Nigerian Parties and Political Ideology
J. Shola Omotola, Redeemer’s University, Redemption City, Mowe, Ogun State, Nigeria.
Abstract: Are these heady days for Nigerian political parties? This is the main question, which this paper addresses with emphasis on political ideology, being the first and most important vehicle of a political party. It is argued that despite all pretences to the contrary through their manifestoes, as much as the superficial classifications as the “left” and “right”, “progressive” and “conservative”, Nigerian parties seem to be bereft of clear ideological commitments. This conclusion is predicated upon the relegation of politics of issues to the background across the various republics, and in its place the ascendancy of identity and money politics. Other factors include the rising magnitude of political vagrancy on the basis of selfish and parochial interests, the high level of party indiscipline, absence/weakness of party cohesion and internal democracy, and the high mortality and turnover of party leadership. Finally, the paper discusses the implications of this for Nigeria’s democratization and democratic consolidation, before concluding with some recommendations.
Are these heady days for Nigerian political parties? It does not seem so. Although, the decade of the 1990s witnessed the massive spread of what Huntington (1991) referred to as the “third wave” of democratization to Africa, including Nigeria, leading to an unprecedented resurgence of multiparty politics, there is no controversy about the fact that the mere adoption of party pluralism will not automatically advance the cause of democracy without the institutionalization of certain institutional parameters to promote and sustain due process in theory and practice (See, Bratton and Van de Walle, 1992; 1997; Sorensen,
J Shola Omotola, MS., Redeemer’s University, Move, Ogun State, Nigeria
1993). One of the most complex and critical institutions of democracy is political party. Political parties, as “makers” of democracy, have been so romanticized that scholars have claimed that neither democracy nor democratic societies are thinkable without them. They not only perform functions that are government related, such as making government accountable and exercising control over government administration; and electorate related functions such as political representation, expression of people’s demand through interest articulation and aggregation as well as structuring of electoral choices; but also linkage related functions, playing an intermediary and mediatory role between the government and the electorate (see, Moore, 2002; Lapalombara and Anderson, 2001; Simon, 1962). Following Omotola (2005a) and Egwu (2005), Saliu and Omotola (2006) have pointed out that political parties can only cope effectively with these responsibilities to the extent of their political institutionalization in terms of structure, internal democracy, cohesion and discipline, as much as their autonomy. The element of party autonomy is very crucial. For, as Alli Mari Tripp has argued, and rightly so, those organizations that have asserted the greatest autonomy have generally been able to “select their own leaders, push for far-reaching agendas, and involve themselves in politics to a greater extent than organizations that have been tied to the regime/or dominant party, either formally or through informal patronage networks” (Tripp, 2001:101). A note of caution is necessary here to avoid confusion. The relationship between political parties and the state is a complex one. This is because it is the party that forms the government, the latter being the institution of the state. To now talk of a hard-line demarcation between the two may be unrealistic. Yet, the relationship should be well defined such that political parties, especially the one in...