Conflict of Party Politics and Challenges of Governance in Nigeria. An Overview Since the Start of the Fourth Republic in 1999

Scientific Essay, 2021

16 Pages






Concept of Conflict

Party Politics/interest

Political Parties and Godfatherism in Nigeria

Defection/Party Switching /Cross Carpeting





Political Parties are one of the fundamentals of Democratic governance, and it’s been adjudged the best form of government that allows equal opportunities for participation and representation all over the world. In 1999, Nigeria kick started the journey of the Fourth Republic of democratic governance uninterrupted as the case of other civilized democracies of the world. Consequently, this work examined the conflicts in political parties and its challenges on governance in the country. The study adopted the descriptive approach of analysis, and made of the strategic conflict theory, the study observed that a strong and stable political party under the rule of law will guarantee good governance, accountability transparency and many more under the law. This study further observed that the political parties in Nigeria have moved some steps forward, a lot need to be done in the areas of incessant defections/ party switching/ cross carpeting of party members from one party to another. The work also observed that the political parties need to separate party leadership from governmental leadership; the two cannot be under the leadership of one elected government official in the name of party leader. This is the result of constant conflict in the struggle to control the headship of a political party between elected officials who may have abandoned governance and other party big wigs that leads to incessant defections by those who lost out of the struggle. The study concludes that for democracy to be fully functional in Nigeria, the political parties must strengthen the party institutions and make elected leaders answerable to the party, by this act the party will remain supreme and its ideologies and manifestoes must be carried out to the later by elected representatives at all levels of governance.


On June 14, 2007, the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision of the seven justices restored Mr Peter Obi of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) as the governor of Anambra State, and ordered Dr Andy Uba of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) the “president political party” to vacate the office just two weeks after been sworn-in. Adeniyi (2011), posit that he had approached the president to get his consent to release the government position and direct those responsible for prompt enforcement of ruling which was granted by the president, before he attended to PDP big-wigs that has approached the president to express disappointment over his silence that culminate to the judgment. A strong and stable political system is one that recognises strong governmental and traditional institutions, rather than strong individuals. In other to achieve true development of the political system, there must be peace and a harmonious atmosphere of tolerance exhibited by practical political actors and the situation that must allow the criminal justice system to be up and doing, and those found subverting the rules are made to answer to it.

The magnitude of conflicts and tension in the political arena, before, during and after any electioneering period in Nigeria certainly is not something worth been swept under the carpet, however, critical stakeholders and other relevant organizations are sensitizing and urging governments and its relevant agencies to enact a collaborative and comprehensive electoral law in Nigeria, that will open up the electoral space, operate a complete electronic voting system, counting and transmission of election results electronically, this measure is believed to bring back confidence on the electoral system and reduced to its barest minimum the fraudulent manual practices the system was known for.

Tajudeen, (2006) stated that the political conflict between Obasanjo and Atiku affected the governance of the country, Atiku wants to succeed Obasanjo as President, The President, on his part, never wanted Atiku, rather opt to sack him, but because he lacks the political support of the National Parliament to carry it through. Instead, he chose to humiliate, subvert, corner, marginalise, undermine and also go after anyone suspected to be loyal to Atiku within the ruling people’s democratic party, in the hope that Atiku 'will see sense', mend his ways or just quit.

It has become a norm in Nigeria to witness defections from one political party to the other during any election period; this is so because party membership in Nigeria is not based on ideological grounds, but on personal gains and aggrandizement, Onu (2010), observed the brewing air of conflict in the Anambra state chapter of APGA following the influx defection of members from the PDP to the party ahead of the 2011 general elections, because APGA is the ruling party in the state, leading the defectors is Senator Joy Emodi of the PDP. In the same vein, in line with the 2015 general election loading, Ifoh (2010), reports that, the PDP has amongst others granted waiver to the former governor of Ekiti state Ayo Fayose with effect from September, 14, 2011, “The party said, by this action, Fayose is cleared to enjoy all rights and privileges of a member of the PDP without let or hindrance”. The present political party system in Nigeria consciously or unconsciously have thrown up an unequal participating relationship among party members and defectors, the arrangement before defection grants some express privileges to defectors over and above aboriginal party members, this could be said to account for some of the violent conflict that has been experienced in the political parties, successive political parties has been fingered to be guilty of the same situation of encouraging defections without cogent and verifiable reasons, by their constant unwillingness to take appropriate and decisive decision to amend the parties constitutional provisions that allows party members the latitude to constant defection during any election period, it is the view of the researcher that some very stringent measures be adopted in the parties constitutions to restrain incessant defections, it will curtail the level of intra party conflict because there will be no party to run to in the name of defection after destroying one.

Party politics in Nigeria is concentrated with high tension of violence and conflict, with the sole aim of elected officials of government struggling to control the structural formation of a political party, to decide what happens in the party during conventional and general elections thereby abandoning governance for which such individual was elected, Alechenu (2016), observed that the “crisis that rock the Kano State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) between supporters of Governor Umar Ganduje and ex-Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso was the struggle to control the soul of the party at the state”, it caused amongst others, the removal of the Chief Whip of the state House of Assembly Hon. Zubairu Mamuda Madobi, representing Madobi, the former governor’s local government, for his refusal to recognise Ganduje as the leader of the party, as required by the majority members, suspension of the state party chairman Umar Doguwa a known Kwankwaso allies, the chairman’s offence was that he dissociated himself from a statement where the majority of the state leadership of the party pledged allegiance to Ganduje, his words “I felt duty bound to unequivocally make the following facts clearer to our esteemed followers that the previous press statement read and signed by me was not written by my humble self, neither did I participate in the drafting. Rather, I was coerced to sign under duress and close marking by the state apparatus.” This act caused him his chairmanship of the party as he was replaced with Ganduje’s Political Adviser and secretary of the party Abdullahi Abbass, as the new acting party chairman. The decision was endorsed by 43 out of the 44 local government chairmen in the state as well as members of the state House of Assembly at a well attended meeting in Kano on Saturday, 19, 2016. The new party chairman Abbass had while addressing journalists in Kano on Thursday, said Kwankwaso faced suspension from the party for sponsoring a violent rally while paying a condolence visit to the governor over the death of his mother. All this political drama is meant to cut Kwankwaso to size, because it was under his watch the Exco members were elected, as he was the then state governor.


This study is anchored on the Strategic Conflict Theory by Karl Marx, with its claim that society has been in a state of continued and perpetual conflict as a result of incessant competition over the scarce and limited resources of society available. The theory posit that society is held in order by power and domination, rather than conformity and consensus, because, people in power and wealth will apply all known and unknown means to hold onto it by suppressing the poor and the powerless, it is a theory that explains how individuals and groups works to maximize their benefits over and above general interest.

The theory is used to explain most causes of conflict in political parties to be centered on the struggle to control the political structures of the party to have unrestricted access to decision making in the party, decide party flag bearers for the purposes of contesting elections, recognition and nomination of party stalwart for appointments and other benefits.

In a political system, for voters to make meaningful decisions, they must understand the options the polity faces and therefore Citizens must have a sufficient knowledge of the workings of the political system if they intend to influence and control the actions of their elected representatives. Almond and Verba (1963), as cited in Russell and Klingemann (2011), for example have, considered cognition important in defining a political culture, and Dahl (1989), stressed the quality of the political debate as a precondition to arrive at what he has called “enlightened understanding.” This will be considered as fundamentals to all political participation, an unenlightened personality in the political arena is a total disservice to the economic and political development of the community. New studies have found committed political interest of the public spreading more among the developing nations and new democracies, they uncover higher levels of interest and awareness than was originally expected by the early political culture research, according to, Bratton, Mattes, and Gyimah-Boadi 2004; Chu et al. 2008). Had argued that in the modern world, more citizens are eager to become politically aware and interested in the affairs of government because those affairs affect their daily lives and settles their economic and political needs.

Concept of Conflict

The concept of conflict has become a serious issue of study, Abba (1972), described conflict as “With or without a fight, there is a settlement or compromise in which the rights are defined. Those who benefit from the activity gain the approval of those who object by giving them something to get them to agree”. However, the solution is essentially the transformation of the conflict from a political problem to an economic transaction and that “an economic transaction is a solved political problem”. An unjust economic and political transaction “Allows the possibility for conflict, which amounts to recognizing the possibility that property rights are not perfectly and costlessly enforced represents a significant departure from the traditional paradigm of economics.” Garfinkel and Skaperdas (2007). Bowles and Gintis (1988, 1990) stated that “Contested exchange entails conflicts that cannot be resolved through voluntary contracts but is confronted with social conflict which entails unsolved political problems.

Olaoba (2002) argued that “conflict can be caused by several factors including, clashes of personality, confrontation between man and his community, and inter-community” furthermore, he believed that the pursuit of values and claims to scarce resources, power and status are potential stimulus to conflict.

Nwolise (2004), agreed that “conflict can be caused by other factors such as dispute over inheritance, land, boundaries, bunkering, citizenship rights, greed, predatory rule, autocracy, dictatorship, alienation, ethnic rivalry and religious intolerance, illiteracy, infrastructural decay, poverty, debt, unemployment and many more can be a great cause of conflict, as unresolved grievances, territorial ownership, chieftaincy tittles, sex matters as they concern wife or daughter and family properties are all causes of conflict in traditional African societies.

Violence conflict has characterised various elections circle in Nigeria since 1999 as parties allege rigging and intimidation and noticeable insecurity issues in the land which led to scores of uncountable political assassination as a way of settling political scores, the police are yet or unable to trace their killers. According to Sani (2007), some of the affected politicians include the following: Odunayo Olagbaju, a member of Osun State House of Assembly; Olayiwola Lawrence, Chairman of Alliance for Democracy (AD) in Ile-Ife, Eze Odumegwu Okonkwo, ANPP leader in Nnewi, Anambra state; Chief Bola Ige, AD stalwart and also the then Attorney-general and Minister of Justice in PDP’s government; Harry Marshal an ANPP chieftain, Aminosari Dikibo, National Vice chairman (south-south) of the PDP, Chief Andrew Agom, Member Board of Trustees PDP, Hajia Saadatu Rimi, wife of Abubakar Rimi, former PDP chieftain in ACD... Jesse Anukwu, Funsho Williams and Ayo Daramola, all three of them being gubernatorial aspirants for the 2007 elections (Sani; 2007).

Party Politics/interest

In a democratic process, a politician will defect from one political party to another, when his or her political interest is no longer guaranteed, interest is the fundamental drive in political participation. According to Klingemann (1979), as he posit that, political interest is the main component of political motivation, which is essential for participation in the democratic process, he said it is a desired characteristics of a responsible and democratic citizen, whose critical loyalty, ability, and readiness for political participation is guaranteed by law. The argument over the political consciousness and enlightenment of the voting public remain one of the major controversies in the political behavior of modern democracies. As (Campbell et al. 1960; Converse 1964; Butler and Stokes 1969), observed that “the early empirical surveys found that the public’s political sophistication fell short of the theoretical ideal even in the established democracies”. They argued that for most politically conscious citizens, political interest and involvement extend beyond casting an occasional vote in national elections. Furthermore, they argued that some politically unconscious people apparently brought very little understanding to their political participation. For such people it was not clear that voting decisions were based on rational evaluations of candidates, parties, and their issue positions.

In their discussion over the political imbroglio in Akaw Ibom state, Dakar/Brussels, (2018), state that, there has been many side to the reason of split between PDP Governor Udom Emmanuel and his predecessor Godswill Akpabio, some attribute the falling-out to Emmanuel’s alleged reluctance to complete some projects started by Akpabio; others say it was a dispute over who to control the state party machinery. This led former governor Akpabio and his followers take a political decision on the 8 of August 2018, defected to the APC, switching his support to Nsima Ekere, who later emerged as the APC’s gubernatorial candidate. This position can be viewed from two perspectives, one is the struggle to hold onto the party mercenary at the state, and second is the political interest to he pursued to protect.

The rot in Nigerian political system have left many people believed as Esiemokhai (2010), puts it, in vote rigging, corruption, electoral malpractices, intrigue, subterfuge, mindless violence and the pursuit of reactionary-minded tendencies that are anti-democratic as a norm to gaining political power. As noted by Anifowose (2004), from the restoration of civil rule in 1999, the political scene has witnessed frequent discords, unresolved political issues, recriminations, threats of impeachments of executives, treacheries, flagrant breach of party rules, carpet- crossings, inter-communal rivalries and resurgence of factional cleavages within the parties which have continued to undermine the growth of democracy in Nigeria. Sniderman and Levendusky (2007), “have asked the pragmatic question of how people make life decisions including whom to vote for in the next election”. It is this character of political participation that has rendered the existing political parties in Nigeria impotent, largely for their barrenness in ideas and ideological dispositions, and owned by a handful of persons with which to trade and bargain for material benefits Oyovbaire (2007).

Every organized institution must operate on the ethics of law, political party laws tends to vary across different types of political regimes: authoritarian regimes may use party laws to limit political competition; new democracies may adopt them to contain the rise of anti-democratic tendencies, specifically anti- democratic parties (Nikolenyi, 2011, cited in Omilusi, 2015); while stable democracies resort to the use of party laws either to safeguard the democratic fundamentals of political parties (ibid).

Political Parties and Godfatherism in Nigeria

Miriam Webster dictionary defines ‘political party’ as “a group of persons organized for the purpose of directing the policies of Government. Eke (2000), state that the political system is a clearly organized unit of governance established as a means of social control or regulation designed to keep the behaviours of individuals and groups within certain bounds, said to be political, and to make, and implement decisions on behalf of the entire society. By political party we mean an organized group of people with political and ideological agenda, who field candidates for elections, in an attempt to get them elected into government positions and thereby implement the party's agenda. Almond and Verba (1963), maintained that democracy was based on a supportive public that endorsed a democratic system even in times of tumult.

The Nigeria political system can be traced as far back as 1922 with the formation of Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) by Herbert Macaulay to take advantage of the new Clifford Constitution, which succeeded the 1914 Nigerian Council. The party worked so hard, that it won all the seats in the elections of 1923, and maintained the winning through 1928 and 1933. Though, the party's major function was to put candidates into the legislative council, it had a broader objective of promoting democracy in Nigeria, increasing higher Nigerian participation in the social, economic and educational development of Nigeria. The party continued to dominate politics in Lagos until 1938, when the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) formed by Dr. J.C Vaughan and Ernest Ikoku in 1934 overtook it in elections Meredith (2005).

The National Council of Nigeria and the Camerouns (NCNC) came to being in 1944. In 1948 some Northerners formed what was initially called JAMI YAR MUTANEN AREWA but later renamed Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and led by Ahmadu Bello, the Saduana of Sokoto. The Action Group was formed in 1951, led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Some registered Political Parties in the fourth republic starting from 1999 has reached some alarming tune with INEC registering well over 87 parties, for the purpose of this study we shall few of the prominent ones that enjoy national spread. PDP, APC, APGA, ANPP, ACN, AD, APP, LP, AC, UNPP, ADC-

Some major problems associated with political leadership in Nigeria it’s the endorsement and recruitment of candidates for elective and appointive positions by godfathers. The example of the “strong man of Oyo State” as he is fondly referred to, the late Lamidi Adedibu he held the state captive that he can single handedly enthroned and dethroned governors and other political office holders. According to Adedibu:... You (Ladoja) kept government away from me for 28 months? ... The government that, by the grace of God, I gave to you... I put him (Ladoja) there, so if I am demanding money, will it be wrong? Do I need to ask for it before he gives me? (Omotoso (2012) cited Adedibu in Tell, 2006). Omotoso stressed that these crises shook most statesin Nigeria to their foundations, polarizing the states along godfather and godson/governor camps, distracting governments and destroying governance. Most of the states concerned are without development projects that are commensurate with the quantum of resources available to them. Such resources were diverted, misappropriated and mismanaged to the satisfaction of the godfathers but to the detriment of the people.

Defection/Party Switching /Cross Carpeting

The term political party defection, party switching/ cross carpet they all mean one and the same thing, the Merriam Webster dictionary meaning suggests the word is derived from the Latin word ‘defectio’, indicating ‘an act of conscious abandonment of allegiance or duty as to a cause or doctrine to which such person is bound, to go over to the side of an opponent. Defection, as noted by Malhotra as cited in Ogundiya (2011), is used to refer to the departure or decamping of a member from a political party to join another political party, typically because of discontent in his/her existing party, and depending on the position of the person, it may be given a different name such as party switching or crossing the floor. This term is also applied, often pejoratively, to anyone who switches loyalty to another religion, sports, team, political party, or other rival faction. In that sense, the defector is often considered a traitor by their original side.


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Conflict of Party Politics and Challenges of Governance in Nigeria. An Overview Since the Start of the Fourth Republic in 1999
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conflict, party, politics, challenges, governance, nigeria, overview, since, start, fourth, republic
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Benjamin Ibietonye (Author), 2021, Conflict of Party Politics and Challenges of Governance in Nigeria. An Overview Since the Start of the Fourth Republic in 1999, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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