A Picasso at his prime will definitely not find the right colors to painting what the Nigerian Political sphere looks like, even the average Nigerian are constantly left in awe, daily dazzled by the ever-changing dynamics of the Nigerian political system. It is a large, exciting stage with so many actors, heroes, heroine, villains and antagonist. It is one which can be summed up with the term, “wild” and the statement, ”survival of the fittest” as its motto. It is a game of national workings from the grassroots largely defined by permutations by its active players where people act not necessarily in the interest or with the interest of the people or nation at large but with the mind and sole purpose of personal enriching and glorification. The words manipulation, tribalism, bigotry, Godfatherism in Nigeria, embezzlement, election rigging and many other anti-progress terms have found itself adapting into the urban definition of the Nigerian Politics.
A daily glance at the pages of the nation’s dailies, from the Punch Newspaper to the Nation, Vanguard, and other Nigerian political forums will reveal the different intrigues of our national discourse. Even entertainment blogs in Nigeria try to feature some Nigerian politics blog contents to regularly discuss politics in Nigeria. Perhaps the most interesting part is that political forums across different regions focus a lot of divergent views ranging from zoning, to policies, to religion, among others.
For a long time, the political environment in Nigeria has featured severe contestations among the country’s diverse ethnic groups. This legacy of contestations has created a multi-layered and multi-faceted political structure that is peculiar to Nigeria. In Nigeria, politics is interspersed by ethnicity, making it a collective means to rights and ownership. The Nigerian federation remains sloppy, contested and conflict-infected; from independence in 1960, Nigeria has been struggling to survive not only in managing society but also in improving the socio-economic conditions of the people. Its political landscape has been inundated with military interventions and unhealthy competition. To a large extent, these incidents have shaped how we can understand the different forms and dynamics of politics in Nigeria today. They have also influenced democratic practices, maintenance of peace and tranquility and Nigeria’s development trajectory. Consequently, the texts in this reading list, while not exhaustive, attempt to expand on how Nigerian politics arrived at what it is today.
The transition to the Fourth Republic in 1999 served as a turning point in Nigeria’s politics. So far, it has been the longest period of democratic governance in Nigeria, and one that has seen Nigeria’s political landscape transition from an embryonic state towards maturity. Many, as the texts in this reading list suggest, have argued that the long periods of military dictatorship that preceded the Fourth Republic undermined democratic practices in Nigeria, hindering the country from achieving the dividends of democracy even after 1999. This argument has some merit, as not only did military rule truncate Nigeria’s political development, it also stunted the organic growth of Nigerian society. Some of the incidents that occurred under military rule in Nigeria, include the 1966 coup d’état and counter-coups that eventually led to the civil war, the uprooting of civil practices, the introduction of ill-suited policies, the annulment of the June 12 general elections in 1993, and many others.
Current Political Context
No doubt that Nigeria is a major force to be contented with in Africa in terms of political strength, which has made her a driving force in West Africa and Africa at large.
The country is composed of 36 autonomous states and one Federal Capital Territory. The political landscape is partly dominated by the ruling All Progressives Congress party (APC) which holds 210 out of 360 seats at the National Assembly, and 62 out of 109 seats in the Senate. 19 out of 36 State Governors are also members of the APC.
The incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari secured a second term after the 2019 presidential elections in Nigeria, while the results were contested by the main opposition party the People’s Democratic Party (PDP – 139 seats at the National Assembly and 42 senatorial seats). Since 2011, the Nigerian security landscape has been consistently shaped by the war against Boko Haram terrorist group in the northern states. This adds to a lasting crisis in the oil-rich Niger Delta, where several non-state armed groups attack oil companies and state-owned pipelines.
There are various active players within the Nigeria Political system which I will be explaining in the paragraphs to come, these characters are in their own way contributed to the workings of our political system, based on all indices and personal conviction of how well the Nigerian politics have done, I choose not to use the word growth or developed with the Nigerian Political system as by all indication, the institution against the ideal setting and template of a 21st century properly called political system have not matured or undergone any serious positive changes or development.
High political instability often results in the postponement of elections. However, the All Progressives Congress (APC) secured a majority in the bicameral House of Representatives in March 2015. With the exception of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), political parties are generally based on tribal or regional identity rather than ideology. In 2013, several popular parties came together to form the All Progressives Congress (APC) party. Main political parties include:
– All Progressives Congress (APC): progressive
– People’s Democratic Party (PDP): centre-right, typically attracts national support holding more than half of parliamentary seats
– Labour Party (LP) : centre-left
– All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA): progressive
– Social Democratic Party (SDP): centre-left, moderate
-Accord Party (ACC): capitalism, populism
-Young Progressive Party (YPP): social democracy
The President of the Republic is both the Head of State and Head of Government. The President is elected by popular vote for a four-year term, renewable once.
The two-chamber National Assembly consists of the Senate (109 seats: three per state plus one for the capital Abuja), whose members are elected by popular vote for a four-year term, and the House of Representatives (360 seats), whose members are also elected by popular vote for a four-year term. Each federal state has its own legislative body and a governor elected for four years by vote. The laws vary significantly among the states, particularly due to the application of Sharia law in some of the states.
Discussing it’s the political parties within the Nigerian Political system, since the beginning of the Nigeria’s fourth republic where the People’s Democratic Party ruled under the leadership of Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, political parties have come to assume a major place and of great responsibilities in the shaping of the Nigerian Political outlook. The People’s Democratic Party [PDP] and the Action Congress [AC] which later changed to become the All Progressive Congress [APC] which saw to the emergence of the incumbent President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, have both been responsible for a larger chunk of the nation’s lot.
In between them, they have produced four presidents who have ruled the nation at one time or the other, namely, former president Olusegun Obasanjo, Late President Umar Yar’adua, Goodluck, Jonathan and the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari. The Nigerian political parties and its institution is one which is tasked to provide a platform for people, otherwise known as politician the platform to contest or run for any political position, also they are meant to serve as a pressure group in the affairs of the nation, however the evolution of political parties within the Nigerian political system has seen it trumped the beauty and sole objective of a democratic system.
Under the guise and the place of what we call the ruling system in Nigeria, the institution called democracy has been undermined and has greatly been undermined as the Nigerian political parties, especially the ruling party has always come to assume great political party which places them above the rule of law.
It is often hard to effect any meaningful and positive change within the Nigerian Political system without the seal or the influence of its Political party or better put the ruling party. It has become a common feature of this institution to always tailor the activities of the politicians under its umbrella to always suit the party’s lot, that is every developmental process, or policies which might go against or undermine the importance and relevance of the party but will serve the better good of all are always carpeted.
The word governance has been sabotaged by the various act of permutations which has become the order of the day with the Nigerian political system. The emergence of Godfathers in Nigerian politics has created a new order which has also become a major feature of our political system. With the emergence of these set of people who can now according to their internal workings has become the king makers and shakers of our political system. They grow so powerful as they accumulate power over the years and with each coming elections that they can single handedly change or alter the course of the nation to suit their arrangement. The on-going tussle between the incumbent governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki and Adams Oshiomhole is a typical example of this scenario. Several other politicians in the fourth republic in various states of the federation has assumed this role which has made many of the holders of our public offices become nothing but ceremonial heads or puppet as the real decision makers are the Godfathers who are actively involved in the governance and movement of our political sojourn.
Adding to the system of the Nigerian Political Parties is the feature of cross-carpeting which has become one of the major features of the typical Nigerian politicians. This is the case whereby politician move from one party to another with no recourse to the values of the political parties involved or their ideology.
While the Nigerian Political Party system in the Nigerian Politics still have a long way to go in assuming full political maturity, it is only fair and objective to do admit that the sustenance of the nation’s democratic system has been greatly facilitated by the place and institution of the Nigerian Political Parties.
The People– the Nigerian people who can be better explained as the Electorate is another major player of the Nigerian Political system or better put, the Nigerian Politics. The Nigerian political system constitutionally is a democratic one which by defaults makes the people who are the electorate a major force in the affairs of the nation. Over the years since the beginning of the forth republic, the nation’s ruler’s has been chosen by these set of people as in the case of every Nigerian elections. The relevance of the electorate comes into full play with the coming of every election year. Even though the result of every election in the history of the nation have always left more to be desired in the light of the various cases of electoral riggings and manipulations, the activities of the Godfathers and other characters, nevertheless every government needs political legitimacy, that it is must ensure that there is a popular support from the masses. While there has been little to show as the dividend of democracy in Nigeria within the Nigerian system on the part of the masses, there has been various calls for restructuring or Revolution in Nigeria.
The Nigeria’s economic growth has received a dip in its fortune which has taken a big hit especially at small businesses in Nigeria. The constant use and manipulations of Religion and politics in Nigeria to exploit the masses, using these factors as a divisive tool among Nigerians, a country which houses different ethnic groups, and has a pluralistic outlook has become an eyesore in the country’s national discourse. Nigerian jobs have remained very scarce despite continuous job creation promises by politicians.
While the ideal democratic system posit that the people must be actively involved in the national dealings of the nation, the people has become a peripheral figure in the affairs of the nation, with nothing to show for their relevance within the Nigeria politics except the need comes for them to exercise their franchise which is always manipulated.
The various acts of irregularities within the Nigerian Political system has resulted in the political apathy of many Nigerian Elites, who have removed themselves from the national scene of the nation’s affairs, as they have choose to observe from afar leaving the scene for mediocre and charlatans who have continued to exploit and abuse the system, jeopardizing the growth and development of the nation
The Judiciary/Legislative– for a body vested with making of laws and the interpretation of laws, the judicial body is designed to be independent from political influence but has over the years found it-self in the waters of political manipulations. The Nigerian masses is expected to find redress in the arms of the judicial system but however it has failed to fully perform it role as it has been hijacked by the various workings and permutations of the active players of the Nigerian politics. However in recent times they have been able to record some several wins for the common Nigerian people. However the Nigerian Judicial system needs a long way to go in earning the trust of the masses as a body which can truly give them the legal assurance and confidence they need by ensuring that the virtue of constitutionalism is uphold in the country, that is the strict obedience to the rule of law and the Nigerian constitution. Also the legislative body charged with the making of laws and policies which can facilitate the growth and development of Nigeria has seen itself diverted from law-making to active politics. The Nigerian national assembly, the upper house and the lower house has become a setting for strong politics which has no benefit for the average and common Nigeria. As many will choose to see it, it has become a den for retired politicians to loot and empty the national treasury of the nation.
Considering the activities of the various players within the Nigerian Political system, the nation has seen various intrigues and plays which has in no way being of many benefit for the growth and development of the nation, there is an urgent need for a total revamp of the system. The nation Nigeria is regarded as the Giant of Africa, however this tag has not come to fruition or reality as it has struggled to live up to this hype. The Nigerian Political system do have a very big responsibility to ensuring the rebirth of a progressive nation, their failure to address the sinking ship called Nigeria might inevitably lead to a forceful revolution or restructuring which might not be of the best ideas, as the way forward can only be birth from a conscious and a well calculated attempt and working to see a new Nigeria. The Nigerian people have suffered over the years as a few section of its populace have only enjoyed the dividends of the nation’s democratic process.
The future of the nation rest on the ability of the Nigeria political structure to be led and structured after the tenets of the constitution, which however needs a revamp to suit the current realities of the 21st century realities. The Nigerian people must ensure that they rise from their slumber to demand for good governance and accountability from its political leaders else we watch while the nation heads for an iceberg.
Finally, I wish to recommend to my readers who wish to learn a lot more about Nigerian politics and plausible solutions to our current crisis a book that I consider as the best book on Nigerian politics today – “Liberating Nigeria: A Guide to Winning Elections”, with foreword by Nigeria’s leading human rights lawyer – Mr Femi Falana SAN, and written by a US-based Nigerian engineer and entrepreneur, Debo Onifade. I have read many books on Nigeria, but this was my best read in the last several years because it focused a lot more on reasonable solutions rather than the problems. The author demonstrated good patriotism and outstanding knowledge of Nigeria’s political problems.
By Marcus Amudipe