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Nigeria is one of the most ethnicallyand religiously diverse country in Africa, and over time ethnic and religious considerationshave been built into the electoral system itself. These factors were overly observed in the 2015 general elections, Monitor (2015)reports that on a geo-political zone basis, the South-Southhad the greatest voter turnout with 59% closely followed bythe North-West with 54%. The South-West had the lowestturnout in the country with just 37%. This study investigated voters’ behaviour and the 2015 general election process in Nigeria. The study adopted qualitative approach. The success of the study relied mainly on secondary data which were sourced from textbooks, newspapers, magazines, from archives of libraries like the Covenant University, Ota, University of Lagos library and the internet. The findings of the study revealed that religion, ethnicity and regionalism all significantly influenced voter’s behaviour in the 2015 general elections in Nigeria. Also party affiliation significantly influenced voter’s behavior in the 2015 general elections. To this end, the study recommended that the culture of legitimacy by results must be maintained by Nigerians, implying that people should vote for an individual based on his historical records, what he has been able to achieve before and what he is likely to achieve now, not to select representatives on the basis of religion, ethnicity, tribalism or regional affiliation.
1.1 Background of the Study
Since the return to civil rule on 29 May 1999, Nigeria has held five general elections, apart from sundry re-run elections and local government polls conducted by the electoral body. Out of the five general elections conducted, only the 2015 general election met both the local and international standard. The disturbing trend is that each general election was worse than the preceding one (2003 was worse than 1999; and 2007 was worse than 2003). This trend shows that Nigeria is faring very badly at each passing election as nobody can talk of consolidating democracy in an environment characterized by electoral violence, electoral fraud, ethnic loyalty, party affiliation and religious sentiments.
Conducting a free and fair election is vital to the growth and development of any democratic process. Also, an average Nigerian voter is interested in immediate pecuniary or material rewards, and will easily trade off his votes when appropriately induced. This can be explained by the crippling poverty facing the people in the absence of government’s provision of the basic amenities required for decent living, as well as their justified distrust of the political leaders (Ebegbulem, 2011).
Indeed, one major element of electoral process is that election must be conducted in a free and fair atmosphere, while electoral results must reflect the wishes of the people. Nigeria’s experience in this regard had since independence been contrary to this expectation. This is because previous and present electoral bodies had conducted elections in a way that favoured the ruling political parties through poor planning, the device of excluding electorates from voting in places considered to be the strongholds of opposition, inadequate supply of voting materials, and late arrival of electoral officers to polling stations.
Conventionally, voting is the fulcrum of political participation in liberal democracies. Voters’ behaviour can explain the raison de’tre for decision making by the electorate. Goldman (1966) submits that inferences and predictions about behaviour concerning a voting decision involves certain factors that are not limited to gender, race, culture, or religion. For him also key public influences include the role of emotions, political socialization, tolerance of diversity of political views and the media. Essentially, the effect of these influences on voting behaviour can best be understood through proper scrutiny on the formation of attitude, beliefs, schema, knowledge structures and the practice of information processing. Survey from different countries indicate that people are generally happier in individualistic cultures where they have rights such as the right to vote (Diener, 2000).
In a multilingual, multi-cultural democratic setting like Nigeria, voting behaviour is dictated by a plethora of complex issues. This stems from the fact that it involves an analysis of individual psychological processes vis-à-vis perception, emotion, and motivation and to a large extent, their relation to political action as well as of institutional patterns, such as the communication process and their impacts on elections. In national elections, it is usually the norm that people vote based on their political beliefs. However, considering the fact that a voter is a rational creature in the philosophical sense of the term, he is not so rational; in the realms of his economic or political behavior (Joseph, 2015).
Voter behaviour to this extent displays the astounding factor that the behaviour of man is influenced by several irrational factors and pressure group in invoking religious and communal sentiments, influence of money or charismatic personality of a leader and a host of other irrational forces on the minds of the voter.
Apparently, several variables have been adduced that may moderate voter behaviour. Researches have shown that variables such as electoral fraud, ethnic loyalty, party affiliation and religious affiliation have extensively affected voter behaviour in every election held in Nigeria (Healy et al, 2010, Gomez, 2007, Miller, 2011, Parker, 2010, Valentine, et al 2010).
Nigeria's seventeen years of uninterrupted democratic experience cannot in any way be compared with that of United States which is over two hundred years or with Britain over three hundred years. This is because there are still cases of anti-democratic practices, especially in the areas of electoral processes, rule of law and constitutionalism (Kwasau, 2013). Also, related to this problem is the fact that electoral malpractices often lead to legitimacy crisis which help to erode democratic practices. Therefore this research study seeks to investigate voters’ behaviour and the 2015 general election process in Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Since the country’s return to democratic rule in 1999, transitional elections in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 were won and lost under conditions in which electoral malpractices, rigging and violence were pronounced, a phenomenon described by Dauda as “The Slippery side of landslide” (Dauda 2007:102). Participation in Elections in Nigeria is characterized by electoral fraud, ethnic loyalty, party affiliation and religious affiliation. Under such circumstances, elections give rise to the primitive accumulation of votes, which means winning of votes by both objective and structural violence and disregard for the rule of law. In this kind of environment, there is usually sustained rigging which ensures that votes do not count and voters are not counted leading to the lack of electoral credibility.
Consolidating democracy in Nigeria as a whole through the conduct of credible elections has remained an albatross. The history of Nigeria’s democratic experiments demonstrates that elections and electoral 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 in to political governance, most notably in 1966 and 1983.
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 various crises plaguing the major parties and emerging ones and the various inter-party crisis of the defections in the Nigeria, cross carpeting of representatives and other elected officers in the country are vivid instances of this tendency. This danger has resulted to the high level of political abduction, harassment, arson, and assassinations, withdrawal of credible and qualified professionals in the race. It is against this background that this study seeks to investigate voters’ behaviour and the 2015 general election process in Nigeria.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The general objective of this study is to explore voters’ behaviour and the 2015 general election process in Nigeria. The specific objectives are:
i. To investigate ethnic loyalty and voters’ behaviour during the 2015 general election in Nigeria.
ii. To find out the influence of party affiliation on voter behaviour and participation in the 2015 general election in Nigeria.
iii. To ascertain the relationship between electoral fraud and voter behaviour in the 2015 general election in Nigeria.
iv. To assess the effect of electoral malpractices on democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
v. To explore the factors that influenced the voting behavior of electorates during the 2015 general elections.
1.4 Research Questions
This study is guided by the following research questions:
i. How will ethnic loyalty influence voter’s behaviour?
ii. What is the relationship between party affiliation and voter’s behaviour?
iii. Could electoral fraud have affected voter behaviour in the 2015 general election in Nigeria?
iv. How is electoral malpractice affecting democratic consolidation in Nigeria?
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