Roles of Political Parties in an Election

Political parties are machinery through which politics and election are conducted. Parties live in continuous activity to achieve change or dominance in politics and election.

Political parties through continuous meeting, lectures, distribution of pamphlets, radio and television broadcast, newspaper editorials, debates, conference and publication of books, seek to organize and persuade the electorates on the advantages of their policies and the defect in their opponent programmes and thus make political discussions lively and meaningful.

The parties through its machinery select the best candidate for the election. Political parties through campaign and presentations of their programmes, manifestos and policies to the electorates enable the citizens and electorate to make a meaningful choice in their selection of parties and candidates for election.

The parties through their candidates discuss and debate political issues in newspaper, magazines, and radio and television programmees. Parties ideologies are thoroughly debated and discussed to enable the citizens make their choice.

The character of the individual who contest for a political position is brought to the knowledge of the electorates during campaigns. Political parties through their network of organization both at the national, state, local government and wards levels help to sensitize and unite citizens of various ethnic groups and religious believes.

The existence of campaigning and contesting for election makes it possible for alternative government of different party. The electorates and the citizens are given the opportunity of having a choice where the incumbent party in power fails the citizens.

The roles of party in an election are numerous. It is only through party system that the complex nature of campaigns, formulation of ideologies, programmes etc could be carried out. No single individual can easily organize himself and campaign for an election without employing the party machinery.

Party politics articulate the interest and opinions of members and this provide greater knowledge than any other system.

Party Politics in Nigeria Since 1922

The introduction of elective principles by the 1922 Clifford constitution of Nigeria helped in the formation of political parties to contest for seats in Lagos and Calabar in the Legislative Council.

Herbert Macaulay, the father of Nigerian nationalism as formed the first political party in Nigeria known as Nigerian National Democratic Party in 1923. The party dominated politics in Lagos between 1923 and 1938. In 1944 Dr, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Hervert Macaulay formed the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon.

The party was seen as the first modern political party, it was national party until 1950’s. The party changed its name to National Council of Nigerian Citizens in 1946 when Southern Cameroon ceased to be part of Nigeria. The party controlled the Nigerian politics between 1944 and 1950.

Other political parties that participated in the Lagos politics and later Nigerian politics before independence are: the Action Group formed out of cultural group known as Egbe Omo Oduduwa by Chief Obafemi Awolowo in March 1951.

The Northern People Congress formed out of a cultural organization known as Jamiyar Mutunem Arewa. The Party was formed by Sir Abubakar Tafawa Belewa with its leaders as Sarduana of Sokoto.

The above three major political parties dominated Nigeria politics before independence and in the first republic.

Other minor political parties that played significant roles in Nigeria politics during the period include Northern Northern Element Progressive Union formed in 1950, United Middle Belt Congress led by J.S Tarkar formed in 1955, United National Independence Party led by Eyo-ita, formed in 1953. Niger Delta Congress, Boronu Youth Movement and Dynamic Party.

The parties in order to successfully contest elections throughout Nigeria formed alliance namely the Nigerian National Alliance led by Sarduana of Sokoto and United Progressive Grand Alliance led by Dr. M.I Okpara. The Nigerian National Alliance was made up of NPC, NNDP, Middle Belt Democratic Font, the Niger Delta Congress, the Dynamic Party and Lagos State Front.

The United Progressive Grand Alliance was made up of the NCNC, the AG, the NEPU and the United Middle Belt Congress. The wave of politics and the struggle for dominance led to the formation of series of alliance until the demise of the first republic in January 15 1966.

The military ruled Nigeria between 1966 and 1979, 1983 and 1999 plans was to terminate military rule in 1970 for the democratic government of the second republic. In September 1978 the Unity Party of Nigeria was formed by Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

Other parties were Nigeria Advanced Party, Great Nigeria People Party, and People’s Redemption Party etc. the National Party of Nigeria dominated party politics in Nigeria and became national party. Its leader Alhaji Shehu Shagari won the presidential election in 1979 and became the first executive president of Nigeria.

Alhaji Shehu Shgari ruled Nigeria till December 31 1983 before his administration was overthrown by military coup led by Mohammadu Buhari. Between 1983 and 1999 General Mohammadu Buhari, General Ibrahim Babangida and General Abdusalami Abubakar ruled Nigeria.

However, under the leadership of General Ibrahim Babangida, party politics was allowed to usher in the third Republic. Two party system was created – the National Republican Convention and the Social Democratic party were formed. Both parties contested in the states and national elections.

In the presidential election, Chief M.K.O Abiola, contested and won the presidential election under Social Democratic Party, though the election was aborted by a legal action instituted by Association for better Nigeria.

The annulment of the presidential election led to serious political crisis in the country. General Ibrahim Bbangida stepped aside and appointed Chief Ernest Shonekan to head the Interim National Government.

The Interim National Government was shelved aside by General Sani Abacha who became the military head of state through palace coup. The death of Sani Abacha 1998 brought in General Abdusalami Abubakar who lifted ban on politics in 1998.

The lifting of the ban led to the formation of All Nigerian Peoples Party, People Democratic Party and Alliance for democracy. The People’s Democratic Party won the presidential election in 1999 and became the most popular party in Nigeria.

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who was the military head of state that handed over power to Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1979, won the presidential election and became the leader of the party and the civilian president.

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