Brief History of Elections in Nigeria
The Federal Republic of Nigeria is gearing up for another election season to determine its 6th democratically elected leader in its 55 years as an independent nation.
Elections in Nigerian have occasionally been marred by accusations of widespread electoral fraud and in some instances, deadly violence. This has instigated political instability largely characterized by 27 years of military leadership, with each government attempting to establish its own identity.Nigeria’s first national elections took place in 1959, in preparation for independence with 3 political parties dominating the scene. The largest of the three political parties was the Nigerian People’s Congress (NPC) – representing conservative Muslim interests; the second largest was the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) – which represented the interests of the Igbo and Christian dominated population of the Eastern Region of Nigeria; the Action Group (AG) was the third political party and it largely catered to the interests of the Yoruba population in the West.
Former Governor General Nnamdi Azikwe was elected Nigeria’s first President in October 1963. However, his leadership was short-lived as a result of a bloody military coup on 15 January 1966.
Nigeria would witness its next democratic rule 12 years later, in the 2nd republic, with the election of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, under the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in 1979. Alhaji Shehu Shagari was re-elected in 1983, amidst widespread accusations of electoral fraud. The ensuing violence in 1983 prompted a military coup that saw a halt to democracy in Nigeria for a little over 15 years, with successive military dictators assuming power.
Nigeria’s return to democratic rule began with the 4th republic in 1999 with former Military Head of State, Lt. General Olusegun Obasanjo being elected President under the platform of the Peoples Democratic party (PDP). Four years later, Nigeria would see Olusegun Obasanjo continue in Aso Rock after winning re-election by a landslide, still under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Obasanjo’s political successor in the 2007 general election was Umaru Yar’adua, from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who ran with Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as his Vice Presidential candidate. Due to medical reasons, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan served as acting President, in the place of Yar’adua – who would later be declared dead in May 2010.
A vacuum in office necessitated a new leader and a general election was held in April 2011 with PDP once again providing the winning candidate in Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
Major Political Parties in the Political Scene
The Independent National Electoral Commission reveals on its website that there are 26 officially registered political parties in Nigeria. However, for the past decade and a half, Nigeria has witnessed a two-party system that has stifled other political parties out of the political scene. These dominant parties have ‘successfully’ consolidated their powers in strategic geographical zones, although, only one party – PDP, has ever ruled the nation.
Currently, PDP controls 20 states in Nigeria; APC controls 14 states in Nigeria with the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the Labour Party (LP) having one stage each.