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Political Party Defection and Democratic Stability in Nigeria (2015-2021)


This study examines political party defection and democratic stability in Nigeria from 2015 to 2022. Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999 ushered in a great hope of democratic dividend and heralded a rare opportunity for the country to launch a new democratic strategy, after years of military dictatorship. The emergence of multiparty democracy in Nigeria since 1999 has been seen as a major breakthrough in the democratic process. However, the way and manner politicians in Nigeria defect from one party to the other has not only constituted democratic nuisance, but has continued to raise serious concern among political observers and participants in Nigeria. This have lent credence to lack of clear ideology and manifesto among political parties in Nigeria. The issue of defection has been one of the major bane of democratic process in Nigeria. The rate at which Nigerian politicians’ defect from one party to another depicts political immaturity, ideological confusion and total lack of sense of direction within the political class. Therefore, the study investigated the peculiar trend of defection in Nigeria and its implications on Nigeria’s democracy. In achieving this objective, the study relied on content analysis. The study however, recommended among others; the strengthening and/or amendment of the constitution and electoral laws to regulate the alarming rate of defection of politicians in Nigeria, social re-orientation and political education directed towards inculcation of new values and norms in the political system.


Chapter one


  • Background of the study

Political parties are conventionally noteworthy organizations in democratic societies. Students of political science have usually associated them with democracy itself (Orji, 2013). Political parties, as ‘makers’ of democracy, have been so idealized that scholars claim that neither democracy nor democratic societies are thinkable without them (Omotola, 2009). In other words, the presence of active political parties is a sine qua non for democratic consolidation in any society (Dode, 2010). Well functioning political parties are vital for the success of electoral democracy and political development in Nigeria (Adetula and Adeyi, 2013). Democracy along with its characteristics of freedom of expression, rule of law, accountability and elective representation has become the conventional system of government all over the world. Democracy as a system of government implies that the power of the political community hinges on popular sovereignty. Elected representatives, in contemporary times, refer to democracy as the means by which the political community expresses its general will.

The practice of defection from one party to the other appears to have become a necessary attribute of party politics in Nigeria. Politics of defection in Nigeria can be traced to 1951, when several members of National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC) defect to the Action Group (AG) just to deny Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and his party (NCNC) the majority in the Western Regional House of Assembly, which the party required to form the government in the Western Region (Adejuwon, 2013). Within the Action Group (AG), Ladoke Akintola, a deputy leader of AG, left the party in a crisis of personality and ideology between him and the party leader, Obafemi Awolowo, to form United Democratic Party (UNDP). UNDP then entered into alliance with Northern People’s Congress (NPC) to frustrate AG dominance of the Western Region.

Lending credence to the above, Mbah (2011) argued that defection has become not only a norm but an increasingly permanent feature in the Nigerians democratic culture. Party defections and political instability are the greatest challenges confronting Nigeria’s democracy (Nwanegboet al., 2014). The usual practice is politicians defecting to other political parties if they fail to secure party nominations during own party’s primaries, while some who felt disillusioned, cheated or denied free and fair primaries, defect to other parties so as to participate in the elections, with the intention of returning to their original parties after such elections. This has been the practice during election periods in Nigeria since democratic resurrection in Nigeria in 1999

One of the issues that has contributed to party defections in Nigeria is lack of internal democracy within political parties. In Nigeria, recognition of candidates for nomination and selection for primary elections depends on the strength of the candidate in area of economic and political power, without any due consideration of the integrity and capability/capacity of the candidate involved (Jinadu, 2014). These acts have led to political crises leading to individuals defecting to other parties and/or forming new parties as a result of dissatisfaction with party operation and general voter’s apathy in the democratic process. (Badejo et al., 2015) For instance, the unhealthy power contest and intra-party crises prompted incessant defections of prominent members of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) between 2013-2015 to the opposition party-the All Progressive Congress (APC).

Statement of the problem

In Nigeria, no political party has clear ideology and this has accounted for incessant internal party crises which usually leads to defections. But in some cases, politicians still defect to another party even when there is no crisis within their political parties. As a result of the above scenario, it is necessary to note that party defections in Nigeria are not restricted to one party, but has become a political norm in Nigeria’s democracy. Therefore, the spate of defections and its implications on Nigeria’s democracy has raised a fundamental question on the sustainability of democracy in Nigeria. Based on this background the researcher wants to investigate the political party defection and democratic stability in Nigeria (2015 to 2019)

Objective of the study

The objectives of this study are;

  1. To find out the factors responsible for party defections in Nigeria
  2. To find out the implications of party defections on Nigeria’s democracy
  3. To find out whether party defection is the causes of democracy instability in Nigeria


Research question

The following research question will be formulated

  1. What are the factors responsible for party defections in Nigeria?
  2. What are the implications of party defections on Nigeria’s democracy?
  3. Is party defection the causes of democracy instability in Nigeria?

Research hypotheses


The following research hypotheses will be formulated

H0: there are no factors responsible for party defections in Nigeria

H1: there are factors responsible for party defections in Nigeria

H0: there are no implications of party defections on Nigeria’s democracy

H2: there are implications of party defections on Nigeria’s democracy

H0: party defection does not cause democracy instability in Nigeria

H3: party defection cause democracy instability in Nigeria


Significance of the study

The significance of this timely and topical study is twofold: practical and academic. Practically, this study will be of paramount importance to the elections management bodies in Nigeria especially the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the registered political parties, authorities of the non-governmental organizations, the national and state governments as well as the general public for the following reasons: This research/study is significant as it aims to provide lasting solution to the problems of party defection which constitute adverse effects on the democratic process in Nigeria. It is also relevant to researchers, policy makers, practical statesmen, students. The study will also contribute to the body and encourage other writers or researchers to carryout similar work in the field.

Scope of the study

The scope of the study covers political party defection and democratic stability in Nigeria. The study will be limited to political parties in Nigeria

Limitation of the study

The researcher encounters some constraints which limit the scope of the study namely:

The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study

The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.

Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).

1.8 Definition of terms

Democracy: Democracy is a form of government in which the people have the authority to deliberate and decide legislation, or to choose governing officials to do so

Party defection: In politics, a defector is a person who gives up allegiance to one state in exchange for allegiance to another, in a way which is considered illegitimate by the first state

Democracy stability: Those polities which have enjoyed an ‘uninterrupted continuation of political democracy since World War I and the absence of a major party opposed to the “rules of the game”, and unstable democracies, which fail to fulfil these conditions.


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