POLITICAL PARTY DOMINANCE AND DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA: A STUDY OF THE PEOPLES’ DEMOCRATIC PARTY (1999-2007)
1.1 Background to Study
The emergence of dominant parties in the new democracies of the developing countries has raised renewed concern regarding the relationship between party dominance and democracy, and the feasibility of the survival and sustainability of democracy in the third world. The party no doubt is the most critical institution of governance in any modern
- democracy since it recruits both the executive and legislative organs of government. The party by implication recruits the political decision-makers, whose actions and/or inactions go a long way in determining the character and destiny of the state in question. Conventionally, party systems are taxonomised according to the number of political parties in existence, or the number of parties that are actively involved in the struggle for who gets what, when and how in a given political system. And on that basis, three typologies are readily discernable, namely: one-party, two-party and multi-party systems. (Duverger; 1954:233, Sigler and Hetz; 1972:193). There is also the not too popular zero-party system, in which elections are contested by independent candidates without the use of party platforms. However, there occurs in different polities; authoritarian and democratic alike; a phenomenon where a single party dominates the polity; controlling both executive and legislative powers over time amidst other legally recognized parties. This is the case of one-party dominance.
A one-party dominant system is a democracy in which regular elections take place, opposition parties are free to express themselves, and where civil liberties are, for most part respected, but ion which political power is monopolized by a single party. (Nicola de Jager; 2006: 17). And usually, the dominant party wins more than a simple majority of votes cast at elections, dominates policy making in government, and repeatedly succeeds itself in power through elections. (Pempel; 1990: 3-4; Thackrah; 200 1 : l).Simutanyi and Mate identified five indices of measuring party dominance. These are: (a) dominance of the parliament by way of share of seats (b) degree of exclusion of the opposition in policy formulation and decision making (c) control over
the presidency (d) presence of a maximum coalition de-legitimizing opposition and, (e) weak and less institutionalized opposition. (Simutanyi and Mate; 2006: 1).
A central proposition with one-party dominance therefore, is that it is an anomaly. That it does not allow for periodic alternation of political leadership, and may undermine the democratic project by being unresponsive to popular demands. (Simultaneity and Mate: 2006: I).In general, dominant parties have been held accountable for reducing political groups from political power and representation, repressing opposition, blurring the dividing line between the party and the state, preventing policy
.-innovation, promoting system breakdown and encouraging corruption and self-centredlpersonalist behaviour (Golaszinki; 2005, Bogaards; 2003). Rhetorically, a plural society thrives upon a multiplicity of political parties which provides room for competition, and promotes representation of the diverse interests within the polity. The interplay of forces produces a kind of equilibrium which engenders political stability, and also prevents the domination of the polity by any single party or any constituent uni t of the state. (Nwabueze; 1993:232).
Nigeria’s mu1ti-party system it could be argued, contrasts sharply with the reality where at all levels of government one-party domination is the case. There are over forty political parties in Nigeria today, but the political system has been under the hegemony of a single party namely: the ruling peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) since 1999. In 1999, the PDP won majority of the seats in the National Assembly, most state houses of Assembly, gubernatorial seats, local government councils and most importantly the presidency. It was thus, able to dominate policy making at all levels of government. And through the instrumentality of the state, the ruling PDP has been able to emasculate the opposition parties. The situation became even graver in 2003, with the PDP having a landslide victory virtually in all the political zones of the country in what could be regarded as a very controversial election (Odey; 2003:46). The PDP swept over the South West; a zone hitherto controlled by the Alliance for Democracy (AD), with the exception of Lagos state. It also made serious incursions into the North West which was considered the home of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP). 2007 general elections did not make any radical departure from the trend in 2003, given the increasing domination of the
Nigerian state by the ruling party, and the apparent failure of the opposition parties to form a strong coalition.
The continued domination of the polity by a single party tends to question the feasibility of the survival of the democracy project in Nigeria. It also raises a credibility question on the character of the political elite as well as the structure and organization of the PDP itself. This research therefore, sets out to investigate the cause(s) of the dominance of the PDP over all other parties since 1999, and the implications of such dominance for democracy in Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of Problem
The transition from authoritarian regimes to democratically elected governments in the developing countries was greeted with great enthusiasm and expectation by the third wordlers themselves, and the international community at large. However, that enthusiasm that greeted the new dawn of democracy in these countries has been put in doubt by among other things, the emergence of dominant parties. The juxtaposition of dominant parties with democratic institutions – constitutions, free press, independent
.judiciary, multi-partism, etc, produces certain contradictions, which are of grave consequence for the survival and sustainability of democracy. The existence of dominant parties narrows the scope of party competition, stifles opposition, impedes political participation, deepens ideological polarization, (where such parties are formed on ideological grounds) and breeds animosity among the parties, and also among the different social, ethnic- religious, linguistic and political cleavages in society. The contradictions arising from the super imposition of dominant parties on democratic institutions has the cumulative impact of stiffing the development and sustainability of democracy.
Attempts by scholars to unravel these uncommon democracies border on class domination, “undemocratic” electoral systems such as the first-pas the post system (FPTP), manipulation of electoral laws, the revolutionary role of such parties during transition epochs, etc. Countries like South Africa, India and Zambia have attracted a great deal of intellectual attention as typical cases of one-party dominance in assumed democratic society. And the explanation, center on the revolutionary roles the African
National Congress (ANC), the India National Congress (INC), and the United National Independent Party (UNIP) played in the independence struggle of the respective countries. And none of the explanations of party dominance in the countries highlighted in the literature seem to square with the case of Nigeria.
Secondly, apart from some journalistic vituperations against the dominance of the Nigerian polity by the ruling PDP, there seems not to be any detailed analysis of the phenomenon of the one party dominance in Nigeria. This lacuna informs our point of departure from existing literature. And from our review of the literature, the following fundamental questions arise namely:
I . Is the dominance of the PDP (1999 – 2007), a function of the domination of the Nigerian State by the political elite?
- Does the organizational structure of the PDP reinforce the party’s dominance of the polity?
- Does single party dominance impede democratic stability?
1.3 Objectives of Study
This work is aimed at actualizing the following goals, namely:
- To examine the cause or causes of the dominance of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in Nigeria politics since 1999;
- To x-ray the organizational structure of the PDP in relation to its dominance of the polity;
- To investigate the effects of the dominance of the PDP on the stability and sustainability of democracy in
1.4 Significance of Study
The emergence of dominant parties in the new democracies of the developing world has raised some fundamental questions regarding the feasibility of the survival and sustainability of democracy in the third world. The question of party dominance has two cardinal dimensions – its causes and consequences. And despite having tasked the energy of scholars, the question particularly as it concerns Nigeria, has not been properly addressed. To this end therefore, this research is topical. Secondly, this work is coming at
a time when Nigeria is undergoing political transition. It is thus, a period when the dominance of the ruling party would be faced with a litmus test. The work is therefore timely.
Studies on party dominance in Africa have focused more on South Africa and Zambia, while those on Asia have paid particular attention to India. Nigeria has not attracted the intellectual attention it deserves as an emergent democracy, and as the most populous country in Africa.
This study thus, hopes to mark a turning point to Nigeria’s uncommon democracy”, and would therefore serve as an addition to the existing data bank on party dominance. This study would be of benefit to researchers, scholars, government functionaries, as well as party functionaries.
Table of Contents