Aliyu Othman, Abuja

Nigeria as a multi-party democracy has come a long way. Politically, the last one year saw the most populous black nation in the world transit from the then dominant Peoples Democratic Party-PDP, to an opposition party, the All Progressives Congress-APC.

The power shift was a significant event that saw changes in the way things were done in Nigeria. The campaign trails and trends were mostly issues-based, accreditation was with electronic card readers and voting was to a degree transparent. The 2015 general election saw Nigeria successfully transit into one of Africa’s credible and thriving democracies.

The dynamics of party politics under the APC with its slogan of ‘Change’, elevated hopes and ingrained perseverance. The APC courted Nigerians, charged them to take back their destinies and wrestle power from the ruling PDP via the ballots. The narrative worked. Party politics prevailed and APC was elected to power for a four year term.

Indeed, the restructuring of political parties has been the cornerstone of democratic processes around the world in the past and to this present day. The creation of the APC, now the governing party in Nigeria, is in fact the outcome of painstaking alignment and realignments of different parties over the past three years, culminating in the present amalgam.

In Nigeria as in other developing nations, political parties evolve as people join forces on the basis of common interests and desires. Nonetheless, the question analysts have continued to debate is whether the adopted multi-party system has in fact, stabilised, strengthened or added value to the country’s democratic process.

Opponents say it is but a jamboree of failed policies and promises that entrench a few with the authority to dictate the fate of the majority. On the other hand, proponents continue to argue that the multi-party political structure in Nigeria has begun to show signs of achieving such progress that may lead to stability of the political system within a short time.
This posture is premised on the new approaches to party politics and the balancing of power between the two dominant parties in Nigeria.

A critical component of the multi-party structure in Nigeria’s political terrain is the role that the Independent National Electoral Commission- INEC, plays. The electoral body recently identified the balance of power between political parties in Nigeria as one of the contributing factors to the recent inconclusive election in some states.

INEC argues that in Nigeria of today, there is now a level playing field for each political party. Voters are also assured that their votes will count with the electronic voting system. These and a few other factors have made it increasingly difficult to rig-in a candidate.

Nonetheless, the electoral policy has its drawbacks and these must necessarily be reviewed and amended ahead of future elections. It is equally imperative for political parties to restructure their internal politics and other machineries, so that they not only produce the most credible candidates to bear their flags but also champion and propel the aspirations of the people.

Lessons learned from the 2015 election in Nigeria must not be lost in the euphoria of victory or depression of defeat, if multi-party system is to deepen and stabilise the country’s democratic practice. Furthermore, a comparative analysis drawn from similar elections in other democracies like Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Benin and Niger Republics, can add value to the Nigerian experience.

For now, Nigerians must hold fast to the fact that the surest way to sustain democracy is to strengthen multi-party politics to flourish and galvanise the polity for sustainable development in the years ahead.