigeria also accommodates the presence of Hinduism, Judaism, Grail Message, and Reformed Ogboni Fraternity. However, it is worth noting that these religious practises are predominantly observed by either foreign individuals or a relatively small proportion of the Nigerian population (McKinnon, 2021). Among the three prominent religious factions in Nigeria, Christianity and Islam hold significant sway over the country's political landscape. Irrespective of their divergent viewpoints, religious factions persist in exerting substantial sway inside Nigeria's political landscape.
Unarguably, ethnicity and religion have the potential to exert influence on politics through three primary mechanisms: the active participation of individuals from ethnic or religious backgrounds in political affairs, the amalgamation of ethnicity, religion, and politics into a cohesive entity, and the imposition of ethnic or religious principles and laws on political governance, thereby aligning political actions and policies with religious doctrines, ideals, or legal frameworks (Omoregbe, 2023).
The interconnection between religion and politics is unmistakably apparent in the context of the Nigerian presidential election of 2023. Moreover, Nigeria's electoral process is influenced by certain fundamental principles related to religious factors. An illustrative instance is to the effect of race and religion on the selection of flag bearers and running mates for the seats of president and governor in certain states. This measure is implemented in order to safeguard the interests of adherents. In contexts where this principle is adhered to, it is common to find the availability of a ticket that includes both a Muslim and Christian candidate, or vice versa (Ayantayo, 2019). It is noteworthy to mention that in certain instances, the act of voting and engaging in political campaigns can be driven by ethnic and religious convictions. In this scenario, the utilisation of ethnicity and religion may be employed as means to garner backing for a candidate or to dissuade potential voters from casting their ballots in favour of said candidate. This is the underlying reason for the opposition that certain individuals who identify as Christians hold towards Muslim candidates, and conversely, the opposition that certain individuals who identify as Muslims hold towards Christian candidates. The impact of religion extends beyond the realm of politics. The prevalence of anti-Igbo statements and threats before to the Lagos gubernatorial election can be attributed to the same underlying factors.
According to Balogun (2023), the elections held in February and March 2023 witnessed a significant escalation of tribal hostility among Nigerians. Particularly, individuals hailing from the Southeastern and Southwestern regions of the country, including the Igbo and Yoruba ethnic groups. This circumstance arose due to the presence of highly qualified candidates from both ethnic groups contending for the position of presidency, a situation that did not pose any significant concerns for the majority of the populace. The emergence of some political players has led to the propagation of animosity through the expression of derogatory remarks and viewpoints, with the intention of fostering animosity within the populace. The individuals, motivated by a desire to safeguard and advocate for their ethnic group, found themselves embroiled in an unforeseen conflict that was not part of their initial intentions. Whereas it is true that elections give electorates chance to vote for individuals and parties that will reflect their various interests when its process is marred by wide range ethnic and religious conflict, this is capable of ruining the outcome.
1.2 Statement of the problem
The just completed 2023 Nigerian presidential elections marked a turning point in the nation's political history by allowing a wide range of candidates to compete for federal and state legislative offices without an established incumbent in those positions. Nevertheless, Ogheneakoke, (2023) opined that the election was held against a backdrop of intense hostilities between political parties (APC,LP,PD, and NNPP) as well as a number of converging security issues that impact every area of Nigeria and the regular holding of elections. However, party militias, criminal gangs, and other armed organizations used violence in the instance of Lagos state, to repress opponents, discourage competitor candidates from standing, and influence the electoral process.
According to Sofekun, Oyakhiromen, Ige, and Obayemi (2023), for example, In the heat of Nigeria’s rancorous presidential election, politically motivated tribalistic disinformation spread like wildfire across social media. Peter Obi, the Labour Party candidate, who is a Christian, was accused of destroying Muslim communities when he was a governor and portrayed as sympathetic to the Indigenous People of Biafra, the secessionist organization in southeastern Nigeria. Online narratives were further spun to imply that Igbo people wanted to take over Lagos. On March 18, three weeks after the presidential elections, most of Nigeria’s 36 states went back to the polls to elect state governors. In Lagos State, WhatsApp groups lit up with messages that warned that the Labor Party gubernatorial aspirant Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour intended to empower the Indigenous People of Biafra. If Rhodes-Vivour came into power, the messages said, he’d lay off civil servants in Lagos and hire Igbos to replace them. Rhodes-Vivour is Yoruba, but his marriage to an Igbo apparently raised hackles.
Similarly Ogundele and Afolayan (2023), the 2023 general election in Lagos State was also be marked by a considerable quantity of violence in a number of electorates, with electoral thugs stealing ballot boxes, ballots being burned or destroyed, polling places being vandalised. Power-hungry politicians frequently sponsor unemployed youths, thugs, and blatant illiterates to carry out assaults on their perceived political opponents with the goal of manipulating election results to their own advantage. Yet, escalating violence against party members and election officials as well as criminal and regional activities allude to potential weaknesses in the post-election period. Undoubtedly, a truly representative form of government must rely on election integrity as an honest, transparent and accurate method of assessing popular will at all levels of government, howbeit, the opposite has been the case for the Nigeria Presidential Election, where Nigerian politicians do not follow the appropriate electoral rules even as their eagerness to gain political power drives them to use all means available to achieve their goal, regardless of the regulations. Their activity eventually leads to them attacking everyone who gets in their way, which leads to assassination, kidnapping, thuggery bloodshed which is capable of influencing the election outcome. Against the backdrop lies an investigation on the impact of tribal and religious conflict on 2023 election outcome in Nigeria
1.3 Objective of the study
The broad objective of this study focuses on and investigation on the impact of tribal and religious conflict on 2023 election outcome in Nigeria. Other specific objectives includes:
i. To examine the prevalence of tribal and religious conflict during and after 2023 elections
ii. To ascertain motivating factors tribal and religious conflict during and after 2023 elections
iii. To investigate the effect of tribal and religious conflict on 2023 general elections outcome.
1.4 Research Question
iv. What is the prevalence of tribal and religious conflict during and after 2023 elections?
v. What are the motivating factors tribal and religious conflict during and after 2023 elections?
vi. What are the effect of tribal and religious conflict on 2023 general elections outcome?
1.5 Research Hypothesis
Ho1: There is no significant effect of tribalism and religious conflict on 2023 general elections
Hi: There is a significant effect of tribalism and religious conflict on 2023 general elections.
1.6 Significance of the study
This research is significant in such a way that it examines the phenomenon of election malpractice and how it threatens the efforts at democratization in Nigeria’s fourth republic. It also x-rays the fundamental factors associated with election violence and ultimately recommends ways for obviating them. It will serve as an eye opener to researchers, government officials and general readers who truly intend to understand the impediment to democratic consolidation in Nigeria. Again, it will serve to sensitize the public and create awareness as to the destructive potentials of election malpractice towards the aspiration for democratization in Nigeria. Empirically, the study will contribute to body of knowledge and serve as a reference material to student and scholars who wishes to conduct further studies in related field.
1.7 Scope of the study
The scope of this study borders on the impact of tribal and religious conflict on 2023 election outcome in Nigeria. The study also examine the prevalence of tribal and religious conflict during and after 2023 elections, ascertain motivating factors tribal and religious conflict during and after 2023 elections and to investigate the effect of tribal and religious conflict on 2023 general elections outcome. The study is however delimited to Lagos State
1.8 Limitation of the study
The researchers encountered slight constraints while carrying out the study. The significant constraint was the scanty literature on the subject owing that political violence discourse is vast thus the researcher incurred more financial expenses and much time was required in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature, or information and in the process of data collection, which is why the researcher resorted to a limited choice of sample size covering only residents of Lagos State. Thus findings of this study cannot be used for generalization for other states within Nigeria. Additionally, the researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work will impede maximum devotion to the research. Howbeit despite the constraint encountered during the research, all factors were downplayed in other to give the best and make the research successful.
1.9 Definition of terms
Election: An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold public office.
Election Malpractice: Election malpractice refers to all illegitimate acts carried out before, during and after elections in order to influence the outcomes of an election to the advantage of a particular political party and to the detriment of the other(s). Such illegitimate acts include rigging, thuggery, violence, intimidation, fraud, bribery, vote buying, misrepresentation and all sort of illegal manipulations hinged on altering the otherwise anticipated outcome of an election.
Ethnicity : An ethnicity or ethnic group is a grouping of people who identify with each other on the basis of perceived shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups.
Religion: Religion is a range of social-cultural systems, including designated behaviors and practices, morals, beliefs, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations