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In Africa and Nigeria in particular, the administration of the colonial era and imperial occupations carved up boundaries that divided territories inhabited by indigenous societies and brought together a diversity of ethnic communities within unitary administrative structures. Between 1914 and 1915, British colonial administrators created the three regional territories that explain “ethno-genesis” and later “ethno-tensions” in Nigeria which comprises of the Northern region occupied by Hausa/Fulani, the Eastern region inhabited by the Igbos and the Western region by the Yorubas. The tripartite division of Nigeria by the colonial masters prevented Nigerian nationalistic movement, manipulating geographical boundaries to reinforce separation between ethnic groups and transforming ethnicity into an identity by which to gain political power; this structure along with other administrative decisions emphasized ethnic nationalism and regional politics, resulting from significant uneven development within each region. The division of Nigeria that reinforced ethnic groups, the development of ethnic/regional political parties and the rise of ethno-political consciousness demonstrated that the British administration intentionally prevented the rise and success of Nigerian nationalism, instead promoting ethnic nationalism as a means to gain political power. As ethnic consciousness motivated the majority ethnic groups to develop regional political parties which stimulated inter-ethnic tensions, ethnic politics inevitably became the main deterrent to Nigerian nationalism. The Hausa/Fulani led the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU); In the East, the Igbos formed the National Council for Nigerian Citizens (NCNC); the Yorubas formed the Action Group (AG), a regional political party dedicated to strengthening ethnic politics in the west (Coleman, 1960). The politics of ethnic and regional security play a key role in Nigeria’s political and economic development as well as its role in Africa and the world in general. It is the major source of growing political crisis in Nigeria. Election is generally accepted in all climes of the world as the hallmarks of democracy. However, since the advent of democratization in Africa in the 1990‟s a great deal of emphasis has been placed on holding regular elections (Malomo, 2006). Elections are not a day activity, rather they are complex set of activities with different variables that act and feed on one another. In representative democracy, it is regarded as the only acceptable means of their enthroning new leadership or removing an existing one (Alao, Alao, Nwogwugwu, 2013). Nigeria, a multi-ethnic nation-state with socio-cultural differences between its component ethnic groups all of which have resulted into cultural dissimilarity, accounts for twenty percent of the population of Africa, making one of every five Africans, a Nigerian. Located on the West Coast of Africa, the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the ninth most populous nation in the world with a population of over 170 million people (Adelegan, 2009). Nigeria since inception, ethnicity has been elevated to dominate national discourse, controls how people think and talk and determines what they support or oppose. Ethnicity is promoted by the political elites, embraced by the young and the old, passed from generation to generations and even has base in the Constitution (Adeyanju, 2011). Electorates are thus ethnic conscious during electoral periods. This in-turn impede national government and promote inability to fight corruption, favouritism in employment, politics of divisions, distrust, mediocrity and suppression of justice and many others. Ethnicity has been adjudged as a leading factor in the process of choosing leaders at the national level. The administrative division of Nigeria by Sir Arthur Richard former Governor-General of Nigeria in 1946 along ethnic lines greatly engineered ethnic consciousness of electorates in the nation-state called Nigeria. This in turn affected the voting pattern of electorates in a bid for an indigenous person to control the national government in the 1959 general election till the more recent 2015 general election where the election results vividly show ethnic sentiments; electorates in turn voted ethnicity and not the candidate personality and even antecedents. Though cultural and ethnic diversity sometimes gives Nigeria energy and dynamism, it remains the greatest obstacles to the survival of Nigeria nation more than corruption. The Niger Area may have joined Nigeria, but it is fractured by ethnic distrust and disrespect (Okonkwo, 2015). In Nigeria politicized ethnicity has been detrimental to national unity and socio-economic wellbeing of the residents. Most of these ethnic conflicts are caused by colonialism, which compounded inter-ethnic conflict by capitalizing on the isolation of ethnic groups. The “divide-and-rule” method was used by the British to pitch ethnic groups against each other, thus keeping the people from rising against the colonizers. Distribution of economic resources was often skewed to favour a particular group, pushing marginalized groups to use their ethnicity to mobilize for equality. These are the seeds of conflict.


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, 2008).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.


The major purpose of this study is to examine politics and ethnicity in Nigeria. Other general objectives of the study are:

  1. To examine whether ethnic sentiment played a major role in the 2015 General elections.

  2. To examine the effects of ethnicity on the outcome of the 2015 general election in Nigeria.

  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 Nigeria.

  5. To examine the relationship between ethnicity and political development in Nigeria.

  6. To examine the extent to which political elite encourage ethnic sentiment of the electorates for their personal interest in the 2015 general election in Nigeria.


  1. Does ethnic sentiment played a major role in the 2015 General elections?

  2. What are the effects of ethnicity on the outcome of the 2015 general election in Nigeria?

  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 Nigeria?

  5. What is the relationship between ethnicity and political development in Nigeria?

  6. What is the extent to which political elite encourage ethnic sentiment of the electorates for their personal interest in the 2015 general election in Nigeria?


Hypothesis 1

There is no significant effect of ethnicity on the outcome of the 2015 general election in Nigeria.
There is a significant effect of ethnicity on the outcome of the 2015 general election in Nigeria.

Hypothesis 2

H0: There is no significant relationship between ethnicity and political development in Nigeria

H1: There is a significant relationship between ethnicity and political development in Nigeria.


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


The study is based on politics and ethnicity in Nigeria, a case study of 2015 general election.


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.


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.

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