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1.1 Background of the Study
Political parties are traditionally the most significant intermediary organization in democratic societies. Students of political parties have commonly associated them with democracy itself. Political parties, as “makers” of democracy, have been so romanticized that scholars claim that neither democracy nor democratic societies are thinkable without them. In other words, the existence of vibrant political parties is a sine qua non for democratic consolidation in any polity. It is patently ironic that political parties in Nigeria largely pursue (and profess) democracy outside the gates and resist it within the gates (Orji, 2013; Ibeanu, 2013).
Democratic governance with its ideal of elective representation, freedom of choice of leaders, rule of law, freedom of expression, accountability among others, has become the acceptable system of government all over the world. It is a form of government in which the supreme power of a political community rests on popular sovereignty. According to Oyovbaire (1987) democracy as a system of government seeks to realize a generally recognized common good through a collective initiation and discussion of policy questions concerning public affairs and which delegates authority to agents to implement the broad decisions made by the people through majority vote.
Accordingly, Osabiya (2015) further asserted that in modern societies, political parties are very essential to political process. They have become veritable instrument or adjunct of democracy in any democratic system. Political parties are not only instrument for capturing political power, but they are also vehicles for the aggregation of interests and ultimate satisfaction of such interests through the control of government. Obviously political parties are crucial to the sustenance of democratic governance.
Towards the end of the last century, Africa like the rest of the world witnessed the “third wave of democratization” when authoritarian regime and one party governments were replaced or supplanted by elected civilian governments or administrations. Nigeria described by Ette (2013) as one of the strongholds of dictatorship in the continent was caught in the snowballing effect of the wave after twenty-nine years of military dictatorship. After several years of failure attempt by the past military regimes of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and Sani Abacha, democracy formally gained root in the country on 29 May, 1999.
Nigerians were full of hopes and expectations that hard earned democracy will usher in improvements in standards of living, good governance, improvement in security and what Mohammed (2013:573 described as freeing of natural resources from the iron fist and jaw of greedy officials to that of enterprising and efficient social services delivery in health, education, sports and prevention of modern day slavery such as human trafficking as well as rehabilitation of infrastructural facilities, poverty alleviation and reduction in unemployment, inequality and improvement in general socio-economic development.
Disturbingly, eighteen years after the inception of the present democratic dispensation, the political landscape is yet to show clear evidence of good governance. Elections and electoral processes are subverted; there have been wide scale of political violence and killing in many parts of the country; upsurge in ethnic militia groups who make life unbearable for the citizenry; general insecurity and high profile terrorism in the northern part of the country as well as kidnapping and bunkering of the petroleum pipelines in the southern part of the country which obviously have become a major threat to her democratic process and consolidation (Adeosun, 2014:1).
The rudiments of a true democracy are good governance, fair and legitimate elections, justice, equity, accountability, transparency, responsible leadership, political education of the masses, respect for the rule of law and importantly corporation among the different branches of government. Regrettably, the practice of the so-called democracy in the 21st Century Nigeria is intrinsically characterized by electoral frauds orchestrated by political parties (Obidimma andObidimma, 2015:43).
Moreover, mainstream rhetoric in Nigeria media and popular discourses of the polity is often centred on the claim that Nigeria is “consolidating its democracy”. The evidence on the ground, however, contradicts this claim (Momoh, 2013:1). It is perhaps most appropriate to liken the relationship between political parties and the sustenance of democratic rule in a particular society to that which exists between the umbilical cord and the foetus (Yagboyaju, 2012:54).
Political parties are at the heart of examining the health of any form of democracy. Orji (2013:1) argues that ‘to talk, today, about consolidating democracy, is to talk about a system of competitive political parties’. Therefore this research study seeks to examine the role of political parties in consolidation of democracy in Nigeria with particular references to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Consolidating Nigerian democracy through the functioning of political parties has remained an albatross. The history of Nigeria’s democratic experiments demonstrates that elections and political parties have generated so much animosity which has, in some cases, threatened the corporate existence of the country, such as happened after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election and in other cases instigated military incursion in to political governance, most notably in 1966 and 1983. At the heart of electoral crisis in Nigeria is the lack of credibility for the official results of elections leading to the rejection of such results by the opposition political parties.
Since the inauguration of the Fourth Republic, a pattern is already emerging which points to the fact that political elites have not learnt much from the mistakes of the past. The various crises plaguing the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the annals of defections in the National Assembly, cross carpeting of governors, lack of internal democracy among others are vivid instances of this tendency. Lack of party discipline continues to feature prominently in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) political parties. This action ends up heating up the polity; a situation that portends dangers to democratic consolidation in Nigeria. This danger has resulted to the high level of political abduction, harassment, arson, and assassinations, withdrawal of credible and qualified professionals in the race. It is against this backdrop that this study seeks to examine the role of political parties in consolidation of democracy in Nigeria.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The major objective of the study is to examine the relationship between political parties and democratic consolidation in Nigeria. Other specific objectives are:
1) To examine the relationship between political parties and democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
2) To examine the effect of intra-party crisis on the democratic process.
3) To investigate the effect of party-members defections on democratic deepening in Nigeria.
4) To interrogateif lack of internal democracy by the PDP and APC is affecting the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria.
5) To extrapolatethe challenges of consolidating democracy in Nigeria.
1.5 Research Questions
The questions that this study seeks to address are:
1) What is the relationship between political parties and democratic consolidation in Nigeria?
2) In what ways do intra-party crisis have any effect on the democratic process in Nigeria?
3) To what extent will party-members defection affect democratic deepening in Nigeria?
4) To what extent doeslack of internal democracy by the PDP and APC affecting the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria?
5) What are the challenges of consolidating democracy in Nigeria?
1.6 Significance of the Study
Previous researchers have been very divergent in their views about the possible correlates of political parties and democratic consolidation in Nigeria, this study will therefore be of great significance as it will add to the already existing body of knowledge in this regard.
It is anticipated that the analytical, conceptual and theoretical analysis will not just contribute to understanding of the dynamics of political parties and democracy in Nigeria, but will articulate sound policy recommendations to foster democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
In a whole, the outcomes of the study will serve as a useful tool for students of the Lagos State University, who would want to carry out further research in this domain. It would also be useful to scholars in political science. The study would in fact be significant to policy makers and implementers at large, as they will find the result and recommendations of the study very useful.
1.7 Scope of the StudyThe scope of the study defines the research boundary. Therefore this study encompasses political parties and democratic consolidation in Nigeria vis-à-vis the inter-party crisis, party-members’ defection, lack of internal democracy and the challenges of democratic consolidation in Nigeria. The study will be limited in scope to thePeople’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC).
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