Skip to main content Accessibility help

Two-Partyism and Democratic Transition in Nigeria

  • Oyeleye Oyediran and Adigun Agbaje

After coming to power in 1985 via what might be described as a ‘palace coup’, General Ibrahim Babangida quickly earned himself the sobriquet of the ‘Maradona’ of Nigerian politics. In October 1989 the President surpassed his own record of unpredictability and unorthodoxy, and surprised even the closest watchers of his military régime by announcing that two parties would be established by fiat and provided with initial funding in the context of the agreed programme of transition to democratic civilian rule, laid out between 1986 and 1987, and scheduled to terminate with the inauguration of the Third Republic in 1992.

Hide All

1 The Guardian (Lagos), 9 10 1989, p. 4.

2 Ibid. p. 7.

3 Ofeimun, Odia, ‘Democracy by Fiat’, in West Africa (London), 18–24 12, 1989, pp. 2091–3.Cf. Uwazurike, P. Chudi, ‘Confronting Potential Breakdown: the Nigerian redemocratisation process in critical perspective’, in The Journal of Modern African Studies (Cambridge), 28, 1, 03 1990, pp. 65–6, and Anthony A. Akinola, ‘A Critique of Nigeria's Proposed Two-Party System’, in ibid. 27, 1, March 1989, pp. 109–23.

4 Joseph, Richard, ‘The Challenge of Democratization in Africa’, in The Carter Center, African Governance in the 1990s (Atlanta, 1990), p. 18.

5 Daily Times (Lagos), 14 12 1990, p. 1.

6 Cf. Young, Crawford, ‘Beyond Patrimonial Autocracy: the African challenge’, in The Carter Center, Beyond Autocracy in Africa (Atlanta, 1989), p. 23;Diamond, Larry, Linz, Juan J., and Lipset, Seymour Martin, ‘Introduction: comparing experiences with democracy’, in Diamond, , Linz, , and Lipset, (eds.), Politics in Developing Countries: comparing experiences with democracy (Boulder and London, 1990), p. 25;Lipset, Seymour Martin, Political Man: the social bases of politics (Baltimore, 1981), p. 227;Powell, G. B., Contemporary Democracies: participation, stability and violence (Cambridge, Mass., 1982), p. 74;Duverger, Maurice, Political Parties: their organization and activity in the modern state (New York, 1954 edn.); and Diamond, Larry, ‘Three Paradoxes of Democracy’, in Journal of Democracy (Washington, D.C.), 1, 3, Summer 1990, pp. 113.

7 Diamond, , Linz, , and Lipset, , loc. cit. pp. 25–6;Lipset, Seymour Martin, The First New Nation (New York, 1979), pp. 307–10; Duverger, op. cit; Linz, Juan J., ‘Crisis, Breakdown, and Reequilibration’, in Linz, and Stepan, Alfred (eds.), The Breakdown of Democratic Regimes (Baltimore, 1978), pp. 25–7;Sartori, Giovanni, Parties and Party Systems: a framework for analysis (Cambridge, 1976), pp. 131–40; and Akinola, loc. cit. pp. 110–13.

8 Diamond, , Linz, , and Lipset, , loc. cit. p. 26.

9 Horowitz, Donald L., Ethnic Groups in Conflict (Berkely and Los Angeles, 1985), pp. 291 and 312 and Young, op. cit. pp. 23–4.

10 Diamond, Larry, ‘Introduction: roots of failure, seeds of hope’, in Diamond, , Linz, Juan J., and Lipset, Seymour Martin (eds.), Democracy in Developing Countries, Vol. 2, Africa (Boulder and London, 1988), p. 19.

11 Finer, S. E., The Man on Horseback (London, 1962);Londregan, J. B. and Poole, K. T., ‘Poverty, the Coup Trap and the Seizure of State Power’, in World Politics (Princeton), 42, 2, 01 1990, p. 152; and Stepan, Alfred, Rethinking Military Politics: Brazil and the Southern Cone (Prineton, 1988).

12 See Agbaje, Adigun, ‘Travails of the Secular State: religion, politics and the outlook on Nigeria's Third Republic’, in Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics (London), 28, 3, 11 1990, pp. 288308.

13 Young, loc. cit. p. 24, and the arguments in Horowitz, op. cit.

14 Diamond, Larry, ‘Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict’, in The Journal of Modern African Studies, 21, 1, 03 1987, p. 127.

15 Ake, Claude, ‘The Case for Democracy’, in African Governance in the 1990s, p. 4.

16 Horowitz, op. cit. pp. 143, 187, and 223–6.

17 Diamond, Larry, ‘Cleavage, Conflict, and Anxiety in the Second Nigerian Republic’, in The Journal of Modern African Studies, 20, 4, 12 1982, pp. 629–31; Horowitz, op. cit. p. 682; Diamond, Linz, and Lipset, loc. cit. p. 29; and Bach, Daniel, ‘Managing a Plural Society: the boomerang effects of Nigerian federalism’, in Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, 27, 2, 07 1989, pp. 218–45.

18 Sklar, Richard L., ‘No Perestroika without Glasnost’, in Beyond Autocracy in Africa, p. 143.

19 Diamond, Larry, ‘Beyond Autocracy: prospects for democracy in Africa’, and Bratton, Michael, ‘Beyond Autocracy: civil society in Africa, in Ibid. pp. 25 and 31, respectively.

20 Cf. Joseph, Richard A., Democracy and Prebendal Politics in Nigeria: the rise and fall of the Second Republic (Cambridge, 1987);Sklar, Richard L., Nigerian Political Parties (Princeton, 1963);Diamond, Larry, ‘Class Formation in the Swollen African State’, in Journal of Modern African Studies, 25, 4, 12 1987, pp. 567–96;Young, Crawford, ‘Patterns of Social Conflict: state, class and ethnicity’, in Daedalus (Cambridge, Mass.), 111, 2, 1982;Diamond, Larry, Class, Ethnicity and Democracy in Nigeria: the failure of the First Republic (London, 1988); and Hyden, Goran, ‘Problems and Prospects of State Coherence’, in Rothchild, Donald S. and Olorunsola, Victor (eds.), State Versus Ethnic Claims: African policy dilemmas (Boulder, 1983).

21 Sklar, , cited in Diamond, Class, Ethnicity and Democracy in Nigeria, p. 1.

22 Schatz, Sayre P., ‘Pirate Capitalism and the Inert Economy of Nigeria’, in The Journal of Modern African Studies, 22, 1, 03 1984, p. 55.

23 Rothchild, Donald and Foley, Michael W., ‘African States and the Politics of Inclusive Coalitions’, in Rothchild, and Chazan, Naomi (eds.), The Precarious Balance: state and society in Africa (Boulder and London, 1988), pp. 234–5.

24 Diamond, , ‘Class Formation in the Swollen African State’, p. 592.

25 Ake, cited in ibid. p. 594.

26 Diamond, , ‘Class Formation in the Swollen African State’, p. 594.

27 Gaetano Mosca, cited in ibid. p. 595.

28 Young, , ‘Beyond Patrimonial Autocracy’, p. 23.

29 Hyden, Goran, ‘Community Governance and “High” Politics’, in Beyond Autocracy in Africa, p. 2.

30 Chazan, Naomi, ‘Planning Democracy in Africa: a comparative perspective on Nigeria and Ghana’, in Policy Sciences (Amsterdam), 22, 1989, p. 327.

31 Diamond, , Linz, , and Lipset, , loc. cit. p. 27.

32 Chazan, , ‘Planning Democracy in Africa’, p. 327.

33 Shivji, Issa G., ‘The Pitfalls of the Debate on Democracy’, in IFDA Dossier (International Federation for Development Alternatives, Nyon, Switzerland), 79, 1012 1990.

34 Cf. the debate between Thandika Mkandawire and Peter Anyang' Nyong'o, featured in African Governance in the 1990s, pp. 7–17, and the comments about this by Shivji, loc. cit. See also, Oyugi, Walter O., Odhiambo, E. S. Atieno, Chege, Michael, and Gitonga, Afrifa K. (eds.), Democratic Theory in Practice in Africa (London and Portsmouth, N.H., 1988);Sklar, Richard L., ‘Developmental Democracy’, in Comparative Studies in Society and History (Cambridge), 29, 4, 10 1987;Huntington, Samuel P., ‘Will More Countries Become Democratic?’, in Political Science Quarterly (New York), 99, 2, Summer 1984, pp. 193218; and Diamond, , Linz, , and Lipset, , loc. cit. pp. 68.

35 Young, , ‘Beyond Patrimonial Autocracy’, p. 24.

36 Diamond, , ‘Introduction: roots of failure, seeds of hope’, pp. 1920.

37 Akinola, loc. cit. p. 114.

38 Uwazurike, loc. cit. pp. 65–6.

39 Nigeria, , Report of the Political Bureau (Lagos, 1987), pp. 124–32.

40 Cf. Akinola, loc. cit. pp. 109–23.

41 Report of the Political Bureau, p. 126.

42 Government's Views and Comments on the Findings and Recommendations of the Political Bureau (Lagos, 1987), pp. 42–3.

43 Report of the Constitution Review Committee Containing the Reviewed Constitution, Vol. 1 (Lagos, 1988), p. xx.

44 Agbaje, Adigun, ‘Party Formation and the Transition to the Third Nigerian Republic’, Research Project on Contemporary Development Issues in Nigeria, Final Report Submitted to the Social Science Council of Nigeria and the Ford Foundation, Ibadan, 1990, pp. 42–4.

45 National Electoral Commission, Main Guidelines: formation of political parties (Lagos, 1989). For the reactions of some of the associations, see African Concord (Lagos), 4, 6, 06 1989,The Guardian, 13 July 1989, p. 5, and African Guardian (Lagos), 26 06 1989, p. 24.

46 See National Electoral Commission, Report and Recommendations on Party Formation (Lagos, 1989), pp. 89.

48 The Guardian, 9 October 1989, p. 4.

49 Ibid. 10 October 1989, p. 6.

50 Ibid. and p. 15.

51 Directorate for Social Mobilisation, Political Manual of the NRC (Containing the Manifesto and the Constitution of the NRC) (Ibadan, 1989), and Political Manual of the SDP (Containing the Manifesto and the Constitution of the SDP) (Ibadan, 1989).

52 The Guardian, 10 October 1989, p. 6.

53 Joseph, ‘The Challenge of Democratization in Africa’, p. 18.

54 Keller, Edmond J., ‘Beyond Autocracy: prospects for progressive statecraft’, in Beyond Autocracy in Africa, p. 42.

55 Uwazurike, loc. cit. p. 68.

56 See Agbaje, ‘Party Formulation and the Transition to the Third Nigerian Republic’, pp. 17–41, and Diamond, Larry, ‘Nigeria's Search for a New Political Order’, in Journal of Democracy, 2, 2, Spring 1991, pp. 63–6.

57 Thisweek (Lagos), 19 09 1988, p. 14.

58 African Guardian, 7 August 1989, p. 32.

59 Although the Structural Adjustment Programme for Nigeria (Lagos, 1986) was originally designed to last for only two years, and was in fact officially ended in 1988, its philosophy continues to inform public policy. See, for example, ‘Press Briefing on the National Rolling Plan, 1990–92, and the 1990 Budget by Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji, Hon. Minister of Budget and Planning', Lagos, 1990, pp. 47.

60 Cf. Ayoade, J. A. A., ‘The Philosophy of a Two-Party System in Nigeria’, Social Science Council Seminar on a Viable Two-Party System in Nigeria, Lagos, 17 April 1989. See also, Lowell, A. L., Government and Parties in Continental Europe, Vol. 1 (Cambridge, Mass., 1896), pp. 73–4, and Burns, J. M., The Deadlock of Democracy: for party politics in America (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1963), pp. 260 and 324.

61 For differing perspectives on this, see ‘1990 Local Government Elections. Re: the resounding performance of the NRC in south western states’, in Sunday Times (Lagos), 13 01 1991, p. 6, and Akinola, A. A., ‘Manufacturing the Two-Party System in Nigeria’, in The Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, 28, 3, 11 1990, pp. 322–3.

62 Cf. West Africa, 29 april–5 May 1991, and Sunday Tribune (Ibadan), 5 05 1991.

63 Bach, , ‘Managing a Plural Society’, p. 219.

64 See the arguments in Agbaje, ‘Travails of the Secular State’.

65 Diamond, , ‘Beyond Autocracy’, pp. 27–8.

66 Keller, , ‘Beyond Autocracy’, p. 41.

67 Ibid. p. 42.

68 Ayoade, op. cit. pp. 15–16.

* Oyeleye Oyediran is Professor of Political Science, University of Lagos, and Visiting Professor of International Studies, East Carolina University, Greenville, and Adigun Agbaje is Lecturer in Political Science, University of Ibadan.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of Modern African Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-278X
  • EISSN: 1469-7777
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-modern-african-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed