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Populist theory of democracy suggests that democracy and its process function to make political decisions based on the collective will of the people.  The will of the people is determined by the participation of the people in voting, involvement in political and public affairs, and expression of opinions and thoughts.  Therefore, the strength of democracy according to the populists depends on the strength of participation of the people in political and public affairs.

Populist theorists, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau (The Basic Political Writings 1987 P. 201) and John Stuart Mill (Utilitarianism, On Liberty, Considerations on Representative Government, Remarks on Benthams Philosophy: The Guernsey Press, 2001 P. 246) suggested that democracy can indeed be weakened by low voters turnout. Voting is one of the easiest ways for citizens to participate in the democratic process. If less people are expressing their willthat is lower voter turnoutthe less accurate the will of the people will be, according to populist theory. Putnam described voting as the most common act of democratic citizenship (Putman, Robert D. Bowling Alone. 2000 P 31). 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau advocated full participation of the people in lawmaking: In a well run city everyone flies to the assemblies; under a bad government no one wants to take a step to get to them. Once someone says what I care about the affairs of the state, the state should be considered lost (The Basic Political Writings 1987 P. 201).  Rousseau wrote about this concept of sovereignty and stated that the legislative power has to be in the hands of the people. John Stuart Mill (Utilitarianism, On Liberty, Considerations on Representative Government, Remarks on Benthams Philosophy: The Guernsey Press, 2001 P. 246) recognized that the best form of government was representative government.  Even though the people gave some of their power to make policies to their elected representatives on trust, Mill acknowledged that ultimately the power of the state lies with the people: There is no difficulty in showing that the ideal best form of government is that in which the sovereignty, or supreme controlling power in the last resort, is vested in the entire aggregate of the community; every citizen not only having a voice in the exercise of that ultimate sovereignty, but called on to take an actual part in the government.  Robert Dahl, in his work (Democracy and its Critics 1989), argued that effective participation is a criterion for the perfect democratic process. However, Dahl emphasized the opportunity for participation in making decisions and not the manifestation of it when he said that Throughout the process of making binding decisions, citizens ought to have an adequate opportunity, and an equal opportunity, for expressing their preferences as to the final outcome (Democracy and its Critics 1989 P. 102).  Therefore, the propensity for a system to be more democratic is when participation by the people to influence decision making increases and vice versa.

Voting is one of the easiest ways for citizens to participate in the democratic process.  Putman described voting as the most common act of democratic citizenship (Putman, Robert D. Bowling Alone. 2000 P. 31).  Populist theorists would argue that voting represents the will of the people.  In elections, people vote for representatives that they believe are most in line with their political beliefs and views.  In turn, the decisions made by these elected representatives are based on the will of the people.  This is why Mill supported representative government when he stressed that the meaning of representative government is that the whole people, or some numerous portion of them, exercise through deputies periodically elected by themselves the ultimate controlling power.  Along with representatives, citizens vote for initiatives, bonds, and other issues that also correspond to their political beliefs.  A populist theorist would argue that the outcome of an election represents what the people wanted (the will of the people). 

Therefore, voter turnout is vital for the democratic process hence Rousseau claimed that the peculiar advantage to democratic government is that it can be established in actual fact by a simple act of the general will.  If less people are expressing their will; that is lower voter-turnout and the less accurate the will of the people will be according to the populist theory.  This shall be one of the bases for assessing the political participation of Nigerians using the last general elections in Lagos state in 2011.


The experience with citizens participation in electoral politics in Nigeria generally and Lagos state in particular has not been encouraging. Even where development of local participation is an important tool of rural development and where political education in mass participation is a key element of the development strategy, programmes have not developed genuine participation and responsibility among the people.

The people have become recipients of development as if development is something outside their realms of experience and right respectively. There are political, socio-cultural and bureaucratic constraints to political participation.


The main objective of this project work is to consider the nature and extent of political participation by the people in a democratic system. This, as noted above, will be carried out by assessing the involvement of the people in electoral process in Lagos state.

Besides, this research work also aims at achieving other important objectives which are also fundamental to the smooth operations of governance in a democratic set up. The other objectives are enumerated below:

i.             To establish any possible relationship between political education and political participation in order to clearly state the crucial ingredient of political participation;

ii.           To examine the legal framework of electoral system and election administration in Nigeria in order to spot their inadequacies and provide possible amendments;

iii.          To propose a number of strategies to mobilize citizens for increased political participation in Lagos State;

iv.          To ascertain the degree of confidence the people have in the electoral system of their state/country as it is assumed that this is reflected in their participation in electoral politics.


The following research questions shall serve as guidelines towards the achievement of the objectives of this project work:

i. Is political participation restricted to voting?

ii. What has been the trend of political participation over the years?

iii. Are people politically informed and active in Lagos state?

iv. Is there any correlation between awareness and political participation?


The research hypothesis that will serve as the yardstick for the administration of the questionnaire shall be based on the theoretical framework that political education is fundamental to political participation. Therefore, the research hypothesis is:

H0:     That the extent of the political participation of the people in electoral politics is not related to their political education.

H1:     That the extent of the political participation of the people in electoral politics is related to their political education.

Where H0 is the Null Hypothesis, while H1 is the Alternative Hypothesis.


This project work is significant because it is aimed at explaining political participation in the context of good governance. This will enable us to appreciate the fact that the formulation of a national agenda through dialogue by all stakeholders is a prerequisite for political participation.

Participation needs to be part of a broader conceptualization of development, with much more attention to organizational structures and linkages. However, participation has turned into a cliché for those administering development; its values have been overemphasized, while doing little to make it a reality. The study shall also serve as an evaluation masterpiece for the 2011 general elections in Nigeria from the perspective of the people of Lagos state.


This project work shall discuss the concept of political participation, focusing mainly on what it is and what it is not within the African context. The history of Nigerias politics shall be traced from the colonial era to the present. The gathering of views on the electoral politics shall be restricted to Lagos State with reference to the 2011 general elections covering Gubernatorial, House of Assembly and Local Government elections in the state.


POLITICAL BEHAVIOUR: Political behaviour is concerned with the activities of governments, political parties, interest group and voters. It is a process made up of the actions and interactions of men and group of men.

DEMOCRACY: can be defined as a system of government where people exercise power of governing the state through representatives popularly and periodically elected by the people.

VOTING: this is the process whereby citizens elect their representatives into various political posts in a country.

POLITICS: It can be defined as the struggle for power or conflict resolution.

POLITICAL PARTICIPATION: is a process where citizens participate in the political affairs of their country.

ELECTION: election is the act of choosing public officers to fill vacant posts by vote; it is an act of choosing those that govern a state


This study contains five chapters. Chapter one contains the introductory part, the background of the study, the statement of the research problem, objective(s) of study, scope and delimitation of study and research methodology.

Chapter two:  Will focus on literature review and theoretical framework.

Chapter three: The researcher will focus on History of politics in Nigeria and political participation in Lagos State.

      Chapter four: Will cover Data presentation, analysis and interpretation

Chapter five: Will include Summary, Conclusion and the recommendations


The research shall be qualitative and quantitative in nature in that the data generated from this study shall be analysed using chi-square as a tool of analysis. The data shall be generated from the primary and secondary source while the instrument of data collection shall be the questionnaire which shall be used to elicit information from the respondent.


This research is designed to critically evaluate  citizens participation in electoral politics, in Lagos State during the 2011 general elections and to assess the extent to which they are politically informed in the state. The method and procedure to be used in carrying out this research are stated in this chapter.

          A research survey was undertaken and was supplemented with documentary materials from Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). In other words, the work will be based mostly on responses of respondents and the results of the 2011 general elections in Lagos state.


The research methodology will be on questionnaire involving the residents of Lagos State who were eligible to vote as at the time of 2011 general elections. The respondents shall cut across many fields of works covering employees in the private and public sectors, also involved in the research are trade union organizations members. All these people will be included in order to have a representation of all shades of opinions.


A total of three hundred (300) respondents will be selected, for the purpose of this analysis. The sampling shall be done randomly where every member of the population will be given an equal chance of being selected


The instrument to be used in this study is the structured questionnaire. The questionnaire will be divided into two sections. Section A and B. section A will show the respondent personal data while section B will be showing the analysis of each questionnaire  and the respondent comment for better calculation and analysis of the scales question will be made brief and simple with the aim of generating only requires and relevant information from respondent to be sampled.


The instrument will be constructed and validated by the project supervisor who will make suggestions for face and content validity of questionnaires. This will be to ascertain the reliability of and validity of instruments.


Here the researcher reports of the steps to be taken to collect the data. This entails the method of collecting the questionnaire. The researcher will distribute the questionnaire to the respondent and as much as possible collect immediately.


Both primary and secondary data shall be used in the course of this research work. The primary data shall be sources via the survey method i.e. the questionnaire designed by the researcher and distributed to the respondents. The researcher would then collect the filled questionnaire from the respondents in order to analyze the data collected with the appropriate statistical instruments(s).

The secondary data shall be gathered from the relevant electoral commission in Lagos State and also analyzed using statistical instruments like table and charts and simple mathematical calculations such as the percentages.


          The Data, which will be collected from the questionnaire, will be analysed using the simple percentage method and chi-square, goodness of fit. The simple percentages will be calculated by dividing the total number of questions answered by the total number of questions and then multiply by 100. The chi-square method will be calculated thus:

                   X2     =     ( O E)2


                   Where         X2      -        Chi-square

                                       O       -        Observed frequencies

                                      E       -        Expected frequencies

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