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The history of political parties in Nigeria may be found within the context of the two-party and multi-party political systems (Adejumobi, 2007), which can be traced back to the 1930s growth of nationalist consciousness, awareness, and political movements (Agarah, 2004).

Coleman (1986:22) defined this activity as the “second wave of nationalist movement that was ‘less militant and resistant’ but primarily concerned with sentiments, activities, and organisational developments aimed at Nigeria’s self-government and independence.”

The formation of permanent political associations to pursue national objectives was a key feature of the second wave of Nigerian nationalism (Coleman, 1986),

with the various associations formed by nationalists such as Ernest Ikoli, Herbert Macaulay, Samuel Akinsanya, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemil Awolowo, and others serving as the precursors of political parties in Nigeria.

Political parties in Nigeria exhibit several key characteristics, which include:

Their emergence and evolution have been inextricably linked to the development or evolution of the Nigerian constitution. The Clifford constitution of 1922, for example, provided four elective seats for Nigerians in the legislative council, which sparked the foundation of Herbert Marcaulay’s Nigerian National Democratic Party.

Similarly, the establishment of regional assemblies in Richard’s 1944 constitution boosted political party development while keeping the four election seats on the legislative council.

Similarly, the Macpherson constitution’s regional assemblies and regional executive councils, as well as the system of indirect elections to Nigerian legislative Houses in 1951, boosted the activities of political parties in pre-independence Nigeria.

Most parties have ethnic or geographical bases, or they have strong identity orientations. The Action Group (AG), the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), the Alliance for Democracy (AD), and the Action Congress (AC), for example, had/have their roots in Nigeria’s Yoruba-dominated South-West.

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 political parties in Nigeria can claim to have a nationwide reach.

In Nigeria, political parties have been prone to major inter-party confrontations, disagreements, splitting, and decamping (Agarah, 2004; Adejumobi, 2007).

These characteristics stem from the “caucus or elitist nature” of political parties in Nigeria, as described by Rosiji (1992), which is the direct result of believing that the educated minority in each ethnic group is the people who are qualified by natural right to lead their fellow nationals into higher political development (Olarinmoye, 2008).

In other words, the elites build political structures first, then encourage the masses to join. Political parties are formed and directed by society’s elites who feel that control of government and political power should be theirs. They are thus not mass or branch parties with a diverse membership and parochial interests based on elite aspirations and actualization.

Elite parties are thus non-ideological organisations with a greater interest in winning and holding political prominence for its leadership and distributing cash to those who run and work for it (Banfield and Wilson, 1965:66; Scott, 1973:121).

Elite parties’ structural and ideological characteristics translate into a poor basis among the masses. Most political parties in Nigeria are poorly embedded in Nigerian civil society, creating a chasm between them and the general public.

The aforementioned disposition of political parties in Nigeria, without a doubt, has undermined the central role that parties are expected to play in both consolidated and non-consolidated democracies.

This has, in no small part, undermined the commonly acknowledged role of policymakers and democracy-promoting organisations, which frequently exhibit a significant normative bias in support of coherent, organizationally developed political parties. According to the National Democratic Institute in the United States (2011:22), for example:

Political parties are the foundation of a democratic society, serving a function that no other institution in a democracy does. Parties unite and promote societal interests while also providing a framework for political engagement.

They educate political leaders who will serve in positions of power in society. Furthermore, parties run and win elections in order to gain some control over government institutions.

Similarly, according to the United Nations Development Programme (2008:5), “political parties are a keystone of democratic governance.” They provide a framework for political involvement, act as a training ground for political leadership, and translate societal concerns into public policy.”

Scholars are equally enthusiastic. Some of the world’s leading political scientists have argued that strong parties are a prerequisite for successful democratisation. Political stability in modernising countries is thought to require strong parties.

Democracies cannot have efficient government unless they have effective parties with at least relatively consistent bases of support (Diamond and Gunther, 2001).

Lipset (2000), in one of his final articles, praised the importance of political parties in the survival of both transitional and established democracies. The more robust and healthy they are, the more secure the democratic process is (Agbaje, 1998).

As political parties serve as the connecting link between various groups of people and governments, it is difficult to conceive a modern democracy without them.

The most frequent classification of political parties is one that emphasises a political system’s degree of competitiveness. As a result, political systems might be one-party, two-party, or multi-party. According to Agbaje (1998), a more fundamental classification of political parties is one that emphasises the nature of political party membership. As a result, there may be:

Branch/mass parties whose membership is drawn from various segments of political society.

Caucus/elitist parties whose membership is mostly drawn from society’s upper crust.

Religious parties whose membership is dictated by the nature of the religion with which they are affiliated.

Broker parties comprised of members from both the rich and poor classes of society.

Charismatic parties built around individuals with distinct talents, with membership spanning identity and socioeconomic divides (Olarinmoye, 2008).While a great deal of the problems confronting political party development in Nigeria’s history can be linked to the political elite’s behavioural and attitudinal dispositions,

experiences have shown that there is an elitist manipulation of political parties on the doorstep of the institutions that have been saddled with the responsibility for the regulation of these parties.

This is in addition to the fact that the roles of political parties are pierced and curtailed by a variety of undesirable behaviours such as polarising and deepening the divide between and/or among ethnic groups.

Furthermore, the symptoms of unhealthy rivalry, marginalising tool, exploitative mechanism, expropriating function, as well as the political parties’ inadequate institutionalisation, have snowballed into inter and intra party rivalry/crisis.


Political parties have long been seen as necessary components of representative democracy. Indeed, it is impossible to understand how modern states might be governed without meaningful political parties.

Well-functioning political parties are critical not only to representative government but also to the process of democratic development in transitional democracies like Nigeria,

by organising voters, aggregating and articulating interests, crafting policy alternatives, and providing the foundation for coordinated electoral and legislative activity.

Parties play a number of critical roles in enabling democracy in modern states. In an ideal world, they would represent political constituencies and interests, recruit and socialise new candidates for office,

create policy agendas, integrate divergent organisations and individuals into the democratic process, and provide as the foundation for stable political coalitions and, ultimately, governments. This means that political parties are one of the key vehicles for establishing accountable and responsive government.

Aside from these practical duties, parties also provide a number of deeper, systemic supports that help democracy function effectively, such as:

They mediate between citizen demands on the one hand and government actions on the other, collecting the numerous demands of the electorate into coherent public policy.

They allow for effective collective action within legislatures. There would be anarchy if parliamentary majorities moved from issue to issue and vote to vote without the predictable voting coalitions provided by parties.

Parties are the principal route in democratic systems for holding governments accountable for their performance since they serve as a link between ordinary citizens and their representatives.

Parties, however, struggle to play these functions in many transitional democracies in general, and in the Nigerian State in particular. Instead, parties demonstrate a variety of diseases that undermine their potential to provide the kinds of systemic advantages on which representative politics is predicated. As an example:

They are frequently under-institutionalized, with limited membership, limited policy ability, and fluctuating support bases.

Instead of reflecting society as a whole, they are frequently based on narrow personal, regional, or ethnic strata.

They are often thinly organised and only come to life during election season.

They might not have a coherent ideology.

They frequently fail to advocate for any particular policy goal.

With members switching between parties, they are frequently unable to assure disciplined collective action in parliament.

As a result, parties frequently struggle to manage social tensions and fail to offer public goods, so undermining growth.

The result of the aforementioned is a flawed electoral process that has snowballed into a legitimacy crisis, which is one of the biggest hurdles to a durable democracy (including the Nigerian State).

Regardless of the political upheaval caused by poor/weak parties and party system development, the factors that negatively impacted Nigerian party and party system development are multi-faceted,

and include ethnicity, poor party institutionalisation, lack of independence in the operations of the judiciary and electoral bodies, and poor political culture, among others (Ibada, 2007; Omodia, 2007).

The primary goal of this research is to uncover the causes, nature, and trends of political party and party system growth as a crucial structure of democratic political institutions in undermining or improving the election process in Nigeria.

This is undeniably necessary given the belief that a functional political party, particularly in a multi-party system, tends to improve the quality of the democratic process in terms of democratic representation and political participation through effective political education,

which also improves and provides functional support for the electoral process (Dinneya, 2006; Bello, 2008). In other words, a robust election process and democracy exist when there are strong parties and party systems that demonstrate democratic principles at both the intra and interparty levels.

To emphasise the significance of the issue that this study attempts to address, it is appropriate to repeat the adage that political institutions can be simply rated as excellent or poor based on the extent and degree to which they deliver political satisfactions or utility to citizens.

As a result, political value can be “estimated for the inclusiveness of citizens in the participation process as well as the fit between policy-making decisions and citizens preferences” (Colomer, 2008:1). It is clear that the kind and character of institutional designs would have an impact on political party institutionalisation in Nigeria.

Kura (2008) establishes in a recent study that institutional designs have led to the weakening and destabilisation of political party oppositions in Nigeria. The ruling party has unrestricted access to public resources, which it uses to strengthen itself as well as woo opposition lawmakers through clientelistic networks.

Because of the nature of the presidential system, the president has enormous power to appoint all strategic officers, such as principal members of electoral institutions, top ranking police and army commanders, and so on.

As a result, in a state characterised by clientelism and neo-patrimonalism, these officers have become instruments of the ruling party. They are used to destabilise opposition parties and as tools for the development of dominant party systems (Kura, 2008).

However, deficiencies in party and party system development in Nigeria are so widespread that they have become a central concern in the nation’s body polity, to the point where they are increasingly viewed as a threat to stable democracy within the Nigerian state.

Recognising such hurdles to democratic growth has heightened domestic and international interest in how stronger, more capable political parties might be established, supported, and developed in Nigeria.


The objectives of this study are based on the research challenge discussed above:

To expose the politicians’/elites’ machinations and manipulations of political parties in such a way that political parties are elitist in inception, development, and operation.

To investigate the extent to which Nigeria’s multi-party system has allowed and engendered political socialisation of the public, political leadership recruitment, and served as a unifying force in a fragmented polity.

To investigate and scrutinise the extent to which Nigeria’s electoral system (simple plurality or first-past-the-post) influences the development of political parties.

To identify the primary institutional designs that influence party creation, institutionalisation, and development in Nigeria.

To provide solutions to the difficulties that plague the formation and development of political parties and party systems in Nigeria.


Based on the foregoing, the researcher offered the following hypotheses, which are in their null and alternate forms:

Ho: There is no correlation between respondents’ gender and their views on the evolution of the presidential system or the emergence of strong and active opposition parties in Nigeria.

There is a link between respondents’ gender and their perception of Nigeria’s presidential system producing robust and dynamic opposition parties.

Ho: There is no correlation between respondents’ marital status and their views on the minimal institutionalisation of political parties and the Nigerian party system.

There is a link between respondents’ marital status and their views on the lack of institutionalisation of political parties and the party system in Nigeria.

Ho: There is no correlation between respondents’ age and their views on ethnicity, which continues to influence political parties and the party system in Nigeria.

There is a link between respondents’ age and their views on ethnicity, which continues to influence political parties and the party system in Nigeria.

Ho: There is no correlation between respondents’ educational level and their belief that the simple plurality (FPTP) election system is the best option for Nigeria.

There is a link between respondents’ educational level and their belief that the basic plurality (FPTP) election system is the best option for Nigeria.

Ho: There is no correlation between respondents’ occupation and their belief that the multi-party system is the best option for Nigeria.

HR: There is a link between respondents’ occupations and their belief that a multi-party system is the best option for the Nigerian state.


This study is significant because its findings will shed insight on the elements and processes that shape political party growth in Nigeria. The findings will serve as the foundation for understanding the complexities embedded within political parties and other electoral institutions as they impact public engagement in the political process.

Second, the research will contribute to the body of knowledge in the fields of political party development and party polities as they affect a country’s democratic endeavour.

Third, the research study will serve as a springboard for additional investigation into political party-related issues, as well as the ways in which parties are established that make them the albatross of elections.

Fourth, the study will help to improve understanding of the many institutional designs that influence the growth of political parties and party systems in Nigeria.

Fifth, if the study’s findings are made available to policymakers, they will undoubtedly give motivation and data to assure the formation, evolution, and development of lively, strong, and viable political parties in Nigeria.

Finally, the researcher hopes that the study will be of interest to scholars, students, and those who are interested in political parties and party systems in our modern society.


The scope of this study was limited to an examination and analysis of the nature and role of political parties, as well as Nigerians’ perceptions of the factors that influence party and party system development in Nigeria from 1960 to the present, with a particular emphasis on the Fourth Republic.

One significant restriction of this study was the vastness of the Nigerian environment, which made coverage difficult; as a result, the three senatorial districts of Edo State served as the sample frame from which data was collected from respondents.

Furthermore, the secretive character of Nigerian political parties restricts the extent to which precise and reliable information was gathered from respondents. Thus, the variables chosen as factors influencing political party growth with particular reference to the Nigerian State are by no means exhaustive.


To avoid confusion, it is useful to explain some of the terminology employed in this research study.

Political Organisation

Because of the range of connotations in different situations and time periods, the idea of political party is the most commonly used in political discourse and possibly the most in need of definition. One of the most well-known and often used definitions is that of Edmund Burke (1770),

as referenced by Paul Langford (1981:312), who describes a party as “a body of men united for promoting the national interest by their joint efforts on some particular principle in which they all agreed.”

However, the emphasis in this definition on shared ideology among party members does not appear to apply to most non-western parties, as well as some parties in contemporary Western democracies, which lack a clear ideological profile, have a much more fluid membership, and operate on a more pragmatic, clientelist basis.

A more streamlined formulation that nevertheless incorporates political parties’ representative function is preferable. As a result, this research study used Giovanni Sartori’s (1994) definition: “a party is any political group that presents at elections and is capable of placing candidates for public office through elections.”

The Political System

The term “party system” will thus refer to a group of parties that compete with one another in elections for control of public office (Wolinetz, 2002).

Political Party Formation

The process by which a political party emerges, matures into an organised structure, and becomes more or less electorally accountable is referred to as political party development. It is vital to emphasise that this is a non-linear, multi-dimensional process in practice.


This is a notion that is strongly tied to political party development and is mostly used in the context of party and party system institutionalisation.

It is described here as the process by which the party (or the party system) gets established in terms of both integrated patterns of behaviour and attitudes, or culture, based on Randall and Svasand’s (2002) research.

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