Nigerian politics have been ridiculed time and again. To many, it is just a shadow of its former self.
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre. The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”
This excerpt from W.B. Yeat’s “Second Coming” captures the disquiet in the political terrain in Nigeria. From Nigeria’s Independence in 1960 to the current Fourth Republic, the genuine essence of our democratic governance has been glossed over with no remorse.
Little wonder we keep going in circles in search of an identity. Who are the major players? Do they have an ideology? What have been their impacts on the polity so far? This article gives an exposé on these perennial questions.
A Retrospect of Political Activities in the Fourth Republic
Recall that following the demise of the then-powerful military dictator, General Sani Abacha, in 1998, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, his successor, started the transition process, which returned Nigeria to a democratic dispensation in 1999.
Nigerian politics took a new turn, and the embargo placed on political activities was lifted, with political prisoners also released from detention facilities.
At the time, the major political parties were the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), and Alliance for Democracy (AD).
Elections were held in April 1999 in the much-monitored red election; former military ruler Olusegun Obasanjo won the election on the PDP platform and was sworn in as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on May 29 1999.
Top Players in Nigerian Politics
In the present dispensation of Nigerian politics, there are two major political parties – the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC). It’s important to note that PDP won every presidential election from 1999 to 2011, while the APC won the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections, respectively.
Of course, there are other minor political parties like the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Labour Party (LP), African Action Congress (AAC), and Social Democratic Party (SDP), amongst many others. However, the focus would be on the primary two political parties, the APC and the PDP.
All Progressives Party (APC)
The All Progressives Congress (APC) emerged from a merger of Nigeria’s three largest opposition parties – Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) on 6 February 2013.
The resolution for the merger was signed by Tom Ikimi, who represented the ACN; Senator Annie Okonkwo for APGA; Ibrahim Shekarau, the Chairman of ANPP’s Merger Committee; and Garba Shehu, the Chairman of CPC’s Merger Committee.
APC assumed power following the victory of party candidate Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential election held in 2015, thereby marking the first time that an opposition party would unseat an incumbent party in Nigerian history.
That same year, the APC won the most seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives. However, it could not secure a supermajority to stop the PDP’s influence on legislation. As a result, Buhari was reelected in the 2019 presidential election, with the party winning most of the seats in both chambers.
Peoples Democratic Party
PDP was founded in August 1998 by members of several groups and organisations, such as the G-18 and G-34, who had openly criticised the plans of the then-military ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha, to continue his regime.
After the death of Abacha in June 1998, democratic elections were held the following year, ending 16 years of military rule. It was at this period that the PDP was formed. Alex Ekwueme, a former vice president of the country, was the first party chairman, with Jerry Gana serving as the first party secretary.
The party drew its membership from traditional chiefs, academics, business people, and the army. In addition, about 100 retired senior officers joined the party, including Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military leader of Nigeria who served from 1976 to 1979.
PDP garnered a majority of legislative seats, and Obasanjo was elected president in the 1999 elections. In addition, PDP won every presidential election from 1999 to 2011.
Ever since, there have been a lot of defections from both parties, which has unsettled the dynamics of Nigerian politics. Unfortunately, many of these have been premised on marginalisation, high-handedness, and in some cases, imposition and nepotism.