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 Jamia mutani arewa arewa organzation, 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 the 2015 General elections.
1.2. Statement of the research problem
Nigeria has always been a multi-ethnic and multi-religious State and the diverse ethno-religious sentiments has always been reflected in her elections, however in the 2015 elections, the effect was more glaring. The results of the 2015 general elections clearly revealed the preponderance of ethno-religious sentiments as determinants of voting behaviour and political participation across the country. From the presidential through gubernatorial, national and state assemblies’ elections, aspirants were largely chosen on the basis of ethno-regious identities. In the presidential election, the president and vice president elect received almost 90 per cent of their votes on the basis of ethno-regious identity. Similarly, the incumbent president received en masse votes from his ethno-regious zones.
In addition to being the most competitive election in Nigeria since independence, the 2015 general elections were held amid rising tensions on account of terror attacks by the Boko Haram Insurgent group. Ahead of the elections, there had been increasing tension between the north and the south due to what the northerners perceived as their ‘lost opportunity’ to reclaim the presidency and reverse the continued economic marginalization of their region. All these factors exacerbated the traditional ethnic, regional, and religious cleavages that have defined Nigerian politics since independence. It is based on the above, that this research aims to examine Ethno-religious sentiment and voting pattern in Nigeria; a case study of 2015 general elections
1.3. Research Questions
The following are questions the research seeks to answer
a. What is the main cause of Ethno-religious sentiments in Nigeria?
b. How did Ethno-Religious Sentiment determine voting patterns in the 2015 general elections?
c. Was the credibility of the 2015 general election undermined by the sentimental voting patterns?
1.4. Research objectives
The following are the objectives of this study
a. To identify the main cause of ethno-religious sentiments in Nigeria.
b. To examine how Ethno-religious conflict determined voting patterns in the 2015 general elections.
c. To investigate the credibility of the 2015 general election vis-a-vis sentimental voting patterns.
1.5. Research propositions
The following are the research propositions
a. Ethno-Religious politics is the major cause of Ethno-Religious sentiment in Nigeria
b. Ethno-Religious sentiments were responsible for the voting patterns in the 2015 general elections
b. 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 and limitations
The research examines Ethno-Religious sentiments and its effects on voting patterns in the 2015 general elections, the research is thus centered on the 2015 general elections, the research will also be careful to use materials that were published during this time period for a better conclusion.
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.
1.8. Research Methodology
The methodology adopted for this research is quantitative which emphasizes on the use of numeric data and statistics to draw out its findings. The quantitative methodology is also used in situation where a general knowledge is needed about a certain problem, the quantitative methodology tries to discover the magnitude, frequency and extent of the independent variable on the dependent variable. Thus this methodology will be adopted to discover the extent to which Ethno-religious sentiment (independent variable) effects Voting behavior (dependent). The quantitative methodology will guide the method of data collection, data analysis and method of sampling.
Method of Data Collection: Data will be collected for this research from both primary and secondary sources
The primary source of data will be collected from the distribution of questionnaires to a population of voters, INEC officials and politicians in Zaria LGA of Kaduna State. 200 questionnaires will be distributed to get vast opinions and views
The secondary source of data will be collected from the review of books, journals and academic materials written on the subject matter
Method of Data Analysis: Percentages will be adopted for analysis of data, this helps in giving a precise answer to questions and also aids in easy analysis
Method of Sampling: The simple random sampling will be used for sampling this is because it gives everyone the opportunity to be selected by eliminating bias.
1.9. Proposed Theoretical Framework
Rational Choice Theory
Rational choice theory was propounded by Gary Becker in 1992. The rational choice theory of ethnic voting behaviour postulates that a voter tends to vote for a party candidate who is a member of the same ethnic group because of the higher possibility that the candidate will keep his/her political promises to members of their own ethnic community, and because of the lower costs of communicating with a candidate of one’s own community, more effective representation of the community’s interests in the parliament will likely result (Janet et. al, 1993, p.436). By extension, the same theory can be used to postulate that a voter will likely vote for a candidate with whom he/she share common religious beliefs.
Rational choice theory best explains age long voting behavioural patterns in Nigeria. Just like during the independence era, ethno-religious affiliations continue to reflect in voting behaviour of Nigerians
1.10. Definition of Terms
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).
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).
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).
The project shall be structured into five chapters. Chapter One shall deal the background of the study which is characterized by; Introduction, Statement of the Research problem, Research questions, and Objectives of the study, Research propositions, Significance of the study, Scope and limitations of Research Methodology and Definition of key concepts. Chapter Two shall dwell on the review of Literature as well as Theoretical framework. Chapter Three shall contain the Evolution of Ethno-Religion sentiment in Nigerian body polity. Chapter Four, shall consist of data presentation, analysis and interpretation. Chapter Five, shall give the summary, conclusion and recommendations of the study.