Political parties: The good, the bad and the ugly in 6 decades

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BODE OLAGOKE, in this piece writes on how political parties have fared since the country gained independence in 1960

Political parties in Nigeria undoubtedly predated the country’s independence. Before 1960, it revolved around few educated Nigerians who were in the forefront of the struggle for Nigeria’s independence. These great personalities and nationalists were all over Nigeria speaking for their people and also articulating and presenting their positions to the colonial authority.            Notably among the nationalists are Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Joseph Tarka and others who fought for the independence of Nigeria from the British colony. 

First Republic 

With population of about 45 million in 1960, Nigeria got her independence and the need for political power began. But because most of the independence fighters were regional leaders hence their politics too were based at regional levels. These regional champions metamorphosed into political leaders and most of them eventually got elected for one position or the other in the long run. 
For example, the NCNC was the dominant party in the Eastern part of the country, the NPC was in the North and the AG was the dominant party in the South-west and the Middle Belt Front.
Three years later, Nigeria became a republic, and Nnamdi Azikiwe became the president of Nigeria with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister. Also, in the same year, the Census was conducted. It led to the split between National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons and the Northern People’s Congress.
There arose a great bitterness that greeted the penetration of one of the parties in the South-west and the intolerant of the political elites after independent. The NCNC decided to join a faction of the AG and formed a new political party – the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA). It was led by Obafemi Awolowo. The other part of the split group, the NPC, joined the remaining faction of the AG and thus created a new party called the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP).
The Military, however cited this disagreement as one of the reasons for the overthrown of the civilian government in the 1966 first military coup against the civilian rule.      
A lot of things, however changed after the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970).

Second Republic 
The Nigeria’s Second Republic was heralded with high hopes, although the oil prices were high and revenues were on the increase which made it appear that unlimited development was possible. Unfortunately, the euphoria was short-lived, and the Second Republic did not survive its infancy.
Five major parties competed for power in the first elections in 1979. As might be expected, there was some continuity between the old parties of the First Republic and the new parties of the Second Republic. The National Party of Nigeria (NPN), for example, inherited the mantle of the Northern Peoples Congress, although the NPN differed from the NPC in that it obtained significant support in the non-Igbo states of southeastern Nigeria.
The United Party of Nigeria (UPN) was the successor to the Action Group, with Awolowo as its head. Its support was almost entirely in the Yoruba states. The Nigerian People’s Party (NPP), the successor to the NCNC, was predominantly Igbo and had Azikiwe as its leader. An attempt to forge an alliance with non-Hausa -Fulani northern elements collapsed in the end, and a breakaway party with strong support in parts of the north emerged from the failed alliance. This northern party was known as the Great Nigerian People’s Party under the leadership of Waziri Ibrahim of Borno. Finally, the People’s Redemption Party (PRP)  was the successor to the Northern Elements Progressive Union and had Aminu Kano as its head.
Therefore, the first elections under the 1979 constitution were held on schedule in July and August 1979, and the Federal Military Government (FMG) handed over power to a new civilian government under President Shehu Shagari on October 1, 1979. 
Shagari’s party won the presidency, defeating Azikiwe in a close and controversial vote. The NPN also took 36 of 95 Senate seats, 165 of 443 House of Representatives seats and won control of seven states (Sokoto, Niger, Bauchi, Benue, Cross River, Kwara, and Rivers). The NPN lost the governorship of Kaduna state but secured control of the Kaduna legislature. The NPN failed to take Kano and lacked a majority in either the Senate or House of Representatives. It was forced to form a shaky coalition with the NPP, the successor of the NCNC, the old coalition partner of the NPC. 
The NPP took three states (Anambra, Imo, and Plateau), sixteen Senate seats and seventy-eight House of Representatives seats, so that in combination with the NPN the coalition had a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Nonetheless, the interests of the two parties were often in conflict, which forced the NPN to operate alone in most situations. Even though the presidential form of constitution was intended to create a stronger central government, the weakness of the coalition undermined effective central authority.
Third Republic 

After the short-lived Second Republic, the military held on to power for so long before the military head of state, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida lifted the ban on political activities the spring of 1989.
Of all recommendations by the Transition Committee set up by the IBB’s government, the two party system became the most popular. The government decreed the formation of two new parties in October 1989, requiring that the parties draw from a national, as opposed to a regional, constituency to prevent such a dichotomy.
This development led to the establishment of two political parties: the center-right National Republican Convention (NRC) and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SDP). This era saw to conduct of governorship elections as well as State and National Assembly elections. The republic was already operational in civil and military combination of a diarchy. The diarchichal system was to finally pave way for a full civilian regime until the IBB led military junta annulled the presidential election acclaimed to have been free, fair and credible and won by the SDP’s candidate and business mogul, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola. 

Fourth Republic 

Just like the second republic, Nigeria’s present democratisation, which culminated in the country’s Fourth Republic on May 29, 1999, started amidst great hope and expectations but political analysts have rated it so low. 

In 1999 a new president was elected – General Olusegun Obasanjo, of the People’s Democratic Party. (PDP). He defeated Chief Olu Falae, the candidate of other major parties, the All Peoples Party (APP) which forged a somewhat presidential alliance with the Alliance for Democracy (AD). 

Although the AD and the APP was popular in the South-west states while but the PDP won the majority of all votes. 

For 16 years from 1999, the PDP held on to the power at center, leaving other political parties struggling at regional levels.
But there came a turning point in 2013 precisely, when the Action Congress (AC) which has metamorphosed into ACN- Action Congress of Nigeria, went into a first successful alliance with Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the APP which has long been christened All Nigerians Peoples Party (ANPP), a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and later joined by a faction of the PDP known as nPDP, lost lost their identities in order to register what is now known as the All Progressive Congress (APC).
The APC which has General Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as its foremost leaders among others was able to wrestle power from the then ruling PDP in 2015 general elections for the first time.
Some other political parties that participated in the 2015 and 2019 general elections include: Hope Democratic Party; – African Democratic Congress; – Alliance for Democracy; KOWA Party,  National Conscience Party, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, United Democratic Party, African Peoples Alliance, Accord Party, Citizens Popular Party, People’s Party of Nigeria, Labour Party and United Progressive Party, among others. 
Party deregistration 

Following arguments for and against multiple party system, the electoral empire, after 2019 general elections, specifically February 6 2020 deregistered 74 political parties out of the existing 92. Although the matter is still being contested in the court of law.
The existing political parties now are: Accord, (A); Action Alliance, (AA); African Action Congress (AAC), African Democratic Congress (ADC), African Democratic Party (ADP) and All Progressive Congress (APC),

There are also All Progressive Grand Alliance (APG); Allied Peoples Movement (APM), Labour Party (LP), National Rescue Movement (NNPP), National Rescue Movement (NRM),

Others are Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Young Progressive Party (YPP), Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and Boot Party.
But responding to the development, the national chairman of one of the deregistered parties, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, Alhaji Ganiyu Galadima, said multi-party system is the best because it guaranteed freedom of choice and provides opportunities for people of like mind to form their own party and movement. 

Galadima said: “The people will also have a variety of choice to make and the opportunity to filter people who presented themselves for leadership positions. The Nigerian Constitution makes provisions for multiparty system in our democracy and it also stipulates the conditions for registration and de-registration of political parties. 

“Multi party and the liberal membership have been very helpful to douse political tensions in Nigeria. It was the liberal provisions of the Nigerian laws relating to political parties and membership that enables Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to contest for Presidential election in 2007 when he was manipulated out of the contest by President Olusegun Obasanjo and his party, the PDP. 

“The opportunity offered for him to realize his political aspiration and fulfillment by the then Action Congress doused the political tensions generated in his party. The recent manipulation of Gov. Godwin Obaseki of Edo state is another example of the benefits of the multi Party democracy and the liberal nature of our legal system on political parties and membership.”

Galadima believed that political parties have greatly contributed to the development and progress of democracy and good governance in Nigeria as a melting point for leadership selection and recruitment. 

“They also mobilize the citizens for the Government and a veritable tools of social mobilization. Political parties in Nigeria are integral part of the progress and success of the entity call Nigeria. They are indispensable.”

For Pastor Kayode Jacob, who is the Lagos state chairman of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), there is no doubt that Nigeria has made great national history and nationalistic history makers from her political evolution in the last 60 years.

“Opposition Political Parties in the beginning up till the 80s were robust and forward looking. But the story changed in the late 90s when politics became all comers affairs.

“At this point, we began to witness the rise of money bags who hijack Party structures using motor park touts, unsuspecting market women, Students Associations, people who ordinarily should be voters.

“By this the process was denigrated and persons of questionable pedigree began to control the Political Parties and process.
If we had continued how it was up till the formation of SDP and NRC maybe our story would have been great.

“Worse now is that some people take political party ownership as money making  business . There are too many of them who are never seeking power.

“I think we need to restart on a two party basis. This will put all the god fathers in the same place and compel the good and the bad to come together and slug it out.

“Surely there is the need for a new beginning, We cannot continue this way and arrive quick at our political destiny.”

While proffering answers from different perspective, National Secretary Opposition Coalition, CUPP, High Chief Peter Ameh, said the unitary structure of Nigeria which came about as a result of military interregnum has made it near impossible for the political parties operating today to make some appreciable mark on the lives of the people, unlike the way it was immediately after Nigeria got her independence in 1960.

Chief Amen said: “The parties in existence in the first repiblic, although mostly regional in nature did perform extremely well in the various areas/ regions they controlled or governed. There was this spirit of competetiveness amongst the parties, each trying to outperform the other in the spheres of education, health, agriculture, infrastuctural development, etc, in the areas regions they control.
“Infact, the golden years of Nigeria was between the period of 1960-1966. Each region had its own constitution and consulate abroad apart from the Nigerian High Commission in London. Infact, there was no central electoral management body like today’s INEC to oversee the registration, and regulation of association of group of people who had come together to pursue their interests as a party, which also is an infrigement on their right to freely associate, and canvass for votes without any interference from anybody.”

On his way forward, the political analyst said Nigeria should be restructured to aid the development of both the polity and the economy from bottom up instead of top bottom.

He also suggested recognition of political parties should be divested from the body known as INEC and SIECS and be left with an ad hoc committee  in charge of political parties management and regulatory committees.
“The President should be chosen  from amongst candidates nominated by each of the regions where two third of the regions have voted for any of the candidates.
“We should have 6 Vice Presidential Representatives from each of the region.
“Local Government administration should be made to be totally independent from from wings and caprices of the State Government to encourage performance and diacrourage interference.
“Appointment of INEC Chairman and National commissioner should be taken from the hands of the President since he too is or will be a candidate in the same election that the INEC chairman will conduct”

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