Politics and Economic Development in Nigeria

By Tom Forrest | Go to book overview

4
A Hollow Democracy: Civil Rule, 1979-1983

The National Party of Nigeria

The immediate origin of the ruling National Party of Nigeria lay in the National Movement in the Constituent Assembly. It was made up of old politicians linked to the Northern People's Congress, new politicians, and businesspeople. Power within the party lay in the north, and southern elements were co-opted via negotiation into the party. 1 Within the northern group, there was a division between the younger professional intelligentsia and the older feudal and commercial elements that were close to President Shagari. This division was apparent in the struggle for the NPN presidential nomination. The candidate of the intelligentsia, or Kaduna mafia, Adamu Ciroma, a former governor of the Central Bank, was defeated by Shehu Shagari, former minister under the First Republic and federal commissioner for finance under Gowon. The division within the NPN was to resurface in 1983 when the frustration of the mafia at the incompetence of the regime led them to try to make an alliance with Chief Awolowo.

Richard Joseph has described the period of civil rule as a return to tripartism, a reference to the three major parties of the First Republic that mobilised support on an ethnic basis from the three regional blocks. 2 This formulation exaggerates the extent to which the NPN drew support from a northern block and the extent to which the party acted as a vehicle for the political dominance of northern interests during the Second Republic. Although elements of the tripartite pattern remained, the creation of states and the size of the federal resources at the centre altered the structural conditions under which power was mobilised. The NPN was not a regional party like the NPC, which was completely identified with northern interests. It was much more a national party in which power was dispersed and fragmented, and in which northern elements exercised rather weak control.

The breakdown of regional hegemony in the north affected the capacity of the party to wield power at the centre. The political fragmentation of the

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