CHAPTER ONE1.1 Background to the studyThe 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 1990:145)The scourge of ethnicity had been a common feature in the country’s drive towards achieving democracy and its attendant on political participation. The relative significance of social cleavages as determinant on voting behaviour and political participation has received considerable attention from many scholars amongst (Dodds and Khosa 2001; Daddich and Fair 2002; Norris 2003). Structural theorists argue that social identity, particularly ethnicity exerts a strong influence upon voting choices (Lipset and Rokkan 1967; Horrowitz 1986; Dodds and Khosa 2001).The foregoing statement aptly sum up the deleterious implication of ethnicity for not only political stability and national development in Nigeria but also affect the voting behaviour of voters during elections.The pattern of party politics practiced in its over four decades of flag independence has been a critical concern to scholars and observers of the political system, especially as they perused to see democracy and democratic practices in operation. Long years of military misadventure in to political foray in addition to ethnic and regional chauvinism, along with politics of animosity and avarice have together rendered attempts to get the “only game and town” (Przeworski 1991) established and consolidated a mirage.However, as the Fourth Republic emerged and a slight deviation from the norm of party politics was recorded with the ruling people democratic party as at the emerging as the dominant party in the country, with membership and origin cutting across almost all ethnic groups in Nigeria.The extent to which elections fulfill its mission is so significant and dependent on the citizens’ rationale for how they behave at the polls. If voters behaviour is determined by non-evaluative rationales, then the purpose of self-rule by representatives government is defeated.Competitive elections are arguably a precondition for the other political benefits that a democratic system may confer on its citizens and they are a valuable yardstick for analyzing and distinguishing a democratic polity.Although elections and democracy are not synonymous, nonetheless, election remain fundamental, not only for the installation of democratic government, but also for broader democratic consolidation (Olayode 2004:87). The regularity, openness, and acceptability of elections signal whether basic constructional, behavioural and attitudinal foundations are laid for sustainable democratic rule.According to Bratton and van de Walle:Constitutional reform or disintegration of authoritarian rule as well as removal of ethnic politics is not sufficient enough to explain consolidated democracy, much also depends on the intentions of existing and emerging political leaders and the sincerity of their commitment to open and re-sponsor politics (1992:29).The study of ethno-regional cleavages of ethno-politics and political participation in Nigeria in the 2015 election in Akwa Ibom state is significant, not just for analyzing political participation, but also for its potential consequences for democratization and nation building.Against this long background, this research seeks to examine ethnic politics and political participation in Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the ProblemIf the numerous problems bedeviling Nigerian polity and threatened its corporate existence were measured on a scale, the questions of ethnic rivalry would weigh heaviest. In other words, ethnic rivalry has been the bane of the Nigerian politics right from its formative years. With this argument in view, a close study of the questions of ethnic in Nigeria politics or politics of ethnicity in Nigeria would bring to the fore the crucial role which the phenomenon plays in the political system.Nigeria politics is highly based on the ethnic rather than national consciousness. In other words, there is a parochial conception of politics by various ethnic groups in Nigeria. The problem being that political behavior of Nigerian is no more based on ideology but rather on loyalty.During election, Nigerian citizens vote for candidates from immediate ethnic groups not minding the charisma and ideology of such candidates. Additionally, political parties are formed on the basis of ethnic group and derive their greatest support from same.Here, every ethnic group has its political party constituting basically the indigene of such ethnic group. Indigenes of other ethnic group are not often given opportunity to contest elections on the platform of other parties than the one from their immediate ethnic group. Hence, it becomes difficult to develop truly national parties in the country as well as appropriate political culture.