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This study examines, investigates, and surveys opinion of Nigerians on some of the factors that influence party and party system development in Nigeria, using data elicited from the three Senatorial Districts of Edo State, Nigeria. The exercise was embarked upon against the background of widespread desire of Nigerians for the country to attain the highest height of party politics. To be sure, Nigerians have been clamouring for the country to evolve, organize and develop viable political parties that will aid the democratization process. The question raised has been whether the political attitudes and predispositions of the Nigerian public are supportive or antagonistic to the identified factors influencing and shaping party and party system development in Nigeria.
The stratified random sampling was used to select the respondents or sample of 1,200 Nigerians, from Edo-North, Edo-Central, and Edo-South Senatorial Districts of Edo State. The measurement instruments were the structured questionnaire and in-depth interview, designed to enable the researcher get at the trend of party development in Nigeria. The data collected were analyzed with the aid of simple percentage, and the chi-square and Yule’s Q to test and determine the degree of association inherent in the stated hypotheses. Evidence from the study’s results indicate that: the male respondents were more likely than their female counterparts to have the opinion that strong and vibrant opposition parties in Nigeria is predicated on the country’s choice of presidential system of government; the married respondents were more likely than their counterparts who are single to have the opinion that there is a low institutionalization of parties and party system in Nigeria. The respondents who fall within the age bracket of 40years and above were more likely than their counterparts who fall within the age bracket of below 40years to have the opinion that ethnic sentiments is still associated with the country’s political parties; the respondents with tertiary education were less likely than their counterparts with secondary education/less to have the opinion that the simple plurality (FPTP) electoral system is the best option for the Nigerian state; and respondents who are public servants/political office holders are more likely than their counterparts who fall within the business and others category to have the opinion that the multi-party system is the best option for the Nigerian state.
Policy advice or recommendations were made at the end of the study, some of which include:
1. The urgent need for government to ensure political parties are premised on ideological bases rather than on the forces of primordialism – ethnicity and religion.
2. The need for government to promote internal democracy within Nigerian political parties.
3. The need for government to address the character of the Nigerian state by decongesting the center at national and state levels and as such taming the tide of elite factionalization of political parties.
4. The need for government to promote the vibrancy of opposition parties in Nigeria via strengthening the instrumentality of the presidential system.
5. The need for the electoral system in Nigeria to be re-visited by the government.
6. The need to de-register some of the existing political parties in Nigeria notwithstanding the fact that it is a negation of the practice of multi-partyism.
Thus, for the evolution and development of viable political parties in Nigeria, socio-political education and re-engineering are imperative. The values of hard work, tolerance, discipline and unity should be emphasized by the people and government of Nigeria.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
The history of political party in Nigeria can be situated within the context of the two-party and multi-party political system (Adejumobi, 2007), which can be traced to the development of nationalist consciousness, awareness and political movements (Agarah, 2004), that began in Nigeria in the 1930s. This activity specifically, is what Coleman (1986:22) described as the “second wave of nationalist movement which was ‘less militant and resistant’ but mainly concerned with sentiments, activities and organizational developments aimed at the self-government and independence of Nigeria”.
A key distinguishing feature of the second wave of Nigerian nationalism was the development of permanent political associations to pursue national objectives (Coleman, 1986), with the various associations formed, by nationalists such as Ernest Ikoli, Herbert Macaulay, Samuel Akinsanya, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemil Awolowo and others constituting the precursors of political parties in Nigeria.
Political parties in Nigeria display certain key features, which include:
· Their emergence and evolution has been closely tied to Nigerian constitutional development or evolution of Nigerian constitution. For example, it was the Clifford constitution of 1922 provision of four elective seats for Nigerians in the legislative council that stimulated the formation of the Nigerian National Democratic Party of Herbert Marcaulay. Similarly, political party formation enjoyed a boost from the Richard’s constitution of 1944 provision of regional assemblies while retaining the four elective seats to legislative council. Similarly, the Macpherson constitution’s regional assemblies and regional executive councils and system of indirect elections to Nigerian legislative Houses in 1951 strengthened political parties activities in pre-independent Nigeria.
· Most parties have ethnic and regional bases or display identity orientations. For example, the Action Group (AG), the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the Action Congress (AC) had/have their basis in the Yoruba dominated South-West of Nigeria. Similarly, the National Council of Nigeria Citizens (NCNC), the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) and the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) had/have their political strong-hold in Igbo land while the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) had/have theirs in the Hausa-Fulani heartland of northern Nigeria.
· Only a few of the political parties in Nigeria can boast of having a national spread.
· Political parties in Nigeria have been prone to serious inter-party conflicts, divisions, splitting and decamping (Agarah, 2004; Adejumobi, 2007).
These features arise from what has been described by Rosiji (1992) as “caucus or elitist nature” of political parties in Nigeria, the direct outcome of thinking that the educated minority in each ethnic group are the people who are qualified by natural right to lead their fellow nationals into higher political development (Olarinmoye, 2008).
In other words, political elites first create political structures then invite the mass to join. Political parties are created and directed by the elites in society who believe that control of government and of political power should be their preserve. They are, thus, not mass or branch parties with membership drawn from across board and with interests that are parochial, centred on elite objectives and actualization.
Elite parties are therefore non-ideological organizations having less interest in political principles than in securing and retaining political office for its leadership and distributing income to those who run it and work for it (Banfield and Wilson, 1965:66; Scott, 1973:121). The structural and ideological features of elite parties translate into a weak base amongst the masses. Most political parties in Nigeria are poorly entrenched in Nigerian civil society with a gap existing between them and the mass electorate.
The aforementioned disposition of political parties in Nigeria, no doubt, has eroded the central role which, ordinarily, parties whether in consolidated and non-consolidated democracies are supposed to play. This, in no small means or measure, has negated the widely accepted role by policy makers and democracy – promotion organizations, who often display a strong normative bias in favour of cohesive, organizationally developed political parties. According to the US National Democratic institute (2011:22), for instance:
Political parties form the cornerstone of a democratic society and serve a function unlike any other institution in a democracy. Parties aggregate and represent social interests and provide a structure for political participation. They train political leaders who will assume a role in governing society. In addition, parties contest and win elections to seek a measure of control of government institutions.
Similarly, the United Nations Development Programme (2008:5) maintains that “political parties are a keystone of democratic governance. They provide a structure for political participation; serve as a training ground for political leadership; and transform social interests into public policy”.
Scholars are similarly effusive. Some of the world’s foremost political scientists have placed parties at the centre of the modern democratic experience, arguing that strong parties are a sine qua non of successful democratization. Strong parties are said to be the prerequisite for political stability in modernizing countries. Without effective parties that command at least somewhat stable bases of support, democracies cannot have effective governance (Diamond and Gunther, 2001). More recently, in one of his final publications, Lipset (2000) extolled the indispensability of political parties for the survival of both transitional and established democracies. The more vigorous and healthy they are the better assured is the health of the democratic process (Agbaje, 1998). It is therefore difficult to imagine any modern democracy without political parties as they are the connecting links between diverse groups of peoples and governments.
The most common classification of political parties is that which emphasizes the degree of competitiveness in a political system. Hence, there can be one party, two party or multi-party political systems. A more basic classification of political parties, in the words of Agbaje (1998), is that which highlights the nature of the membership of political parties. Thus, there can be:
· Branch/mass parties whose membership is composed of different sections of political society.
· Caucus/elitist parties whose membership is drawn mainly from the upper class of society.
· Religious parties whose membership is determined by nature of religions affiliation.
· Broker parties with membership drawn from both the rich and poor classes of society.
· Charismatic parties formed around individuals with unique talents and whose membership cuts across identity and class lines (Olarinmoye, 2008).
Juxtaposition - wise, while a great deal of the problems confronting political party development in Nigeria’s history can be linked to behavioural and attitudinal dispositions of the political elite, on the door-step of the institutions that have been saddled with the responsibility for the regulations of these parties, experiences have shown that there is an elitist manipulation of political parties. This is coupled with the fact that the roles of political parties are punctured, and truncated by various negative activities such as polarizing and widening gap between and /or among ethnic groups. Also, the syndromes of unhealthy rivalry, marginalizing tool, exploitative mechanism, expropriating role, as well as, the low institutionalization of these political parties have snowballed into inter and intra party rivalry/crisis.
1.2 STATEMENT OF RESEARCH PROBLEM
Political parties have long been recognized as essential components of representative democracy. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how the governance of modern states could be accomplished without meaningful political parties. By organizing voters, aggregating and articulating interests, crafting policy alternatives and providing the basis for coordinated electoral and legislative activity, well-functioning political parties are central not just to representative government but also to the process of democratic development in transitional democracies like Nigeria.
Parties perform a number of essential functions that make democracy in modern states possible. Ideally, they represent political constituencies and interests, recruit and socialize new candidates for office, set policy-making agendas, integrate disparate groups and individuals into the democratic process, and form the basis of stable political coalitions and hence governments. Collectively, this means that political parties are among the primary channels for building accountable and responsive government.
Beyond these functional activities, parties also provide a number of deeper, systemic supports that help make democracy work effectively, for instance:
· They mediate between the demands of the citizenry on the one hand and the actions of the government on the other, aggregating the diverse demands of the electorate into coherent public policy.
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