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1.1   Background of the Study

Political parties are traditionally the most significant intermediary organizations in democratic societies. Students of political science have commonly associated them with democracy itself. Political parties, as “makers” of democracy, have been so romanticized that scholars claim that neither democracy nor democratic societies are thinkable without them (Omotola, 2009). In other words, the existence of vibrant political parties is very imperative for democratic consolidation in any polity.It is clearly ironic that political parties largely pursue and profess democracy in the media only to resist it within. Competitive party and electoral politics are expected to deepen democracy. Well-functioning political parties are seen as essential for the success of electoral democracy and overall political development of Nigeria (Ibeanu, 2013, Adetula and Adeyi, 2013).

Regrettably, elections in Nigeria since political independence have been characterized by violent actions that often result in socio-economic tensions and unrests. This has indeed remained a recurring decimal in Nigeria’s political life despite efforts at curbing it.

Electoral violence in Nigeria has been sustained and reinforced mostly by religious, ethnic and tribal diversities. For instance, the political violence that greeted the Nigeria’s First and Second Republics which eventually led to military intervention and long spell in the country’s government and politics, had its roots in ethic and tribal considerations (Wakili, 2015).

Following the announcement of the result of the 2011 presidential election which saw to the re-election of the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan, candidate for the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), violence began with widespread protests by supporters of the main opposition candidate, Rtd General Muhammadu Buhari of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) challenging the results. The protests degenerated into sectarian violence and killings by the Almajiri (Sanghaya school students) in the Northern states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara where more than 65,000 people were estimated to be displaced while over 800 people were killed in the electoral violence (Ibeanu, 2013).

The increase in electoral violence at every turn of election in Nigeria has been alarming until 2015 when Nigeria had the most stunning elections. Hitherto, because of electoral apprehension and the tendency towards violence by all means a prior prediction was concluded by some experts in the US that 2015 was likely to signal the dismantling of the Nigerian state into some banana republics (Yoroms, 2015).

Electoral violence in Nigeria is most often carried out by thugs whose members are openly recruited, financed and sometimes armed by political parties, politicians and their representatives (Aniekwe and Kushie, 2011). These gangs, comprised primarily of unemployed young men who are mobilized to attack their sponsors’ rivals, intimidate members of the public, rig elections and protect their patrons from similar attacks (Aniekwe and Kushie, 2011).Excessive manipulation of the electoral process beginning with voter registration before the conduct of elections to the outcome of election results by political parties has generated tension and the cumulative reaction of the masses into violence in Nigeria. This has made scholars and political analysts and pundits to classify party politics in the country as a dirty game.

Accordingly, Osabiya (2015) asserted that in modern societies, political parties are very essential to political process. They have become veritable instrument or adjunct of democracy in any democratic system. Political parties are not only instrument for capturing political power, but they are also vehicles for the aggregation of interests and ultimate satisfaction of such interests through the control of government. Obviously political parties are crucial to the sustenance of democratic governance. Therefore this research study seeks to critically explore party politics and electoral violence in Nigeria.

1.2   Statement of the Problem

Consolidating Nigerian democracy through the conduct of credible elections has remained an albatross. The history of Nigeria’s democratic experiments demonstrates that elections and party politics have generated so much animosity which has, in some cases, threatened the corporate existence of the country (such as happened after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election) and in other cases instigated military incursion into political governance, most notably in 1966 and 1983.

At the heart of electoral process in Nigeria is the problem of lack of credibility for the official results of elections leading to the rejection of such results by a sizeable portion of the Nigerian voting public. Since the 1964 general election, the first to be conducted by the post-colonial Nigerian government, elections in Nigeria have consistently been characterized by the contestation of results and organized violence.While there is a plethora of factors that account for electoral violence in Nigeria, the institutional factor (designing a credible electoral system) appears to be the most salient (Animashaun, 2010). In addition, the process of implementing such an efficient electoral regime is challenged by sociological variables such as the pluralist character of the Nigerian nation, underdeveloped political culture and irrational party politics (Animashaun, 2010).Since the inauguration of the Fourth Republic, a pattern is already emerging which points to the fact that political elites have not learnt much from the mistakes of the past. The high level of political abduction, harassment, arson, and assassinations, withdrawal of credible and qualified professionals in the race all lay credence to this fact (Jegede, 2003). It is against this backdrop that this study seeks to examine party politics and electoral violence in Nigeria.

1.3   Objectives of the Study

The study is being conducted with the following objectives:

a.    To investigate the relationship between party politics and electoral violence in Nigeria.

b.   To examine the effect of intra-party crisis on democratic process in Nigeria.

c.    To investigate the effect of political parties on democratic consolidation in Nigeria.

d.   To find out the challenges of political parties in Nigeria.

e.    To recommend policy options on party politics and violence in Nigeria.

1.4   Research Questions

The research study will be guided by the following questions:

a.   What is the relationship between party politics and electoral violence in Nigeria?

b.   What is the relative effect of intra-party crisis on democratic process in Nigeria?

c.   To what extent do the activities of political parties promote democratic consolidation in Nigeria?

1.5   Significance of the Study

The study has both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, the study has the potential of contributing greatly to existing body of literature on elections and political violence. This work will provide the student of political science and political history, the needed framework for tackling the issues of electoral violence in future elections.

Practically, this research work will be of interest to Nigerian government, especially House Committee on electoral matters, Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) like the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), States Independent Electoral Commissions (SIEC) etc. The findings of this study will also provide valuable information in articulating potential policies that will help address the problems of political parties and electoral violence.

Finally, to the readers and researchers, this would make useful contributions to any study on same topic or any related topic on party politics and electoral violence.

1.6   Scope of the Study

The scope of the study defines the research boundary. Therefore this study encompasses party politics and electoral violence in Nigeria vis-à-vis the party politics, the electoral process and the challenges of political parties in Nigeria.

1.7 Method of Data Collection

Method of data collection specifies how the test of hypothesis is carried out (Ifesinachi, 2010). Method of data collection of this study is based mainly on secondary sources. This is a method use in gathering already existing data on the subject matter such as government publication, textbooks, articles and magazines, annual reports etc.

1.8 Method of Data Analysis

We will adopt the content analysis model of data analysis. The effectiveness of this method or model lies in its ability to allow the researcher to extract and interpret relevant research materials, make judgment input into the work. Content analysis hence, are scholarly methodology in research writing, by which texts are studied as to authorship, authenticity or meaning (www.wikipedia.com). Harold Lasswell formulated the core questions of content analysis, "who says what, to whom, why, to what extent and with what effect?" (Krippendor/t:2004:l 1).                            

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