Presidential poll: The parties, their strenghts, weaknesses


In the next few days, Nigerians will go to the poll to elect the President of their choice. The results of the parties’ shadow elections were crucial with the emergence of 14 candidates for the February 14 race to the Presidential Villa in Abuja. In this piece, YUSUF ALLI, Managing Editor, Northern Operation, appraises the strength and weaknesses of the parties.

Barring last minute hiccups, the much-awaited 2015 presidential election will be over in the next few days. In line with Section 221 of the 1999 Constitution, 14 political parties are vying for the plum office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. The parties and their candidates are: Dr. Goodluck Jonathan (PDP); Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (APC); Chief Sam Eke (CPP); Ambrose Albert Owuru (Hope Democratic Party); Ganiyu Galadima (Allied Congress Party of Nigeria) and Rafiu Salau (Alliance for Democracy)

Others are: Godson Okoye (United Democratic Party); Dr. Mani Ibrahim Ahmad (African Democratic Congress); Martin Onovo (National Conscience Party); Prof. Comfort Oluremi Sonaiya (Kowa Party); Tunde Anifowoshe-Kelani (Action Alliance); Chekwas Okorie( United Progressive Party), Ayeni Musa , Adebayo African Peoples Party (APA) and Allagoa Kelvin (Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN).

For a party to  win the coveted seat, Section 134 of the 1999 Constitution says: “A candidate for an election to the office of President shall be deemed to have been duly elected, where, there being only two candidates for the election if (a) he has the majority of votes cast at the election; and (b) he has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-third of all the states in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.”

The ball is now in the court of the 14 parties to woo the nation’s 68, 333, 476 registered voters. The Herculean task before the electorate, however, is how to separate the wheat from the chaff. The parties’ strengths and weaknesses are as follows:


 Formed in 1998, the ruling PDP has consolidated its hold on power in the country in the last 16 years. Since the emergence of the Fourth Republic, the party has won the presidential and majority seats in National Assembly elections in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011. Wikipedia describes PDP thus: “The Peoples Democratic Party is a conservative political party in Nigeria. Its policies generally lie towards the Centre-right of the political spectrum. It has won every presidential election since 1999, and it is the reigning party in the Fourth Republic amid controversial circumstances. The party has a neo-liberal stance in its economic policies and maintains a conservative stance on certain social issues. The PDP favours free-market policies which support economic liberalism and limited government regulation.”


 Until recently, the party enjoys national spread among all ethnic groups in the country. At a point in the nation’s history, events in the PDP used to have implications on national development. With 21 governors out of 36 governors in its fold, the PDP controls the Senate and at least 21 States’ Houses of Assembly. Leaders of the party have access to war chest being in control the largest chunk of the finances of the federation. Recently, the party raised N21 billion for the forthcoming elections. The amount is the highest donation ever received by any party to prosecute elections.


 The party’s popularity has waned over the years. Many of its foundation leaders have either defected to the opposition or abandoned the party to its fate.  Members of the ruling PDP have joined Nigerians now calling for change following the party’s inability to deliver on its promises like power and employment. The PDP-controlled Federal Government is perceived as corrupt. Most party leaders are believed to be corrupt – some of them are presently being tried for alleged graft and corruption. In just a day, the ruling party lost five of its governors to its main rival – the APC.Irrespective of skepticisms against the PDP, it remains the party to beat at the poll in the next few days.


 Formed as a coalition of progressives from four political parties on February 6, 2013, the party got approval for its registration from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on July 31, 2013, to become a political party. Wikipedia describes the APC as “a social-democratic political party.” One of the strengths of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the February 14 and 28 elections is its emergence as an amalgam of major opposition parties in the country. The former parties that fused into the APC were: the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and a part of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

The formation of the party was the first successful merger in the history of party politics in the country. The party’s chances are further boosted by the defection of several PDP chieftains, including former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, a number of governors and ex-governors, and many members of the House of Representatives to its fold. The APC has 14 states in its fold as against the 21 being controlled by the PDP.

The APC has enjoyed relative stability since its formation as no faction is known to exist within it. Although many pundits had written off the APC off as a party of disparate configuration but it enjoys a cult-like bond especially in the North and the Southwest, leaving many of its critics dumb-founded. Its popularity in the Southeast and Southsouth, which are traditionally PDP stronghold has sent the ruling PDP to the drawing board to find a way to counter the onslaught. Another factor in APC’s favour ahead of the February 14 presidential election is the alleged weak leadership of the ruling party and the poor rating of the President Jonathan’s administration. Besides, the presidential candidate of the APC – Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, has a sellable pedigree and rising profile as a presidential candidate. He was a one-time military Head of State, like former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He is blessed with a strong character, discipline and seen as incorruptible. Buhari is loved and adored all over the North, a development than can largely swing the votes in favor of the rival opposition party in the forthcoming polls. It is the fourth time the retired General would be taking a shot at the presidency under the democratic dispensation. He had always inched closer each time he ran.

The five governors that left the PDP to join its fold last year have further extended the reach and national spread of the party. The APC governors are also rated as having performed as exemplified by the developmental strides of some of governors like Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano, Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers) and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), among others.


 The APC has not been able to penetrate the Southsouth and the Southeast with as much acceptability as the PDP.


 The party came into being out of political exigency with the Saraki political dynasty in Kwara State in 2011. It was formed by the late strongman of Kwara politics, Abubakar Olusola Saraki. The late Saraki was the Senate Leader in the Second Republic. Beyond the shores of Kwara, the party is unknown to Nigerians. The ACPN died with its founder because most of its members have defected to the APC in Kwara. At best, its presidential candidate, Ganiyu Galadima is playing to the gallery. Its governorship candidate in the 2011 election, Senator Gbemi Saraki, had since defected back to the PDP.


 The UPP was formed in 2012 by Chief Chekwas Okorie following the factionalisation of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). The party, which technically, remains an offshoot of APGA, might pretend to be a national party. Its logo, “Isi Agu” (Lion’s Head) points to its catchment area. Lion’s Head was said to have “deep historical connotations within the Southeast and Southsouth.” It remains a tribal party whose presidential candidate, Chief Chekwas Okorie is looking for political relevance.


 The Alliance for Democracy was established on September 9, 1998 and in 2006, a faction of the party dissolved into Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). The Alliance for Democracy was a progressive opposition political party in Nigeria. The party produced all the six governors in the Southwest in 1999. In 2003, the party secured 8.8 per cent of the popular vote and 34 out of 360 seats in the House of Representatives and six out of 109 seats in the Senate. Most of its founders are now in the APC, leaving only a few old brigades to manage the AD wrecks. The party is virtually dead in the mind of its followers because it is now rated as an appendage of the PDP. There are still issues on how its presidential candidate, Rafiu Salau emerged.


 According to the website of KOWA, the party was registered on July 16, 2009 by a group of Nigerian Civil Society activists, professionals and technocrats. The citation reads: “The founding members of KOWA party consist of men and women of integrity who wish to contribute to making Nigeria a country where there is economic justice, political sanity, peace, stability, human development and social progress; a country governed in the best interest of the majority who are at present, mostly poor, struggling people, as opposed to the current situation in which there is gross economic injustice and a wide gap between the rich and the poor. We are mostly political activists, professionals and politicians who did not find a level playing ground in the God-father-dominated Political Parties. This means that we are not your typical, conventional, rotten politicians. We are different.” Beyond its vision, KOWA had always compromised with the PDP and this year’s elections might not be an exception.


 Though the National Conscience Party (NCP) was formed in 1994 by the late fiery human rights’ activist and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Chief Gani Fawehinmi and others, it went through legal hurdles before it secured judicial victory to participate in the general elections in 2003, when it won a legal battle to be able to do so. The best outing of the party was in the 2003 presidential election when Fawehinmi scored 161,333 votes (0.41 per cent) to emerge distant fifth.  The desire of the NCP to take part in presidential poll through its candidate, Martin Onovo, is largely seen as a desire to fulfill all righteousness and retain its name the register of participating party.


 The AA was formerly called National Mass Movement of Nigeria (NMMN). The change of name was necessitated by reasons of giving the party a more focused and dynamic leadership but still carrying the people along. It has a mission to save poor Nigerians and protect the interest of all.


 The United Democratic Party is led by Godson Okoye, a lawyer who contested the Anambra gubernatorial election in 2010 and lost. It is more or less being run like a personal estate.


 This is one of the lucky parties in the country. In December 2013, HDP was deregistered by INEC based on Section 78 of the 1999 Constitution. But Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, declared the deregistration as illegal, null and void on October 20, 2014. It ruled that the party’s name be reinstated in the list of registered political parties.  The National Chairman of the party, Ambrose A. Owuru, a lawyer, is also its presidential candidate.

The polls and rating of the parties

Aside of the PDP and the APC that have demonstrated seriousness as contenders for the presidency, the other 12 political parties are just putting up a show at best. Some of them want to be seen as relevant even though they do not enjoy any measure of popularity and national spread to enable them make a mark. For instance, the Action Alliance has no record that it had won any political seat since 1999, yet its members believe they will get a mention by contesting the presidential slot. On the other hand, the United Progressives Party (UPP) is a new entrant into the political space. It was founded by Okorie. The APGA’s one-time national chairman believes he was schemed out by the hawks in his old party. The KOWA party is relatively unknown, even as it has been around for a while. Its members adopted the presidential candidate of the PDP in 2011.  However, they believe they can take a shot at the presidency this time around. The only electoral asset of the party is that it is fielding a woman female professor as its presidential candidate, Comfort Oluremi Sonaiya.

The NCP, formed by late Gani Fawehinmi, has been around for a while but has nothing to show in terms of electoral capital. Its presidential candidate for the February 14 election is Chief Martin Onovo with Ibrahim Mohammed as his running mate. It is doubtful if the party can cause any upset since it lacks the national spread and the popular candidates to attract voters during the elections. The  National Secretary of the National Unity Group (NUG), Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, who is also the National Vice Chairman, Southsouth of the PDP,  said the group had been having meetings with nine parties to back President Goodluck Jonathan.

So far, the battle is between the PDP and APC. While the PDP is stronger in the Southeast, Southsouth, in some parts of the Northcentral and two states in the Southwest, the APC is at home in the Northwest, Northeast, parts of Northcentral and Southwest.

At a session at the Chattam House, London United Kingdom (UK), the National Security Adviser (NSA), Mr. Sambo Dasuki, said: “The emergence of a seemingly viable opposition, as well as the closeness of the race is a clear demonstration of our maturing democracy…”

What fate for the mushroom parties

After the polls, INEC might still be forced to wield the big stick on these parties in line with Section 78(7) of the 2010 Electoral Act as amended.  The section says:  “The commission shall have power to deregister political parties on the following grounds (i) breach of any of the requirements for registration and (ii) for failure to win presidential or governorship or a seat in the National or State Assembly election.”

INEC chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega gave insights into the deregistration of parties by his Commission when 28 parties were de-listed.

He said: “In particular if you look at Sections 222 and 223, political parties are supposed to register with INEC and to have an office in Abuja; they are supposed to hold periodic elections; they are supposed to have executives that represent in their composition the Federal Character in particular two-thirds of the state of the Federation. And also the Electoral Act in particular says that those who did not win any seat in any of the elections can be deregistered.

“The first step we took was to deregister seven parties. We deregistered them solely on the basis of the fact that they did not even field candidates for the elections.”

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