The uneasiness between predilection of politician and the code of appropriate political conducts lies at the roots of political tensions in Nigeria’s nascent democracy. This refers specifically to the dissonance between the ambitions of socially, economically and politically strong men/women and weak institutional basis of political engagement. The autocratic character of intra-party relations has tended over time to underscore the ferocious character of politics, particularly since the onset of Nigeria’s post –military democratic experiment in 1999. For instance, about one fifths of people elected at different levels in the recently concluded National Elections are politicians who crossed over to opposition political parties on account of alleged unfair and undemocratic treatments by their original parties. This category of disgruntled party men only enlarged a pre-existing category constituted mainly by five Governors of the Peoples Democratic party (PDP) and their teeming followers, who had defected from their party, formed the New PDP and subsequently merged with the emerging opposition party – the All Progressives Congress (APC). Yet even within the latter, there had been wide spread allegations of intra-party autocracy and high handedness on the part of those gladiators who claim to own the Party. Accordingly, this paper sought answers to be following questions: is there appositive relationship between intra-party autocracy and electoral tensions in Nigeria? In what specific ways does the undemocratic process of choosing party candidates affect the power and choice of the electorate? Are political’ rules and regulations deliberately designed to grant undue advantage to their leading elites? Has the resumption of party politics expanded or circumscribed the democratic spaces available to the Nigeria electorate? Both documentary and survey research data were deployed to provide the bulk of the data which supported our analytical conclusions.
1.1 Background of the Study
Man makes and propels the evolution of socio-political institutions so as to forge networks of relationship, exercise a modicum of control in human conduct and regulate the process of human and societal development. This is principally why although institutions are products of man’s historic interaction in society the former also acts as breaks on and regulators of men and ineluctably impact on man’s conduct in ways that ensure societal order and, in most cases, peace and stability. So, man creates and evolves socio-political and economic institutions and these institutions in turn also nurture man and his society. In the majority of cases, therefore there is a presumption that socio-political institutions are invented and/or evolved to support man’s natural guest for progress.
Given the pivotal role of political parties in the provision of democratic ethnos and practice, it is pertinent to focus on the extent to which institutional ethnos are upheld by the dominant gladiators in Nigeria’s party system. This is more so, when intra-party rivalry tops the list of cases of political conflict in Nigeria. This raises another pertinent question regarding the character of party rules, regulations and constitution and the historically prevalent attitude of politicians toward party sanctioned rules. Another issue raised relates to the nature of inter-party relations and the accurate sources of its ferocity – is it the zeal to represent the people, the nation or the urge to fulfill personal ambition (in terms of political offices, access to public resources, prestige, etc.)? This, amongst other goals, seeks to interrogate the popularly held belief that intra-party hostilities arise from principled disagreements amongst key party players over key issues of politics and governance. It therefore focuses deeper on the possibility of intra-party warfare, itself embedded in the syndrome of the “strong man” overriding the party creed and breaking down the necks of the less powerful party members – a situation which produces the paradox of constitution makers being the first culprits of its violation, which raises the question, how and why do politicians display unremitting impunity in intra-party relations? How do they circumvent party rules? And what consequence does this bear for the subsequent inter-party electoral competition. In sum, what is the concrete rexus of intra-party animosity and ferocious inter-party electoral competition and what do all these entail for democracy in Nigeria?