Examination Of The Extent Of Development Made By Multi-Party System In Nigeria Political Sphere

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Examination Of The Extent Of Development Made By Multi-Party System In Nigeria Political Sphere


The central role played by political parties in the development and nurturing of a virile democracy and its consolidation cannot be overstated. Where democracy survives for a long period of time, it is because political parties, among other vital institutions, are well established, and have played the role expected of them. In Nigeria, the return to democracy since 1999 has ushered in a renewed process of democratization and, thus, heralded another opportunity for the country to launch a new strategy towards democracy, after many years of lost opportunities under a prolonged period of military authoritarian rule. This essay examines the nature and character of party politics in Nigeria and its impacts on democratic governance, essentially from historical perspective. It concludes that to advance the democratic project, the Nigerian public needs to gain confidence in its institutions. The public needs to feel that there are organs of the political system that can guarantee fairness and justice and that are not undermined by wealth through corruption. Common citizens must have recourse to democratic institutions in order to express demands and resolve conflicts.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

The development of political parties in Nigeria dates back to the days of the struggle for political independent in the late 1940s, when the nationalists were at the pre-independence and post-independence periods. In the pre- independence and the early post independence periods, political parties in Nigeria were not ideologically based. Rather, they were regionally based and woven around individual politicians who they saw as their mentors. In the last ten years, however parties were registered based on the exigencies of the time. This was the scenario until 1998; the need arose for parties that could usher Nigeria into a new era of democracy after over fifteen years of military rule. Historically, political parties in Nigeria have developed and still play a vital role towards the realization of the democratic objectives. Indeed, the last fifty years have seen an evolution of various political parties. From 1991-1993, Nigeria practiced a two-party system, with the government establishing the Social Democratic party (SDP) and National Republican Convention (NRC). The military government later proscribed

the parties after annulling a presidential election in 1993. But Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999.
The restoration of democratic government in 1999 led to a new approach to party politics in Nigeria. The procedure for registering political parties was liberalized, thereby, opening up the political space for mass participation in political activities in the country. Today, there are more than fifty registered political parties in Nigeria, even though only few of them have not been able to win any election. The few political parties that have dominated the political space to the point that fears are being expressed that the country was drifting towards a one-party state. Opposition parties are beginning to cross to the ruling party both at the federal and states levels.

Nigeria, like many other African countries, has had its fair share of democratic challenges, but it has also recorded some achievement over the years. There have already been calls across the country for some adjustments and improvements on the way political parties are run and managed, in the years to come. Many have argued that Nigeria must necessarily adopt the methods that will guarantee the rights of its citizens to elect leaders of their choice as provided for in the country‟s constitution.

As Nigeria consolidation its democratic framework and mechanisms, the multi-parties in Nigeria, need to exemplify a new level of commitment to the yearnings and aspirations of the people for more fundamental and sustainable development.

The recently 2011 general election in Nigeria really had some sets backs and it really brought the world attention towards our political system. It also leads to them in asking some questions concerning our democratic system [voice of Nigeria on Thursday April 18th, 2013].

1.2 Statement of the Problems

In a multi-party system, political parties, being the main tool of political development in every existing and irrespective of their various ideological bends, different political orientations and victory potentials, they are still allowed to partake in political competition for the control of machinery of government and also uniting of the people. In every modern society, political parties are viewed to be an agent of unity, peace and integration etc. in that society, but despite the above conception, multi-party system still holds some questions that deviate from the above. Therefore, it is to this end that we now ask the following questions.

  1. Is there any relationship between multi-party system and political development in Nigeria?
  2. What are the political implications of multi-party system in Nigeria?
  3. Does multi- party system ensure democratic consolidation in Nigeria?

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The broad objectives or aims of this research work are simply to know the meaning and contributions of multi-party system in Nigeria political development. And these specific objectives are as follows:

  1. To find out the relationship between multi-party system and political development in Nigeria.
  2. To access the political implication of multi-party system in Nigeria.
  3. To access whether the existence of multi-party system ensures democratic consolidation in Nigeria.

1.4 Significance of the Study

This research work will be significant in the following ways:

Firstly, it will help decision making organs, institutions to determine the basis for political party formation in Nigeria in order to achieve National integration and political development.

Secondly, invaluably, it will contribute to academic knowledge as regards to function of political parties to political development.

Furthermore, it will create awareness and inspire a sense of responsibility on members of political party on the role expected of them to achieve good governance and political development.

1.5 Hypotheses

In line with the research question posed for this study, the following hypotheses are hereby proposed.

  1. There is no close relationship between multi-partism and political development in Nigeria.
  2. Multi-party system has negative and positive implications in Nigerian political development.
  3. Multi-party system does not ensure democratic consolidation in Nigeria.

1.6 Methodology

The use of secondary source of data is the main method of data collection adopted in this research work. This method is adopted due to its intrinsic values. The secondary sources adopted in this study includes materials like Newspapers, magazines, textbooks, internet, journals, government publications, official documents etc. which helped us to gain an insight into the origins and development of political parties and nature of their operational patterns in the country. Content analysis as a method of investigation is adopted in this study. This involves reading meaning into materials that are collected for the purpose of achieving reliable and verifiable conclusion.

1.7 Scope of the Study

The scope of this study is strictly centered on the examination of the extent of development made by multi-party system in Nigeria political sphere. It also focuses attention on party system the history of political party in Nigeria and political party affiliations. The limitation of the work is quite enormous, since there is no availability of financial support to aid enough material for this study and the short time given for the study also made it difficult to accumulate enough information as possible for the study

1.8 Definition of Terms

i. Politics:

Politics is endemic in a man‟s social existence and that is why a Greek philosopher, Aristotle asserted that man is a political animal. Politics was also defined by Prof Okwudiba Nnoli who opined that politics as the emergence of state power, consolidation of a state power and the use of a state power.

ii. Political Party:

A political party is an organized group of individuals, seeking to seize the power of government in order to enjoy the benefits being derived from such control. Furthermore, a political party is a regular and permanent organization of certain number of people concerned with either conquering power or keeping it.

However, a political party is any group, however loosely organized seeking to elect governmental office holders under a given label.

So in other words, a political party can be defined as different individuals or people who want to seize government power in order to put their ideologies parties is the seize governmental power.

ii. A Party System:

A party system consists of all the parties in a particular nation and the laws and customs that govern their behavior. It simply means the formation, structure as well as the organization of political parties.

ii Election:

An election is a process of voting and been voted for, for the qualified citizens of any country, thus, qualification may be educational or based on experience in some cases.

An election is the procedure that allows members of an organization or community to choose representatives who will hold positions of authority within it.

iii. Political Development:

Political development can be seen as a process involved in a country‟s political change. It is an incident that causes a situation to change or progress, a state in which the developing of something is not yet complete.

v Multi-Party System:

Multi-party system simply means the presence of three or than three parties in particular state. A country that has up to three or more viable parties is said to be operating a multi-party system of government. However, a country may have up to three or more parties but will still not be qualified to be termed multi-party system country, it is because, there must be viable strong opposition parties which will lead to formation of coalition government.
iv. Democracy: Democracy is a Greek word „demos‟ which means “the people” and “kratein” means “to rule”. So it is a system of government of the people, by the people and for the people. Also it a system of government whereby citizens of a country have full rights and obligation to participate in governmental policies and decision making.

v. Power:

This is the ability to make people (or things) to do what they would not otherwise have done. In other words, power is the ability to make someone or others conform to your desire or it the ability to act and secure conforming behavior.

vi. Electoral Commission:

This is the body which has the responsibility for the conduct of election in the country, in Nigeria for example, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is typical example of electoral body.

vii. Voting:

The exhibition open or secret of one preference for a person or a party or a cause-secret ballot therefore is regarded as the necessary condition for the expression of free choice.

viii. Tyranny:

This is government by a tyrant. A tyranny behaves like a dictator but in majority cases not in the interest of the people. Tyranny is a bad form of dictatorship.

ix. General Election:

This is a type of election where all the electorate in a country participate at the same time on a given day, to elect representatives into the government.

Chapter Five:

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations.

5.1 Summary of Findings

In summary, this research work which was based on the topic: examination of the extent of development made by multi-party system in nigeria political sphere. But before that, the researcher wants to rightly point that, this work was not based on any prejudice or any personal grudges, rather, it was accessed in line with the past and present experience. In other words, the work is categorically divided into chapters.

In the chapter one, the researcher started with a background study, where the topic of the work was introduced briefly. And he started by tapping into the historical background of political parties in Nigeria. In the process, it was discovered that, multi-party system in Nigeria was colonial oriented under the Clifford constitution of 1922. Apart from that, in line with the topic, three troubling questions were posed by the researcher, which including the following: firstly, Is there any relationship between multi-party system and political development in Nigeria? Secondly, does multi-party system have any implications on Nigerian political development? And lastly, does multi-party system ensure Democratic consolidation in Nigeria? All these were the questions that were asked and the researcher tried to answer the questions. In attending to the statement of problem of the research work, the researcher adopted a theoretical framework suitable for the work, thereby sharing in the ideology of Arthur Bently (1908), in his group theory. Here, the scholar was simply trying to say that, “the interactions of groups are the basis of political life”. Then after that, there was an operational definition of terms that helped in the course of analysis.
In the chapter two, the researcher begins by explaining the relationship between multi-party system and political development. Here, the researcher was forced to access various party system that have ever existed in Nigeria from pre-independent period, down to first republic, second republic, third republic and present fourth republic. In the process of assessment, it was then discovered that, Nigeria practiced multi-party system in first republic (1960-1965), second republic (1966-1984). But in the third republic, the party system changed from multi-party system to two-party system under military rule led by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. During this military, it was only two parties that were recognized legally, which were National Republican Convention (NRC) and Social Democratic Party (SDP).

But then, it was later in 1999 under Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar decided to hand over the power to a civilian government. And after the 1999 election, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo assumed power as a civilian government. This event marked the return of democratic government in Nigeria and the beginning of fourth republic. Therefore, in the assessment of the entire republic from first republic down to the present fourth republic, it was found out that, all of them shared similar cases of electoral violence, political crisis, rigging of elections, under aged voting, bribing of electoral bodies, assassination of political aspirants and other related cases. So in other words, in answering the first question, which stated that, is there any relationship between multi- party system and political development in Nigeria, therefore, the researcher after assessment, discovered that, there is no relationship between political development and multi-party system in Nigeria context.

In the chapter three, the researcher tried examining the implication of multi-party system in Nigeria political development. So the researcher exhaustively accessed the various controversies associated with elections starting with the first republic elections down to the fourth republic elections, but placed more emphasis on the fourth republic elections from 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections. In course of analysis, it was discovered that, all these elections conducted in the our fourth republic so far, have shared some similar characteristics of several cases like electoral manipulation, rigging of elections, assassination of political opponents, gangsterism, stuffing of ballot boxes, under age voting, raising of party militias armies, the outright falsification of election results and many other related cases. Infact, with regard to the 2011 post-election crisis, Nigerian leadership Newspaper on Wednesday, April 20th captured it in their front page: Post election violence in Nigeria: 121 people dead, 15,000 displaced in Northern part of the country; Another post-election violence as some NYSC members escaped death in Minna. And likewise related stories captured in other newspapers. Therefore, from such stories, the researcher came to conclusion, based on the electoral violence experience in Nigeria in 2011 general election, likewise other previous 2007, 2003 and 1999 elections that multi-parties in Nigeria have not fully come to terms with the referents of elections for a proper democratic sustenance and national integration. Furthermore, it was also discovered that the elites in Nigeria, have failed to play by the rules of competitive electoral politics which prioritize politics of tolerance, conflict and consensus, bargaining and compromise. Rather, these elites saw elections in Nigeria as warfare, characterized by gangsterism and political disorder. Thus, these dominant pattern of elections and electioneering in Nigeria, threatens to tear the country apart and put its tenuous peace at great risks. In line with that, it was equally discovered that, apart from political implications, there were also economic implications attached to the politics of multi-party system in Nigeria, since multi-party elections failed to maintain political stability and development. The nature of insecurity in Nigeria has actually exacerbated them totally. The nature of political unrest and spate of insecurity which have invaded the country, precisely the Northern part of Nigeria, has continued to pose big threat on socio-economic and political development. The activities of Boko Haram sect has unaccountably led to lose of thousands of lives and properties worth of millions. Also, the economy has been seriously threatened due to the level of insecurity in major flash-points of the country. So on this note, the researcher concluded that, multi-party system from experience since 1999 till present date has not exactly shown any sign of positive implications; rather it has been a product of crisis upon crisis and has not really achieved its core objective, which is democratic consolidation and political development in Nigeria.

And finally, in the chapter four, the researcher decided to access multi- party system and democratic consolidation. Here, the assessment was simply based on understanding the viability of multi-parties in Nigeria. The chapter engaged properly in critical question in relation to Nigeria‟s quest for political stability. Furthermore, in this particular chapter, the researcher explained political parties as building blocks of democratic consolidation. And after that, decided to compare a democratic role of a multi-party system and that of multi-party system of Nigeria, the researcher therefore, found out that multi- political parties in Nigeria have not really discovered their roles in democratic sustenance and integration. Over the years, what became apparent in the Nigeria political parties was simply lack of proper organization and perhaps, clearly the perception of what a multi-party system should be. Indeed, as records of intra and inter-party show both in their methods and practices, that multi-party have contributed immensely to the crisis that engulf the political system in Nigeria. It is worthy to note that, electoral processes in Nigeria have historically been marred by a lot of difficulties, instabilities and irregularities as a result of the nature of multi- party politics, starting from first republic, down to our present fourth republic. Infact, political parties in Nigeria have not yet, come to realize their objectives and roles in democratic consolidation and political development. There is no need to accuse the party system itself, but rather the people that operate the parties.
In a nutshell, the researcher stated again that, there is no relationship between multi-party system and democratic consolidation in Nigeria. Yet notwithstanding that, there have been various attempts to regulate the nature and activities of multi-parties in Nigeria, especially activities during elections. Under section 129 of amended Electoral Act 2011, it stated clearly what can actually constitute an offence during elections.

5.2 Conclusion

In the final analysis, we are able to see that the problem lies not in the form or type of government, but the style our leaders adopt in governing the masses. The proliferation of political parties in Nigeria is not healthy for the nation‟s democratic growth. Ordinarily, in a multi-party democracy as Nigeria claims to practice, the number of political parties found in the fray should not be a cause for worry. But a closer observation clearly shows that most of these parties exist only in name and do not qualify to be called political parties at all. It is a cancerous growth that is stifling the democracy in the country. As political organizations, political parties seek to influence government policy, by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political offices. Parties participate in electioneering campaigns and political mass education. Again, political parties exist to espouse known ideologies and visions bolstered by specific goals and form coalitions among disparate interests where necessary. The big idea is to win an opportunity to steer the ship of governance to a higher level and thus make life more abundant to a greater number of citizens. It then follows that, a political party that cannot participate in elections is improperly so called and a mockery. At best it is a pressure group engaging in protest actions and advancing it own interest. Political parties do not exist for the sole purpose of endorsing and adopting candidates of other political parties as presently the case in Nigeria. By so doing, it makes nonsense of the fundamental reason why political parties exist.

It is a development into a sticky situation. It does appear some Nigerians have seized the liberal guidelines for the registration of political parties to engage in it as mere pastime and have no due regard for the serious responsibilities associated with parties as political organizations. For the avoidance of doubt, political parties exist to offer alternative platforms to citizens who have the passion to serve their country and have something serious to contribute to nation building effort. That is why political parties are ideologically driven. Yet, in Nigeria, the political parties have no clear ideology, nor programme. In the 2011 electioneering, all the electorate could hear was, “I will create millions of jobs”, “I will resolve electricity” and so on, without any clear illumination of the state of things and a plausible road map round it. The implication is that, today, one can hardly say what the over sixty political parties registered by INEC stand for, aside the fact that majority of them do not have capacity to go into elections and have indeed constantly shied away from past elections even after collecting subventions from the electoral commission. In the last presidential election, only a handful of them took part and only for parties like Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria People‟s Party (ANPP) and People‟s Democratic Party (PDP), were all in the context. Likewise, in 1999, only three political parties with clear programmes and ideology were registered and participated in presidential elections of that year, namely All People Party (APP), Alliance for Democracy (AD) and People‟s Democratic Party (PDP). Then, the political environment was far more meaningful and progressive than what obtains presently. Going by the last presidential election won by President Goodluck Jonathan, opposition has died a natural death. For me, the irrelevant parties should be proscribed so that viable opposition party can emerge through possible alliance of ACN, ANPP and CPC and this has been latest development. The argument that it is undemocratic to regulate the number of parties is not too healthy also in the face of the growing need to moderate the staccato of political parties to mitigate their negative impacts on the democratic process. One way of l doing this is to strike some kind of a balance. Deriving from this, a political party that has not participated in the general elections should be presumed dead and deregistered and those who have consistently failed to win seats both into state and federal assemblies should also be deregistered.

5.3 Recommendations

Some of the recommendations towards achieving a democratic consolidation and political development through political parties include the following:

  1. While Constitutional Right Project (CRP) believes that there is need to strengthen our democratic institutions, a total overhaul of present electoral laws regulating party registration should commence.
  2. Due to lack of philosophy and ideology, political parties go against the dictates of their manifestoes, therefore, our political parties should have a clearly defined philosophy and ideology that will enable them conform with the dictates of their manifestoes.
  3. The linkages between political parties and ethnicity are not in the best interest of the Nigerian people. This is an area where de-linking is appropriate and necessary. This can be made possible if the people have political education. The people should understand their rights, responsibilities and the role of the state. They should be educated to demand accountability on the part of those elected into office. They should be in a position to recall those who have failed to deliver. Because a proper understanding of the various political issues will there to prevent them from being used as pawns by the leaders in the ethnicity.
  4. The way political parties are constituted and legitimized have bearing on both the scope and content of democracy in the country, as well as on the capacity of government to be responsible and accountable to the electorates. The parties need to be internally democratic and should be interested in deepening the content of democracy in the country.
  5. Two-party system seems to appear good for Nigeria, reminiscent of what nostalgically obtained in the NRC and SDP days in third republic, which produced MKO Abiola‟s aborted presidency. Two- party system as found in Jamaica and neighboring Ghana should be given a serious thought. Australia, Canada, Pakistan, India, Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom and Norway are example of countries with two strong parties and additional smaller parties that have also obtained representation. Such examples should be emulated by Nigeria for stability and growth.
  6. Political parties should be funded by contributions from party members. Government funding for political parties should therefore be withdrawn, so that only the serious ones can survive and face up to the dictates of their calling and others dying a natural death.
  7. The survival and sustenance of democracy is to a greater extent, dependent on the ability of the electoral body to conduct free and fair elections through a transparent process. For this to be viable, the existence of an electoral body which is independent in its function is needed.
  8. Finally, it is therefore the fervent hope of many that government should look into the urgent need to reform political parties in Nigeria with a view to sanitizing the democratic process to ensure the survival and growth of hard-earned democracy and political development.

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