Is Nigeria tilting towards two-party system?


by SINA FADARE on Aug 21, 2013

The recent registration of the All Progressives Congress, APC, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, after protracted political intrigues has come as succour to the progressive wing of the political elite, as well as indicate a drift towards a two-party system, SINA FADARE reports.

The ovation that heralded the registration of All Progressives Congress, APC, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, was a signal that there was a missing link in the political furnace of the country.

Since the return to democratic rule in 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has been the domineering political party in the country, others are just managing to survive. Against this backdrop, it is usually a PDP versus others in the past elections with the opposition, most of the time a roaring lion with poor geographical spread.

It was the former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida that first introduced the two party-system into the political lexicon of Nigeria, through the formation of the National Republican Convention, NRC and the Social Democratic Party, SDP. They were described as a bit to the right and a bit to the left, respectively. The two parties were almost equal in strength and character hence the election naturally produced a credible result.

The option A4 which allowed candidates to emerge from the grassroots gave it the needed credibility. Today, it seems the country is moving towards a two party system due to the merger of some political parties that formed the APC. This is in tandem with what operates in the United Kingdom and United States of America where there are two major prominent parties and the less strong parties.

Though political analysts see the two party-system as a political choice that gives opportunities for exploring better and credible alternative platforms during periodic elections, some politicians see it as a gag to democracy in the sense that democracy should provide opportunity for individuals to belong to any political party of his or her choice, not the compelled one under the two-party system.

Speaking shortly after the registration of the APC, the interim National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande pointed out that the party will be an alternative to the ruling PDP, adding that it will strengthened democracy and give room for a credible alternative.

Two schools of thought emerged on this controversial issue. While the first school argued that against the backdrop of our political antecedent, it is expedient to have a two-party system where if one does not meet the aspirations of the people, there will always be an alternative party to go.

Those who believe in this argument hinged their postulation on what happened during the SDP and NRC era when Nigerians witnessed one of the freest elections with the A4 option. Championing this line of thought was the former Head of State and the pathfinder of the two-party system, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, who claimed that two-party politics was necessary for the growth of the country, as well as for its unity.

The Niger State-born Army General- turned politician, pointed out that whether the country likes it or not, the two-party system has come to stay. His words: “I believe in two parties and I see signs of the possible emergence of a twoparty system, I welcome it, it is good for the polity, it is good also for the unity of this country.”

He explained that he has studied the development of party politics in the country since the First Republic and noted that the country always had the tendency of moving towards a two-party system.

“You heard about the National Alliance Parties coming from the North and aligning with those from the South, NEPU aligning with NCNC and so it started during Shehu Shagari time,” he said. He recalled with nostalgia that when his government created two parties in 1989, many people criticised it that the idea had little chance of success, adding that some people even argued that the parties would turn out to be polarised on Christians versus Muslims lines, as well as North versus the South, but things did not turn out as people thought, instead everybody blended.

Speaking in the same vein, one of the leaders in the APC merger and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu noted that the two-party system will bring sanity to the political system and it will encourage alternative government if one is not performing.

He said: “The confirmation of the registration of the party by INEC signal led the commencement of a new phase in the struggle to bring true democratic change to Nigeria. This is not just a merger. This is the first ever merger in the history of Nigeria and it represents a paradigm shift in the politics of our country. Together, we must own it. As Nigerians, we see history unfold before our eyes and we must rise up to answer the call of history to liberate our people.”

Tinubu’s assertion tallied with that of Prof. Itse Sagay, a legal icon and a chieftain of the PDP in Ondo State, Mr. Saka Lawal. The duo noted that it should be encouraged because it gives room for development.

Sagay, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, described the two- party system as the best option for Nigeria, adding that there is nothing wrong with two-party system, particularly in Nigeria, where the ruling PDP considers power as its birth right because other parties are not strong to capture power at the centre.

He argued that the coming together of some opposition parties has changed the political structure of the country, noting that Nigerians can now boast of two formidable political parties to make their choices from.

He said: “There is nothing wrong with two party systems. It guarantees stability in the polity and as well makes it easier for power to shift from one party to another and from one region to the other. “With APC coming on board as a national party, the abuse of power and the excesses of PDP would be reduced since the party is aware that the electorate have alternative in the next poll.

“Two party systems will liberate the country from political imprisonment that the PDP had subjected her to in the past 14 years. With a formidable opposition like the APC, there is the assurance that power can be wrestled from the ruling PDP, whose stock in trade are misrule and reckless display of power.”

Lawal on his part said that the merging of key opposition parties would keep the PDP on its toes. “If the PDP is in power now, it has sold transformational ideas, may be in the next four years, if Nigerians find out that it has not lived up to expectation, the APC will unseat them. Also, if APC is there and they roll out programmes and they are not living up to expectation, at the end of four years, of course PDP will unseat them. It is now two parties based on ideologies. Tell us what you want to do. After four years, Nigerians will come out and assess you based on your performance,” he said.

He added: “Two-party system is the best for Nigeria. I am a student of Political Science. All over the world, go and look at developed nations, you will see that they practice two-party system, which will make you to be either in the right or left. The middle position may be when you want to form a cabinet; you may need to go into an alliance. But again, if you look at it, two-party system is the best for Nigeria.”

However, the other school of thought argued that for a developing democracy like Nigeria, there should be a multiparty system where every electorate will have opportunity to pick any party of his or her choice without any limitation.

They argued that based on this; there would be robust politicking which will aid development of democracy. A former Minister of Transport and Aviation, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, who shared this line of thought, noted that two-party system is not good for the country’s democracy.

“I do not support a two-party system; that will be undemocratic because you don’t regiment it. When you start regimentation, then you are not defining democracy properly.” The PDP chieftain pointed out further that “as many as possible, let them (political parties) come up, then we will go for elections, the people will now decide with their votes who will govern them.”

Similarly a human rights activist and chairman of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, Comrade Debo Adeniran said that two-party system is against the basic tenets of democracy, adding that it is more or less a new wine in an old bottle.

Speaking to National Mirror, the human rights crusader pointed out that no matter whichever of the political systems the country chooses, as long as there is greed and avarice on the part of the leaders, the country may not witness the expected growth.

“The problem we have in this country is not that of political system per se, but the political elites who are so greedy, selfish, self entered, corrupt and not ready to serve humanity. That is why the country is finding it difficult to grow,” he said.

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