Political Science Project Topics

Nigeria’s Political Development, Investigating Ethno-religious Sentiment and Voting Behavior in Nigeria

Nigeria’s Political Development, Investigating Ethno-religious Sentiment and Voting Behavior in Nigeria

Nigeria’s Political Development, Investigating Ethno-religious Sentiment and Voting Behavior in Nigeria

Chapter One

Objectives of the Study

The following research objectives were examined

  1. To analyze the historical roots of ethno-religious sentiments in Nigeria’s political context.
  2. To examine the influence of ethno-religious sentiments on voting behaviour in Nigeria.
  3. To assess the impact of ethno-religious sentiments on the overall political development of Nigeria.



Conceptual Review

 Ethno-Religious Sentiments

Ethno-religious sentiments, a cornerstone of Nigeria’s sociopolitical landscape, have been defined by Adetiba and Rahim (2022) as strong feelings or attitudes held by individuals or groups based on a combination of their ethnic and religious affiliations. These sentiments are multidimensional, encompassing a range of emotions and beliefs that individuals associate with their ethnic and religious identities. In the context of Nigeria, a nation characterized by remarkable cultural and religious diversity, understanding the dimensions of ethno-religious sentiments is essential for dissecting their impact on political dynamics (Adetiba & Rahim, 2022; Ajayi & Owumi, 2021).

Exploring the historical roots and evolution of ethno-religious sentiments in Nigeria provides crucial insights into the factors shaping contemporary sociopolitical realities. The work of Ajayi and Owumi (2021) reveals that these sentiments trace their origins to pre-colonial times when diverse ethnic groups coexisted independently. The colonial era further exacerbated existing divisions, as imperial powers implemented divisive policies, leaving a lasting impact on intergroup relations. Post-independence, ethno-religious sentiments became intertwined with political identities, shaping the trajectory of the nation’s political development (Ajayi & Owumi, 2021; Ajaegbu, 2022).

Manifestations of ethno-religious sentiments in Nigerian society are evident across various facets of life. Ajaegbu (2022) outlines that these sentiments often manifest in political discourse, influencing voting behavior, policy decisions, and even resource allocation. Ethnic and religious affiliations can become defining factors in social interactions, economic opportunities, and political representation. The influence of ethno-religious sentiments is particularly pronounced during elections, where candidates may appeal to specific ethnic or religious groups to garner support (Ajaegbu, 2022; Cinjel & Chujor, 2021).

Moreover, the impact of ethno-religious sentiments extends beyond the political arena, permeating social relationships and economic structures. Adetiba and Rahim (2022) note that these sentiments contribute to the creation of ethno-religious enclaves, affecting patterns of residence, socialization, and economic activities. The complex interplay between ethnic and religious identities can result in social stratification and exclusion, further fueling tensions within the broader Nigerian society.

 Voting Behavior

Voting behaviour, a central component of democratic processes, involves the actions and decisions individuals undertake during elections. Ajayi and Owumi (2021) define voting behaviour as the process through which individuals make choices in electoral contests. This multifaceted phenomenon consists of various components, encompassing both individual and collective dimensions, making it a crucial area of study in the context of Nigeria’s diverse political landscape (Ajayi & Owumi, 2021; Adetiba & Rahim, 2022).

At its core, voting behaviour involves the act of casting a vote based on a range of factors. Adetiba and Rahim (2022) identify the key components as individual preferences, societal influences, and external factors such as political campaigns and media coverage. The decision-making process is intricate, and influenced by a combination of rational considerations, emotional responses, and sociocultural influences (Ajayi & Owumi, 2021).

Several factors play a pivotal role in shaping voting decisions, and understanding these influences is critical for comprehending the dynamics of the democratic process in Nigeria. Ajayi and Owumi (2021) highlight personal attributes, socioeconomic status, and political ideologies as key determinants of voting behaviour. Additionally, cultural and ethno-religious factors exert a significant influence, contributing to the complexity of decision-making processes (Ajayi & Owumi, 2021; Adetiba & Rahim, 2022).

Cultural influences on voting behaviour are particularly pronounced in Nigeria, where diverse ethnic groups with unique cultural identities coexist. Ajaegbu (2022) underscores that cultural considerations, including traditional practices, values, and societal norms, can significantly impact how individuals perceive political candidates and parties. Moreover, the allegiance to one’s cultural identity may influence voting patterns, creating dynamics where candidates appeal to specific cultural groups during electoral campaigns (Ajaegbu, 2022; Cinjel & Chujor, 2021).

Ethno-religious influences further shape voting behaviour in Nigeria, adding another layer of complexity to the decision-making process. Adetiba and Rahim (2022) emphasize that individuals often align their voting choices with candidates who share their ethnic or religious backgrounds. This ethno-religious affinity can override other considerations, impacting the overall electoral landscape and potentially contributing to the polarization of the political arena (Adetiba & Rahim, 2022; Ajayi & Owumi, 2021).





This chapter details the methodology employed in investigating the interplay between ethno-religious sentiments and voting behaviour in Nigeria’s political landscape. Grounded in a comprehensive understanding of research philosophies and methodologies (Saunders et al., 2019; Bell, 2022), the study sought to employ a quantitative survey design to systematically gather data and analyze the relationships between variables. This approach aligns with the positivist research philosophy, aiming for an objective and generalizable understanding of the phenomenon under investigation.

Research Design

The research design employed in this study is a quantitative survey design. This approach allows for the systematic collection of data from a large sample, facilitating statistical analyses to uncover patterns and trends in the relationship between ethno-religious sentiments and voting behaviour (Saunders et al., 2019; Creswell & Creswell, 2018). The choice of a survey design is justified by its efficiency in collecting data from a substantial number of respondents, providing a comprehensive overview of the population’s perspectives on the research topic.

Population of the Study

The target population for this study comprises Nigerian citizens aged 18 and above, representing the voting-age population eligible to participate in the democratic process. The justification for this population choice lies in its relevance to the study’s objective of understanding the voting behaviour influenced by ethno-religious sentiments. The sizable target population of 171 respondents was determined based on the assumption that each respondent would provide unique insights into the research question, contributing to the richness and diversity of the data (Saunders et al., 2019).



Data Presentation




Summary of Findings

The research delved into the intricate relationship between ethno-religious sentiments and Nigeria’s political landscape, examining historical influences, socio-cultural factors, voting behaviour, political campaigns, and the broader impact on political development. Analyzing the survey responses revealed significant insights, underscoring the enduring impact of historical legacies, the intertwined nature of cultural elements, and the strategic use of identity politics in Nigerian elections.

Historical Roots and Influence: A substantial majority of respondents (70.3% and 73.2%, respectively) acknowledged the historical roots of ethno-religious sentiments in Nigeria’s political context. These findings align with scholarly discussions emphasizing the importance of historical legacies in shaping contemporary political attitudes (Adetiba & Rahim, 2022; Ajayi & Owumi, 2021). The recognition of historical factors indicates the persistent influence of past events, contributing to the complex dynamics of ethno-religious sentiments in Nigeria.

Socio-Cultural Factors: The study explored the perception that socio-cultural factors from Nigeria’s history significantly contribute to ethno-religious sentiments in contemporary politics. A majority of respondents (73.2%) agreed or strongly agreed with this statement, highlighting the intertwined nature of cultural elements and historical legacies. This finding reinforces the multifaceted nature of ethno-religious dynamics, emphasizing the need for nuanced approaches to understand and address these sentiments.

Voting Behavior and Candidate Perception: The survey results indicated that a considerable proportion of respondents (61.4% and 63.4%, respectively) agreed or strongly agreed that ethno-religious sentiments play a decisive role in shaping voters’ choices and influence perceptions of candidates. This finding aligns with existing literature emphasizing the intricate relationship between identity politics and voting decisions in Nigeria (Cinjel & Chujor, 2021). The acknowledgement of the impact of ethno-religious sentiments on voting behaviour suggests the need for comprehensive strategies to address these influences in electoral processes.

Political Campaigns and Instrumentalization: The study investigated the perception that political campaigns in Nigeria exploit ethno-religious sentiments to garner support. A majority of respondents (65.3%) agreed or strongly agreed, indicating widespread concern about the instrumentalization of these sentiments for political gains. This finding resonates with the strategic use of identity politics in Nigerian elections, as discussed in previous studies (Balogun, 2018). The recognition of ethno-religious sentiments as a tool in political campaigns underscores the importance of ethical considerations and the need for measures to prevent divisive tactics.

Broader Impact on National Cohesion and Political Development: The survey results explored the broader implications of ethno-religious sentiments on national cohesion and political development. A significant proportion of respondents (69.7% and 69.3%, respectively) agreed or strongly agreed that ethno-religious sentiments contribute to political divisions and negatively impact Nigeria’s political development. These results align with scholarly discussions on the challenges posed by ethnoreligious tensions to national unity and political stability (Ighodolo, 2022). The recognition of these broader consequences emphasizes the urgency of addressing ethno-religious sentiments for the long-term stability and progress of the nation.

Addressing Ethno-Religious Sentiments: The study investigated respondents’ views on the importance of addressing ethno-religious sentiments for fostering a stable and inclusive political environment. A majority of respondents (60.4%) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, emphasizing the perceived significance of mitigating ethno-religious tensions for political stability. This finding contributes to discussions on the role of policies and interventions in promoting a more cohesive and inclusive political landscape. The recognition of the importance of addressing ethnoreligious sentiments highlights the potential for positive change through targeted interventions and awareness campaigns.

One-Sample T-Test Results: The one-sample t-test results presented in Table 4.19 examined respondents’ mean scores on historical roots, influence on voting behaviour, and impact on political development. The findings indicated that the mean scores were significantly different from the assumed mean of 0, with a critical table value of 2.92 at a 5% level of significance. This suggests that there is a significant historical correlation between ethno-religious sentiments and Nigeria’s political landscape. Additionally, ethno-religious sentiments play a pivotal role in shaping voting behaviour, and they have a substantial impact on the country’s political development. These results provide statistical support to the qualitative findings, reinforcing the significance of ethno-religious sentiments in shaping Nigeria’s political dynamics.

In conclusion, the research findings contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the multifaceted relationship between ethno-religious sentiments and Nigeria’s political landscape. The recognition of historical influences, socio-cultural factors, voting behaviour, and the broader consequences on political development underscores the need for informed policymaking and targeted interventions. The study highlights the complexities involved in addressing ethno-religious sentiments and emphasizes the importance of fostering a more inclusive and stable political environment in Nigeria.


In conclusion, the findings from the hypotheses testing provide robust evidence supporting the critical role of ethno-religious sentiments in shaping Nigeria’s political landscape. The statistically significant results obtained through the one-sample t-test underscore the historical correlation between ethno-religious sentiments and the country’s political dynamics. The pivotal role of these sentiments in influencing voting behaviour and their substantial impact on Nigeria’s political development is statistically validated, aligning with the qualitative insights gleaned from survey responses.

These results emphasize the urgency of addressing ethno-religious sentiments as a foundational step towards fostering a more stable, inclusive, and cohesive political environment in Nigeria. The recognition of historical legacies, socio-cultural factors, and the strategic use of identity politics in electoral processes highlights the nuanced nature of these sentiments. Policymakers, researchers, and stakeholders must consider these complexities in developing targeted interventions and awareness campaigns. As Nigeria continues to navigate its political landscape, addressing ethno-religious sentiments emerges as a key imperative for promoting national unity, stability, and sustainable political development. The integration of these findings into policy frameworks can contribute to building a resilient political system that transcends divisive ethno-religious dynamics.


The following recommendations were proposed for this study

  1. Promotion of Civic Education: In light of the significant impact of ethno-religious sentiments on Nigeria’s political landscape, there is a critical need for a comprehensive civic education initiative. Governmental and non-governmental organizations should collaborate to develop and implement educational programs that promote a deeper understanding of Nigeria’s diverse cultural and religious identities. This education should emphasize the importance of national unity and discourage the manipulation of ethno-religious sentiments for political gains. By fostering an informed and enlightened electorate, these initiatives can contribute to a more discerning citizenry capable of resisting divisive narratives.
  2. Development of Inclusive Policies: Policymakers should prioritize the development and implementation of inclusive policies that transcend ethnic and religious lines. This includes affirmative action programs, economic policies, and social interventions designed to address historical inequalities and promote equal opportunities for all citizens. Inclusivity in policy formulation can help mitigate the perception of favouritism and contribute to a more equitable distribution of resources, reducing the appeal of identity-based politics.
  3. Strengthening Electoral Regulations: To curb the exploitation of ethno-religious sentiments during election campaigns, there is a need to strengthen electoral regulations. Implementing and enforcing laws that penalize hate speech, discriminatory campaigning, and the manipulation of religious affiliations can act as a deterrent. Independent electoral bodies should play a proactive role in monitoring and penalizing candidates or parties that engage in divisive practices, ensuring a fair and transparent electoral process.
  4. Media Responsibility and Sensitization: Media organizations play a pivotal role in shaping public opinion. Therefore, there should be a concerted effort to promote responsible journalism and media practices. Journalists and media professionals should be sensitized to the potential consequences of sensationalizing ethno-religious issues. Additionally, media outlets can contribute to fostering national cohesion by highlighting positive stories that celebrate the diversity and unity of the Nigerian populace.
  5. Interfaith Dialogue and Community Engagement: Promoting interfaith dialogue and community engagement initiatives can create platforms for open conversations about ethno-religious sentiments. Religious and community leaders should be actively involved in facilitating these dialogues, fostering mutual understanding, and promoting shared values. Grassroots initiatives that encourage collaboration and unity among diverse communities can play a crucial role in breaking down stereotypes and building bridges between different ethnic and religious groups.

Limitations of the Study

Despite the rigour employed in conducting this research, it is essential to acknowledge certain limitations that may impact the generalizability and applicability of the findings. Firstly, the study’s reliance on self-reported data through questionnaires introduces the potential for social desirability bias. Respondents might be inclined to provide answers they perceive as socially acceptable rather than expressing their genuine opinions, leading to an underestimation or overestimation of certain factors related to ethno-religious sentiments. Additionally, the cross-sectional nature of the survey limits the establishment of causation between variables. Longitudinal studies would be more effective in capturing dynamic changes over time and providing a deeper understanding of the evolving nature of ethno-religious sentiments and voting behaviour.

Another limitation involves the sample size and its representativeness. While efforts were made to ensure diversity, the study primarily focused on a specific demographic, and the findings might not fully encapsulate the diverse perspectives across Nigeria. A more extensive and diverse sample would enhance the generalizability of the results. Moreover, the study’s scope was constrained to quantitative analysis, leaving unexplored the rich qualitative insights that could arise from in-depth interviews or focus group discussions. A mixed-methods approach would have provided a more comprehensive understanding of the nuanced dynamics associated with ethno-religious sentiments in Nigeria’s political context. These limitations should be considered when interpreting the findings and highlight areas for further research and methodological refinement.


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