POLITICS, ETHNICITY AND THE 2015 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION (A CASE STUDY OF EDO STATE)
- BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Nigeria is a multi-ethnic nation-state with socio-cultural differences among its component ethnic groups all of which have resulted into cultural dissimilarities. These cultural dissimilarities have been manifested by, the differences in culture which may include language, diet, dress and type of social system. The ethnic virus has been one of the most important causes of social crisis and political instability in Nigeria; and ethnicity has been perceived in general as a major obstacle to the overall politico-economic development of the country (Otite, 2010).
Unarguably, Nigeria is a country that is blessed with enormous human and material resources, but ironically, the same country has become the bastion of inequitable state policies, injustice, barefaced corruption, social decay, poverty-ridden, etc., where ethnicity has pervaded every facet of the Nigerian life, and more fundamentally determines who gets what, when and how (Lassswell, 2015). Ethnicity has been considered to be the cause of the 1967-1970 Civil War in Nigeria, elections which have been rigged and those which have failed can be blamed on ethnicity, the manipulation of census figures can only be understood from the ethnic dimension.
Periodic free and fair elections constitute one of the most significant institutions of liberal and participatory democracy. Contrary to the expected unity, the politics of administration in Nigeria has been offensively punctuated by very disturbing ethnic politics. Brown (2013) expound that in Nigeria’s political system, the reconfiguration, formation of political parties, distribution of human and material resources and even crises (coups, civil war, and religious impasse) are hinged on ethno-religious politics.
Without any form of prejudice, it is a fact that Nigeria is a multi-ethnic state with differences in its socio-political and economic development all of which have resulted into conflicts and counter conflicts. Notwithstanding the era of globalisation, the level of ethnicity in Nigeria has unabatedly increased.
Obviously, this is as a result of the life style of various ethnic groups which revolves round their ethnic identity; hence, the difficulty in producing uniformly informed socio-political and economic policies. It is against this background that many socio-political and economic problems tied to ethnicity still flourish in the polity, originating from the political rivalry amongst ethnic groups seeking for political relevance cum power and the wealth that comes with it. Ethnic politics have been a recurrent if not a permanent phenomenon in Nigeria’s political system
. Ethnicity is, therefore, at the centre of politics; it is either you belong to the mainstream of ethnic politics or not without which one may not likely be politically relevant. In essence, it is not the political party that matter but your ethnic group. Nigeria no doubt is a highly divided society with three major ethnic groups (Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa/Fulani).
The political system in Nigeria has since been tailored along these ethnic lines. This, however, does not mean there are no other ethnic groups in Nigeria. Of recent is the use of North/South dichotomy–a political arrangement that states that if the Hausa/Fulani from the north produces the president in a particular political dispensation, the next will have to come from the southern Yoruba and Igbo. However, this arrangement (not in Nigeria’s constitution) did not specify which part of the south thus pitching the majority ethnic groups in the south against the minority ethnic groups in the zone. This informs every socio-political and economic policy responses to the challenges posed by ethnic differences in the country which include among other power-sharing system, quotas system in the educational sector etc.
Elections involve a democratic process of choosing who governs a particular group, society or state. As a critical aspect of democracy elections can take different forms depending on what the polity in question deems appropriate for use (Robert & Obioha 2015). However, Ujo (2018) makes the distinction between elections and voting. He asserts that election is an umbrella word with a wide coverage that includes other activities before, during and after voting. These activities include planning, voter registration, and constituency delimitation, arrangement of the polling stations, polling procedure, vote counting and announcement of results.
However, voting is the actual process in which individual choice is made from various alternatives. The extent to which elections contribute to the development and sustenance of democracy, particularly in those that are new and developing, is largely dependent on factors which influence the electorates in making their choice. Studies have been conducted to show the interplay of electoral choice and ethnic structure (Norris & Mattes 2013; Glaeser 2015; Posner 2018).
These studies demonstrate that African elites often manipulate ethnic cleavages to win elections, thereby showing that election results in African countries usually follow ethnic lines. Nigeria is undoubtedly one of the most heterogeneous countries in the world. With a population of over 186 million (Worldometers 2015), Nigeria is also the most populous black nation with over 250 ethnic groups and several sub-groups (Olayode 2015).
Despite these characteristics, the country’s political scene is dominated by three major ethnic groups, namely Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo. Other sub-groups exist but are regarded as minorities. The existence of sub-groups among the large and dominant groups raises the fear of dominance of the minority groups by the major ethnic groups. Consequently, politics is played by these ethnic groups and sub-groups in such a manner as to maintain the domination by the majority groups or to prevent and resist domination by the minority groups.
Presidential elections in post-colonial Nigeria have always generated tensions, anxieties and controversies, particularly among the electorate. This is connected to the fact that electioneering periods are characterised by hate speeches which in most cases have an ethnic undertone. In particular, the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria generated more tension and controversies than ever before. Apart from being held in a period of insecurity largely orchestrated by the Boko Haram sect, the 2015 general elections have been described as the most competitive election to be held in post-colonial Nigeria.
It was claimed that prior to the elections there had been increasing tension between the north and the south. This was attributed to what the northerners saw as a golden opportunity to reclaim the presidency which, in their opinion, would reverse the perceived economic marginalisation of their region (Olayode 2015). All these factors aggravated the traditional ethnic, regional and religious cleavages which have characterised Nigerian politics since independence. This is the background to an examination of the extent to which ethnicity influenced the outcome of the 2015 presidential election in Edo state.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Ethnicity as a determinant factor plays a vital role in the area of politics and other aspects of every society. In Nigeria political arena, ethnicity is often adopted by political elites in order to attain their objective which has been undermining the socio-political and economic development of Nigeria. The economic and political lag, encouraged a struggle for power between the North and the South fashioned a situation which made possible conflict between them (Anifowose, 2011).
In another perspective, ethnic strife has plagued Nigeria from political independence. However and after all, politics at the national level was deeply fragmented along regional and ethnic fault lines, bogging down thereby any national process to move the nation forward. Fundamental differences in values had made leading ethnic groups to be parochial in developmental pursuits, and this at the expense of the nation at large (Odeyemi, 2014). As observed by Umezinwa (2013) the level of ethnic rivalry in Nigeria has made it impossible for her to produce the right leaders who live above boards, who exude impeccable and predictable character, and who are ready to spend themselves for the development of the nation. Ethnic affiliation has not allowed such leaders to emerge.
At each election, the emphasis has always been on where the candidates came from rather than on the right candidates for the election. This explains why the National Assembly is replete with many people who are there neither for the interest of the nation nor for their own ethnic groups. Although identity in Nigerian politics manifests in various concrete and abstract forms, its true significance lies in the fact that it impacts on world events and international relations on a spectrum ranging from conflict to cooperation.
Due to its dysfunctional or destabilising influence, there is a natural tendency to over-emphasise the conflict-generating effects of negative identity. This approach suffices in highlighting what superficially appear to be the more salient aspects of identity, but it tends to neglect the cooperation-inducing potential of positive identity. What has to be borne in mind is that identity, apart from being a constitutive of world politics, also has a transformative power (Call, 2018).
The reasons and motives for the upsurge in the wave of identity politics consist of neglected historical grievances, land claims, ingrained biological prejudices, religious fervour, sudden memory-lapses, long-standing battles for recognition and control of resources and power (Barbero, 2002). Identity politics provides a space in which people can reinforce their belonging and ownership, or lack thereof; however, identities have generally been used negatively by colonial powers and ruling elites in the postcolonial state.
Alternatively, identities could be used to create a universal identity, as in the case of nationalism and a search for a common identity in African countries, or more broadly, in Africa as a continent (Kagwanja, 2003). African countries have to determine how they can manage ethnic differences that appear in political spaces, but should do that within the broad ambit of human rights, access to resources, equality, and citizenship. In addition religious affiliation and connection decline whenever the issue of ethnicity arises. Ethnicity has not only marred the political and economic development of Nigeria, but has given rise to nepotism, violent conflicts, and political conflicts amongst ethnic groups.
These are problems that need urgent attention; hence, re-visiting ethnicity will enable us to fully grasp the influence of ethnic methods of politics as potent contributors of political conflict in Nigeria. Furthermore, studies on ethnicity have not given proper analyses of the linkage between ethnicity and political conflicts. Based on the above and as far as this research is concerned, no study has talked about ethnicity as potent contributor of political conflicts in Nigeria. This gap in research is what this study intends to fill.
1.3 AIMS OF THE STUDY
The major purpose of this study is to examinepolitics, ethnicity and the 2015 presidential election. Other general objectives of the study are:
1. To examine whether ethnic sentiment played a major role in the 2015 presidential elections in Edo state.
2. To examine the extent ethnicity influenced the 2015 presidential election in Edo state.
3. To examine if the level of the effect of ethnicity on elections brought about national disintegration and disunity.
4. To examine ethnic cultural practices and political conflicts in Edo state.
5. To examine the relationship between ethnicity and political party activities in Edo state.
6. To examine the extent to which political elite in Edo state encourage ethnic sentiment of the electorates for their personal interest in the 2015 presidential election.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. Does ethnic sentiment played a major role in the 2015 presidential elections in Edo state?
2. To whatextent does ethnicity influenced the 2015 presidential election in Edo state?
3. How will the level of the effect of ethnicity on elections brought about national disintegration and disunity?
4. What are the ethnic cultural practices and political conflicts in Edo state?
5. What is the relationship between ethnicity and political party activities in Edo state?
6. What is the extent to which political elite in Edo state encourage ethnic sentiment of the electorates for their personal interest in the 2015 presidential election?
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS
- There is no significant influence of ethnicity on the outcome of the 2015 presidential election in Edo state.
- There is a significant influence of ethnicity on the outcome of the 2015 presidential election in Edo state.
H0:There is no significant relationship between ethnicity and political party activities in Edo state
H1:There is a significant relationship between ethnicity and political party activities in Edo state.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The issue of politics and ethnic conflict has been a major obstacle to the eradicative of a stable Nigeria. As our problem of statement has emphasized there is urgently of the need to address the issue of ethnicity to avert further disaster.The relevance of this work is that it unveils the implication of class struggle in fermentation ethnic conflict should start seeing themselves as one indivisible nation that should be fighting for development of the ruling class in fighting for development of the ruling class in causing confusion in the nation.
This work will also contributes to the various writings e,g journals and textbooks that have been highlighting on the dangers of ethnic crisis and how to handle it finally, it will help policy makers in the country and the world over to know the root cause of ethnic conflict, so as to explore strategies by which the negative effects of ethnicity could be mitigated in the future. Thus making lasting policies that will obliterate ethnic chauvinism and its consequent effect on national stability and development. Thus this study will help the Nigerian government and students in further research
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The study is based on politics, ethnicity and the 2015 presidential election, a case study of Edo state.
1.8 LIMITATION OF STUDY
Financial constraint– Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
Time constraint– The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.9 OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF TERMS
Ethnicity: is a shared cultural heritage. People define themselves or others as members of an ethnic category based on having common ancestors, language, or religion that confers a distinctive social identity.
Political Instability: Political instability” is defined as the propensity of a change in the executive, either by “constitutional” or “unconstitutional” means.
Political Development: Political development refers to the development of the institutions, attitudes, and values that form the political power system of a society. Political development enhances the state’s capacity to mobilize and allocate resources, to process policy inputs into implementable outputs. This assists with problem-solving and adaptation to environmental changes and goal realization.
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