The Deficiencies of Nigerian Power Sharing Institutions

  • Selena J Zhao Harvard University


Power-sharing institutions, coined as consociationalism by Arend Lijphart, have typically been accepted as an effective institutional solution for ethnically, religiously, and linguistically divided societies, as they guarantee the political representation of all key demographic groups while promoting cooperation and consensus politics. However, although Nigeria maintains a robust, decades-long consociational democracy to help mitigate Christian-Muslim antagonism, it has still faced chronic religious violence, as well as the recent rise of religious terrorist groups such as Boko Haram. I seek to explain this incongruity by examining the negative byproducts of consociationalism, such as the entrenchment of ineffective governance by maintaining political elites in power—thereby fostering corruption and hampering representativeness—and politicizing religious identities, allowing them to be mobilized by politicians. These consequences of federal power-sharing, facilitating an ineffectual, unrepresentative government, lead to mass disaffection and mistrust, creating the optimal conditions for dissatisfied sectors of society to mobilize violently along existing religious cleavages.