History Of Political Parties In Nigeria

History Of Political Parties In Nigeria. What Is A Political Party? In a democratic system of government, a political party is an organization that subscribes to a certain ideology and seeks to attain political power through representation in government. A political party is to democracy just as fish is to water; hence, they are two indispensable companions. There is no democracy wherever there exists no party; it is the nucleus of forming government and governance in a democratic government. 

History Of Political Parties In Nigeria

In Nigeria, the history of political parties is as old as the history of the British imposition and colonization of the largest nation of the black people. It is a phenomenon that had existed even during the British rule and dominance of the political reign of the Niger area people.

Nigeria National Democratic Party (NNDP) was the first political party formed in 1922 in Nigeria by Herbert Macaulay, a grandson of Bishop Ajayi Crowther. What informed the formation of NNDP was because of the nationalist struggle of that era.

Hitherto, many African nations seek participation in governance and or independence from the wicked clutches of the imperialist. Therefore, there were struggles here and there.

History Of Political Parties In Nigeria

In West Africa for instance, after struggles by the elites of the different West African nation had failed, West African elites and patriots felt that a joint international organization could achieve the desired goal.

Therefore, in 1920, prominently the likes of Joseph Casely Hayford, a Ghanaian Lawyer, Dr. Akinwande Savage, led the front line to organize a West Africa conference. All the West African states had their various representatives, and at that conference, National Commission of British West Africa (NCBWA) was formed to further their various drives.

After the formation of NCBWA, a delegation was sent to the secretary of state for the colonies to inform him of the colonies’ demands. The delegation, inter alia, made the following demands;

  • A legislative council for each territory, with half the members, elected Africans.
  • The separation of the executive from the judiciary.
  • Appointment of and deposition of chiefs by their own people.
  • Abolition of racial discrimination in the civil service.
  • Establishment of a University in West Africa.
  • Control of taxation by African members of the legislative council.

Hence, it was obvious from these demands that the West African elites were seeking participation in the governance of their own people.

However, these people met with disappointment as Lord Milner, the colonial secretary turned down the delegation’s demands.

Quite surprising, Sir Hugh Clifford, who had earlier turned down NCBWA’s demands on 29th of December 1920, later requested that the elective principles be embedded in the new constitution he worked out for Nigeria in 1922. Hence, that was what gave birth to the Clifford constitution of 1922.

It was this Clifford constitution in 1922, the first Nigeria has ever had, that pave way for the Nigerian people to participate in governance as well. In addition, this same development gave birth to the NNDP in 1922.

When the Nigerian people saw the Clifford constitution, Herbert Macaulay wasted no time informing NNDP. In addition, the party contested and won all seats in the Lagos municipal elections of 1923, 1928, and 1933.

Still On The History Of Political Parties In Nigeria

Sooner, some young intellectuals saw the feat attained by NNDP and decided to come together to form the Lagos Youth Movement (LYM) in 1934. The party had Samuel Akinsanya, Earnest Ikoli, J.C. Vaughan, and H.O. Davies as foundation members. However, some other young intellectuals also joined the party, the likes of Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Kofo Abayomi and so on. However, the party was later changed to Nigerian Youth Movement to make it national in outlook.

Again, in 1944, another political party was birthed – the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroun (NCNC). NCNC was able to be found due to two reasons; firstly, the infusion of the southern Cameroun into the Nigeria state, which by implication, makes it a territory part of Nigeria and under the grip of the colonial authority; and secondly, the Clifford constitution of 1922 that pave way for the participation of Nigerian people in their own affair.

NCNC had Harbert Macaulay as its president and Azikwe as secretary.

Later in 1951, Nigeria again had another constitution. This time around, it was the Macpherson constitution. Macpherson constitution was not unilaterally made, the whole country participated in the making of the constitution which was completed on Saturday, June 30, 1951.

The attendant implication of the constitution was the formation of two more political parties. The Macpherson constitution gave birth to the Action Group (AG) and the Northern Peoples’s Congress (NPC) in 1951 respectively.

The AG metamorphosed from a cultural movement, Egbe Omo Oduduwa (society for the descendant of Oduduwa) that was formed in 1945 in London by Obafemi Awolowo, Ooni of Ife, and Michael Ajasin. This movement transformed into the AG at Owo in April 1951.

The NPC, on the other hand, was formed to cater for the northern people in 1951. Its membership was restricted to northerners alone. It was equally formed from an old cultural association, the Jamiyar Mutanen Arewa.

Thus, the NNDP, NYM, NCNC, AG, and NPC were the basic political parties that had existed before Nigeria’s independence. Other political parties that came thereafter were only formed for opposition sake, or for some other purposes.

For instance, Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), was founded by Mallam Aminu Kano a school teacher, to oppose the oligarchy and dominance of the NPC in the north.

The United Middle Belt Congress (UNBC) was also formed, by the merger of both Middle Belt People’s Party (MBPP) and Middle Zone League (MZL), to pursue the agenda of the middle belt people’s struggle that a state is created for them.

There was also the United National Independence Party (UNIP), a breakaway faction of the NCNC that stands as one of the main opposition party in the eastern region.

In the western region as well, Chief Akintola formed the Nigeria National Development Party (NNDP), a breakaway faction of the Action Group (AG), to also stand as the opposition party. Later on, prior to the 1964 election, Chief Akintola later merged his NNDP with the NPC and MDF to form the Nigerian National Alliance (NNA). He also formed a coalition with the NCNC in the east to found the United People’s Party (UPP).

Seeing this development, Chief Obafemi Awolowo re-organized his Action Group and sought coalition with the NCNC, UMBC, and NEPU to form the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) for the 1964 federal elections.

Thus, the main political parties, in the first republic, prior to the 1964 election, were the NNA and the UPGA. This status quo remained until the military took over and all forms of politicking were banned thenceforth.

Continuation Of The History Of Political Parties In Nigeria

This status quo was maintained until the military lifted the ban on political parties, and left the floor open for them in preparation for the 1979 election, and the transition from military rule to the civilian one. Out of the many political parties that were formed at that time, only five were registered by the Federal Electoral Commission, FEDECO. These parties are Obafemi Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Sheu Shagari’s National Party of Nigeria (NPN), the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP), the Greater Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP) and the People’s Redemption Party (PRP).

The reign of the civilian rule was also cut short abruptly by the military in 1983, and all forms of politicking were banned once again, making the reign of the civilian rule and the second republic just four years.

Thereafter, the military once again ruled and dominated the Nigerian political atmosphere for another record of 16 years. However, during the military regime of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, there was the plan to transfer power to the civilian. There was an election that was planned to be held in 1993 that shall usher in a new civilian government. Therefore, two main parties were formed. Moshood Abiola led the Social Democratic Party (SDP) while there was another party, the National Republican Party (NRP), which served as the opposition party in the 1993 annulled election.

During General Abdussalaam Abubakar’s military era in 1998, there was equally the plan to transfer power back to the civilian. The stage was set and the time was fixed for 1999. In the election that was held in 1999, two political parties contested the election. The contest was between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), a new party formed from the existing SDP of 1993, and the Alliance for Democracy (AD), a party that has its ideologies firmly rooted in the philosophies of the Action Group of 1959, and sought to pursue the ideologies of Awolowo or the Yoruba heritage. Some other parties also sprang up thereafter. Some of them include the All Peoples Party (APP) that later metamorphosed into All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), National Conscience Party (NCP) that was spearheaded by the Gani Fawehimi, a human right activist.

In this era and prior to the 2015 election, the main political parties are the PDP, All Progressive Congress (APC) that was the merger of ANPP, CPC, some faction of APGA and CAN, APGA, KOWA, AD, Labour Party etc.  

That’s all about History Of Political Parties In Nigeria.


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