Chapter One: Introduction
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 preindependence 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
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
3. Does multi- party system ensure democratic consolidation in
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
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 Literature Review
It will be a very difficult task to complete this research work and
arrive at a justifiable conclusion without reviewing works of other scholars
in this field of study. Since such a review will provide an insight into various
aspects of the problems and similarly provide adequate theoretical
background. It is through such reviews that it would help us to critics‟
previous study and the way in which the present day will help in providing
solution to the problems. Multi-party system has been conceptualized in
many ways and views. Clearly speaking, it is one of the political systems
found in democratic or federal states of the world. Many scholars had made
various efforts to explain the meaning of multi-party system and how it
relates to political development.
According to Obikeze (2004), Multi-party system is “a scourge to the
political growth of any nation”. To him, multi-party is a reflection of the
division that exists within the society and the extent of diversity. This means
that once the nation allows a multiple party system to be in operation, that it
extends diversity and within the society, the citizens will bring ethnicity in
politics. He went further to state that, the voters have the confusion of which
party to join and who to vote for, because choice is problematic as there is
slim ideological difference among the parties. In this case, we found out that
the above problem cause political apathy. Yes! It made groups within the
society to be apathetic in the sense that an average political Nigerian man
will not interested in the political activities if this choice is not the
government. The same scholar ended his argument and analysis with this
assertion, multi-party system does not create an avenue for long term
planning as a party policy of the co-operating parties must be considered.
According to Rodee et al (1957), it was stated that “the reason of
multiple parties is the persistence of deep cleavages in a political society
caused by difference in nationality and religion divisive forces are often
inflamed by irreconcilable element within the nation or by external
revolution any moments”. This means that in most of the democratic states
like Nigeria, it is because of the diversity and differences in ideology that
engendered the feeling of ethnic politics.
La Palombara and Wemer (1966), claim that “the traditional
classification between two party system and multi-partism is not sufficiently
meaningful” they maintained that the4 number of political parties in a
political system is not essentially relevant, but competitiveness of parties is
very important. This is essentially true about multi-parties in Nigeria. In the
fourth republic, one-party, a People‟s Democratic Party (PDP) dominated
the political seats in the country. Therefore, looking at the result, the
People‟s Democratic Party (PDP) won majority of the seats. The above
authors viewed a multi-party system as one in which over an extended
period, the same political or coalition of such parties dominate or hold
According to Larry Diamond (2009), in an interview by Zainth
Economic Quarterly Magazine, this excerpt reads thus, calling a political
system a democratic does not mean it is good or admirable system or that we
need not to worry much about imposing it further. It also simply means that
if a majority of the people want change in leaders and policies and are able
to organize effectively within the rules, they can change. This is just an
appraisal of the political system that is practiced in Nigeria, but we should
not dwell in this conception of majority participation and promoting political
decay instead of development. If people can organize political party as a
democratic state (within the rules). It can be granted, but a strong one that
will hold water to foster political development and not a weak organization
that continued to divide and tearing the nation apart.
According to Okpata (2000), multi-party system is a group system that
exist where there are usually several parties with nearly equal strength.
Political interest and historical experience play dominant role in adoption of
this system. Multi party system in this understanding, means that the
ideology, strength, interest, history, experience etc. All these matters a lot in
operation of multi-party system. The problem with this practice of multiparty system in Nigeria is that most of political parties that exist in the fourth
republic lack the above attributes mentioned. In fact most of the parties were
of non-ideological type and that is not of development in Nigerian politics.
Eme Awa (1993) opined that “the system could be multi-party only in
the sacrificial sense of it. In this case, only one party (always the same ones)
wins elections, thereby enlarging the famous doctrine of alternating parties
that could hold power. Consequently upon this, a nation may be subject to
adherence. Multi-party system was also argued by Awa to often establish
parties on ethnic grounds.
According to Omo Omomji (2008), in his seminar presentation about
paries and politics in Nigeria, he said “I am aware that parties should poses
certain characteristics and that they are meant to perform certain functions”.
The issue is that the political parties in Nigeria are still in search of a role,
hence since 1999, the role of political parties is still fluid. In many cases, this
so-called political parties since 1999 have become a major part of the
problem in Nigeria. The dispersal of partism support and organization in
multi-party may have several others negative implication. For instance,
Ferguson and Mc Herny (1967:218) pointed out that:
The disadvantages of having many parties is
that, the multi-party system produces
instability, confuses the electorate with a
multitude of alternatives, represents local
groups and factions and in action. It would
make continued functioning of the electoral
system (and integration of diverse ethnic and
socio-economic group) virtually impossible.
Moreover, there is the guanine fear that any multiplication of separates tribal
groups. As Weiner and La Palombara (1966) observed, frequently in
heterogeneous societies operating a multi-party system, the political parties
re-often asserted with the various fragmented cultures. In such, a case the
parties have no intention of facilitation integration but aim instead at
reinforcing loyalties to the sub-cultures with which they are identified.
Satori (1996) points out that “multi-party system is the most insecure and
less viable option to political development”. He also points out that not only
that the multi-party system cannot profit the stimulation of a responsible
opposition, but also that, it is often paralyzed by cabinet instability and by
the presence of anti-system parties which replace competitive politics with
irresponsible outbidding under these condition, according to Satori
The multi-party system is more an agent of
disintegration than an instrument of
aggregation and integration and the outcome
is sheer immobility, mal- integration or
disorderly change, than is an ideologically
motivated, unrealistic sequence of abrupt
changes that are likely to be successful.
What could be derived in the above assertion is that a developing pluralistic
society in search of national integration (as an attribute of political changes
and instability, nor can it afford increased polarization of a great number of
cleavages that already existed in the society. This was why multi-party
system had failed repeatedly in Nigeria as a mechanism for fostering
political stability and political development.
According to Daniel Learner (1950), he opined. “The passing of
traditional societies, modernization of middle east” equates political
development with political modernization.
W.W Rostow (2008) also treated political development as typical
phenomenon of the industrial society. He was of the opinion that the
industrial societies are the patterns setters of political development for other
societies. Edward Shills (1991) opined that political development is a nation
According to Samuel .P. Verma (2009) stated that, the greatest
drawback of these studies was that they treated “political development” as
dependent variables, generated by something else, a worldwide wave of
modernization, nationalism or democracy and not as an independent or
interviewing variable which in its own turn could shape things. Henceforth,
political scientist sought to devise alternative meaning of political
Gabriel Almond (1990) defined political development as “the increased
differentiation and specialization of political structures and the increased
secularization of political culture”, effectiveness, efficiency and capability
were seen a benchmark of political referred by Coleman (1956) as
1.6 Theoretical framework
The theoretical framework that will best suit this study will be group
theory. This theory was adopted because of the strong view of scholar such
as Bently (1908) who as of the strong opinion that the interactions of groups
are the basis of political life and rejected statist abstractions. In his opinion,
group activity determined legislation, administration and adjudication. He
also went further to opine that institution approach should not be used for
political analysis as these institutions are static as against politics which is
dynamic and full of activities. He argued that politics is a group affair and
each group is competing against each other for power. He also added that
the pattern of process involving mass of activities and not a collection of
individuals. The group emerges from frequent interaction among its
individual members which is directed by their share interest. The interest
leads to the organization of the groups.
Bently‟s group theory received blessing of scholars like David Truman,
Robert Daniel, Grant Mc Connell, Theodora .j. Lewi, Earl Lathans among
others. They saw power as diffused among many interest groups competing
against each other. Earl Lathan described a society as a simple universe of
groups which combine, break and form coalitions and castellation of power
in a restless alternation. The adoption of this theory as basis for the
examination of the multi-party system and political development in Nigeria
is simply as a result of the interplay of forces and struggle for power among
various ethnic groups in the Nigerian society which resulted that shortly
after independence political parties were formed along ethnic sectional time.
Therefore, the adoption of the group theory, is to examine how the
intrigues among the various ethnic groups and the resulting multi-party
system affect generally political activities and in particular development of
Nigeria political system.
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
3. Multi-party system does not ensure democratic consolidation in
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
1.9 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
1.10 Definition of Terms
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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