1Department of Political Science, Gombe State University

Corresponding Author’s Email: fkinge@gmail.com

2Department of Political Science, Gombe State University,

Email: Danbabatereng78@gsu.edu.ng


This study examines elections as contending issues in Nigeria’s federalism leading to political instability. The objective of this paper is to argue that elections have been a destabilizing factor in the practice of federalism in Nigeria. The study adopted qualitative research design using documentary content analysis. It sourced its data from secondary sources mainly newspapers, academic journals, official government publications and internet based sources. This study is also anchored on integration theory developed by Lieber (1973) to explain that elections have been the source of political instability in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic. The findings revealed that federalism was adopted in Nigeria to foster unity in diversity between different nationalities that made up the country. However, evidence has shown that there is over centralization of powers at the centre to the disadvantage of the sub-governments at the lower levels. This culminated into intense desire to control the centre by the regional, religious and ethnic groups leading to unnecessary tensions, regional agitations, clamour for zoning, true federalism, structuring, identity politics, political violence, ethno-religious armed conflicts, insurgency and quest for self-determination. The paper further revealed that the quest for power at the centre and the conducts of elections in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic have been the major destabilizing factor causing political instability and regional agitation in the federalism. This can be seen in the way and manner political actors from 1999, approach elections into political offices as matter of life and death thereby introducing regionalism, religion, ethnicity as the basis for qualification to be elected into political offices. It also revealed that failures to entrench credible electoral process led to election of ethnic, regional and religious bigots into political offices that failed to manage the diversity of Nigeria. It is therefore, recommended that only credible elections can usher in trusted leaders that can provide good governance and genuinely address the quest for structuring and practice of true federalism.


Abimboye, D. (2009). A long, Uneven Road.Newswatch.49 (25).

Agbu, O. (2016). “Introduction”. In: Agbu, O. (ed). Elections and Governance in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic. CODESRIA: Senegal.

Agbu, O. (2004). Re-inventing federalism in post-transition Nigeria: Problems and prospects. Lagos: Afr Dev. 29: 1.

Alesina, A.; Ozler, S.; Roubini, N. &Swagel, P. (1992).Political Instability and Economic Growth.Working Paper No. 4173.National Bureau of Economic Research. Massachusetts: Cambridge.

Ali, Y. (2012). Federalism and the Quest for National Integration and Development in Nigeria. Paper presented at the Biennial Law Week of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ilorin Branch, 11th June.

Akinboye, S.O. (2005). “INEC and the Management of 2003 General Elections: lessons and prospect”. In: Onu, G. &Momoh, A. (eds). Elections and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria: Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Conference of Nigerian Political Science Association. Lagos: A-Triad Associates.

Akindele, S.T., Olaopa, O.R. &Obiyan, A.S. (2002). Fiscal federalism and local government finance in Nigeria: An examination of revenue right and fiscal jurisdiction. Sage Journal. 68 (12): 557-577.

Aminu, H.U. (2014, November 20). Shema under fire over ‘crush opponents’ gaffe.Daily Trust.Accessed on 28thJanuaet, 2021.

Anthony, O.E. (2019). “The Theory, Practice and Current Trends in Federalism”.International Journal of Research in Tourism and Hospitality (IJRTH).5 (1): Pp. 30-40. http://dx.doi.org/10.20431/2455-0043.0501005.

Auwal, A. (2015, March 26). PDP will take over Sokoto by force: Bafarawa. Daily Trust.36 (99).

Avbuere, H.N. (2019). The Restructure of Nigerian Federal System: A task that need be Done. Global Journal of Political Science and Administration.7 (3): 66-88.

Babalola, J. (2011). “520 died in Kaduna, Niger violence, says Ringim”. The Nation.Thursday, June 2.

Babalola, D. &Onapajo, H. (2019).New Clamour for “Restructuring” in Nigeria: Elite Politics, Contradictions, and Good Governance. African Studies Quarterly.18 (4).41-56.

Bello, E. (2007, February 12). Politicians fault Obasanjo over utterances. Daily Trust.15(81).

Bin, H. (2011). Distribution of Powers Between Central Government and Sub-national Governments. Committee of Experts on Public Administration. 11 (2): 1-9.

Bouchat, C.J. (2013). The Causes of Instability in Nigeria and Implications for the United States.Strategic Studies Institute and U.S. Army War College Press.1-116.

Bulmer, E. (2017). Federalism: International IDEA Constitution-Building Primer 12 (Second edition). Stockholm, Sweden.

Chinwe, C.P. (2018). Democracy and Federalism in Nigeria Fourth Republic Experience (1999-2017). International Journal of Advanced Academic Research, Social & Management Sciences.4 (9): 1-13.

Danbaba, S.T. (2019). Effects of Electoral Malpractices on the Credibility of 2015 Gubernatorial Election in Gombe State – Nigeria. An unpublished M.ScDissertation submitted to the School of Post-Graduate Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Daniel, M. (2015). Federalism and National Integration: Panacea to National Development in Nigeria. International Research Journal of Interdisciplinary & Multidisciplinary Studies (IRJIMS).I (I). Pp. 47-64.

Ebiede, T.M. (2017). Instability in Nigeria’s Niger Delta: The Post Amnesty Programme and Sustainable Peace-Building. Dakar-Fann, Senegal: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.

Ekeh, P.P. (2000).Nigerian Political History and the Foundations of Nigerian Federalism. Being a paper presented as Keynote Address to a Conference on the National Question Organised by the Programme of Ethnic and Federal Studies of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, August 28-29. 

Eijk, C.V. & Franklin, M.N. (2009).Elections and voters. United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan.

Elaigwu, J.I. &Uzongwe, G.N. (1996).Foundations of Nigerian federalism 1900-1960. Abuja: NCIR.

EU EOM (2015). Final report: Nigeria General Elections 28 March 2015 and 11 April 2015. Abuja, Nigeria.

Ezeibe, C.C. (2015). Hate speech and electoral violence in Nigeria. Paper presented at the Two-Day National Conference on “The 2015 General Elections in Nigeria: The Real Issues”. Organized by the Electoral Institute, Abuja, Nigeria. July, 26th – 29th.

Fagbohun, O.A. (2013). “Nigeria’s Democracy and the Crisis of Political Instability: An Audit of the Electoral System: The Constitution”. The Journal of Constitutional Development.13 (2): 95-120.

Falola, T. (1999).The History of Nigeria.Westport, CT: Green­wood Press.

Feldman, R.L. (2009). The Root Causes of Terrorism: Why Parts of Africa Might Never Be at Peace. Defense & Security Analysis.25 (4): 355-372.

Gberevbie, D.E. & Oni, S. (2014). “Post Colonial Nigeria: Power and Politics in the First Republic, 1960-1966”. In: Ajayi, R. &Fashagba, J.O.Y (eds). Understanding Government and Politics in Nigeria.The Department of Political Science and International Relations, Landmark University, Omu-Aran, Kwara State, Nigeria.

Human Rights Watch (2019, June 10). Nigeria: Widespread Violence Ushers in President’s New Term. Accessed from https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/06/10 on 28th January, 2021.

Ibeanu, O. (2015). Political Instability and the Challenge of Democratization in Africa: A Conceptual Analysis. Centre for Democracy and Development.

International Crisis Group (ICG) (2014). Nigeria’s dangerous 2015 Elections: Limiting the Violence. Africa Report N°220: Abuja/Dakar/Brussels.

Jinadu, A.L. (2002). Ethnic conflict & federalism in Nigeria.ZEF Discussion Papers on Development Policy.No. 49, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF), Bonn.

Johari, J. C. (2010). Principles of Modern Political Science.New Delhi: Sterling Publishers.

Jong-A-Pin, R. (2008). Essays on political instability: Measurement, causes and consequences. Print Partners Ipskamp B.V., Enschede, The Netherlands.

Kirk-Greene, A. (1968). African Affairs.67 (268): 267-269. Accessed from https://doi.org/101093/oxfordjournals.afraf.a095773 on 24th January, 2021.

Koller.A. (2002).“Swiss Federation”. In: Roundtable in Mechanism of Inter-governmental Relation Institute of Social Sciences. New Delhi.

Kurfi, A. (2005). Nigerian General Elections 1951-2003: My Roles and Reminiscences. Ibadan, Nigeria: Spectrum Books Ltd.

Leff, C.S. (1999).“Democratisation and Disintegration in Multinational States: The Break-up of the Communist Federations”. World Politics.Vol. 51.

Lemco, J. (1991). Political Stability in Federal Governments. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger.

Lewis, P. (2006). “The Dysfunctional State of Nigeria”. In: Birdsall, N.; Vaishnav, M. and Ayres, R.L (eds).Short of the Goal: U.S. Policy and Poorly Performing States. Washington DC: Center for Global Development. Pp. 83-116.

Lewis, P.M, (2011). A Report of CSIS Africa Program: Nigeria – Assessing Risks Stability. Centre for Strategic and International Studies: Washington D.C.

Lieber, R.J. (1973). Theory and World Politics, St. Antony‟s College, Oxford Publications No 6. Great Britain.

Mahmud, J. (2015, January 19). This thing called rigging. Daily Trust.36 (5).

Majekodunmi, A. (2015). Federalism in Nigeria: The Past, Current Peril and Future Hopes. Journal of Policy and Development Studies.9 (2).107-120.

Mkandawire, T. (1999) “Shifting Commitments and National Cohesion in African Countries”. In: Wohlgemuth, L.; Gibson, S.; Klasen, S. & Rothschild, E. (eds). Common Security and Civil Society in Africa.NordiskaAfrika Institute, Sweden, Stockholm. 

Mohammad, A.A. (2008). “Some Comments on Five Decades of Nigerian Federalism”. In: Saliu, H. et al (eds). Perspectives on Nation-Building and Development in Nigeria: Political and Legal Issues. Lagos: Concept Publications.

Morrison, D.G. & Stevenson, H.M. (1971). “Political Instability in Independent Black Africa: More Dimensions of Conflict Resolution Within Nations”. Journal of Conflict Resolution. 15: 347-368.

Odisu, T.A. (2015). “Federalism in Nigeria: A Critique”. Political Sciences & Public Affairs.3 (3): 1-3. Accessed from doi:10.4172/2332-0761.1000185 on 12thDecember, 2020.

Ogunsanyo, A. (2003). Keynote Address.In:Anifowoshe, R. &Babawale, T. (eds).2003Elections and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria. Lagos: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

Okorie, U. (2003). Nigeria Weeps. Enugu: Snaap Press Ltd.

Omoruyi, O. (2006). Your Vote is Your Choice. Aminu Kano Memorial Lecture Series, April, 17. Centre for Democratic Research and Training: Mambayya House, Kano.

Onifade, C.A. &Imhonopi, D. (2013). Towards National Integration in Nigeria: Jumping the Hurdles‖ Research on Humanities and Social Sciences. 3 (9): 75-82.

Onimode, B. (1983). “Critical issues in the reproduction of underdevelopment”. In: Osayimwese, I. (ed). Development Economics and Planning: Essays in Honour of OjetunjiAboyade, pp. 58-75. Ibadan: Unibadan Publishing Consultants.

Onwudiwe, E. & Berwind-Dart, C. (2010). Breaking the Cycle of Electoral Violence in Nigeria. US Institute of Peace: Washington. http://www.jstor.com/stable/resrep12181 on 14th January, 2021.

Oyedele, S.O. (1999). “Federalism in Nigeria”. In: Saliu, H.A. (ed.). Issues in Contemporary Political Economy of Nigeria. Ilorin: Sally and Associates. 53-65.

Roy, A.N. (2004). “Introduction”. In: Roundtable on Mechanisms of Intergovernmental Relations. New Delhi: Institute of Social Sciences.

TMG (2007).An election programmed to fail: final report of the April 2007 General Elections in Nigeria. Abuja: Retrieved from http://tmgng.org/resources/publications on 11thJanuary, 2021.

Umoh, N. &Adeyi, E.M. (2019). “Social Integration: A Nation-Building Strategy for Nigeria’s Federalism”. Review of Public Administration and Management.6 (258). 1-7. DOI: 10.4172/2315-7844.1000258 retrieved on 26thJanuary, 2021.

For the complete paper