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ETHNICITY AND VOTING PATTERN IN NIGERIA

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ABSTRACT

This research work was conducted to determine the influence of ethnicity on voting pattern in Nigeria with particular emphasis to the 2015 presidential election. To actualize the above, the researcher formulated three (3) research questions, and three (3) research hypotheses. An open ended structured questionnaire was used for data collection. Tables and simple percentages were used in answering of research questions while chi-square was used in testing of hypothesis. Based on data analyzed, the null hypotheses were rejected and the alternative upheld. From the findings of the study, it is observed that there is a relationship between ethnicity and the voting behaviour of Nigerians based on the tables, as majority of correspondents agreed that the 2015 Presidential election was a display of ethnic patronage based on the election results. The researcher recommended amongst others that for a credible representation and running of the machinery of government, voters should look beyond ethnic affiliation and sentiments.

CHAPTER ONE

1.1     Background of the Study:

Nigeria as a nation is an aggregation of several nationalities. In real terms, it is a pluralistic and multi-faceted society, both in terms of religion, culture and composition. It has about 450 different ethnic groupings (Uduma, 2005). According to 2006 officially certified census by Nigeria Population Commission, it has a population of 140 million with a growth rate of 6.3% per annum. This makes it the most populous country in Africa and the largest concentration of black race in the world. An estimated 37.7% of the population are urban dwellers while 62.3% are rural based. The life expectancy rate is 52 years, literacy rate is 45% and the fertility rate is 5.7% while infant and maternal mortality remain high (National Population Census 2006).

Despite the fact that Nigeria is composed of over 450 ethnic groupings, the three dominating ethnic groups are Hausa-fulani dominating the north, Igbo in the east, and Yoruba in the

western part of the country. 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 Igbo 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, agitation for state creation has not ceased.  The resultant effect of this ineffectual reorganization has continued to have negative effect on the politics of the land. Every ethnic group has continued to vie for political office in order to enrich both individual and group interest. Political party formation is not left out in this ethnic chauvinism and configuration, hence party campaign also follows ethnic sentiments (Nnoli 1978). However, scholars have come up with various explanations on the determinants of voting pattern in many developed countries of the world. Generally, they have emphasized the role played by factors such as social class, race, religion and party ideology. Close examinations of their findings suggest that the democracies they investigated have developed overtime and therefore parties have had distinct image and philosophies. Though, the Nigerian democracy is still at its infancy and therefore could not be said to follow a pattern as in the case of the developed countries of the world. It is however regarded as one of the emerging democracies of the world with features that are likely to be different from the developed democracies as motivators of voters (Mafeja 1971). Therefore, the 2015 general elections in Nigeria was no exception in terms of ethnic colouration.  Through the 2015 presidential elections, Nigerians had the opportunity either to choose ‘continuity’, as represented by the incumbent President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and his ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), or to embrace ‘change’, as symbolized by the opposition candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC). These two leading candidates in the 2015 challenge had also encountered each other at the ballot in the 2011 presidential contest, although at that time General Buhari was running on the ticket of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).

The Nigerian presidential election that took place in the year 2015 was historic. For the first time since the formation of the Fourth Republic of Nigeria, in 1999, after another phase of military rule, Nigeria not only voted out an incumbent president but the People's Democratic Party (PDP), a party that have been described by most scholars as not simply a political party but an institution in the country. While in principle, there were other political parties in the political landscape, in fact, 14 political parties had candidates in the 2015 presidential race. Until the historic 2015 presidential election, Nigeria relatively had a one-party system. The election, however, in the face of political fragmentation, growing economic inequality and an economic crisis, deepening social inequality and security concerns posed by the terrorist group named Boko Haram; the All Progressive Congress (APC) was able to defeat the PDP, forever altering the political landscape in Nigeria. Recent observation has shown that the 2015 presidential election may not after all be determined by the socio-economic and political challenges or follow the assumed position that Nigerian voters are motivated primarily by monetary incentives in deciding who and what party to vote for in any general elections. It may also be said that there are other factors inherent in the presidential election that were rooted in primordial sentiments, common ancestry, language and religion. The nature of voting alongside ethnic identities in determining Nigeria's electoral process and its political landscape since 1963 has made it imperative to conduct this research to ascertain the voting pattern of the 2015 presidential election. To this end, this work is an academic attempt to unravel the impact of ethnicity on voting behaviour in Nigeria, with emphasis on the 2015 presidential elections.  

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