GENERAL BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Party switching or defection has assumed a preposterous dimension since Nigeria returned to democratic governance in 1999. Defection has indeed become a routine and part and parcel of political flesh in Nigeria. The spate of party defection has not only threatened the country’s fledgling democracy, but has also rubbished its underlying philosophies. It has further resulted into gross and acute democratic instability in which the country is currently enmeshed. In short, party switching in Nigeria constitutes one of the strong currents of reversal that the country is contending with. The nation’s newspapers are always inundated with reports on party switchers and how they are celebrated at the state Houses of Assembly and theNational Assemblies. Party switching aptly described as “political prostitution” is fast becoming the hallmark of Nigeria’s democracy.
In part, because the political act of changing parties goes by so many different terms, studies of party switching are difficult to track down and are yet to acquire status as a subfield in party politics (Janada, 2009). Despite this, Desposato (2006: 62-63) has pointed out the benefits of studying party switching:
...party switching warrants study for three reasons; First frequent switching makes it clear that parties do matter. Otherwise, politicians would not bother to switch. Second, and more importantly, switching provides a unique window on politicians’ underlying preferences; including their incentives for belonging to political parties... Finally, switching poses a normative problem for representation in mass democracies. Parties are the primary mechanism linking voters and politicians in modern mass democracies.
Apart from the benefits of studying party switching, researchers have demonstrated kin interest in the factors that precipitate defection and the impact of defection on the stability and consolidation of democracy. Other questions that really bogged the minds of researchers are whether defection is democratic, undemocratic or anti-democratic and the workability or effectiveness of antidefection laws in curbing party switching and its attendant negative
Traditionally, according to McElroy (2003), party switching is generally viewed as undemocratic behaviour or an “aberration or an indicator of a weak, illinformed party system, a phenomenon associated with newly emerging democracies or unstable one.
However, the general view or reason for switching seems to suggest an autocratic trend and growing tendency towards a one party system in Nigeria. As a result, the aim of this study is not only to come up with an explanatory framework on party switching in Nigeria, but most importantly to critically analyze and proffer workable solutions to the problems of party switching which has become an increasingly permanent feature in the Nigerian democratic experience.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Party switching has become a common phenomenon among the Nigerian elites. This has not only undermined the democratic process, but also resulted to political party factionalisation and disintegration. Consequently, political party institutionalization has suffered a serious corrosion; party switching has also directly stalled the emergence of a formidable opposition party which is the hallmark of representative democracy.
AIM AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The aim of this research/study is to:
i. To find out the relationship between party switching and democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
ii. To explore the political implication of party switching in Nigeria.
iii. To assess whether the phenomena of party switching ensure democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
The objectives of this study on the other hand are to:
i. quest for the abolition of party switching for better democratisation in the country.
ii. enlighten Nigerians on the implication of party switching for the democratic process.
iii. seek to highlight the menace caused by the phenomena of party switching to democratic consolidation.
This research/study attempts to answer the following questions:
i. Is there any relationship between party switching and democratic consolidation in Nigeria?
ii. What are the political implications of party switching for democratic process in Nigeria?
iii. Does party switching ensure democratic consolidation in Nigeria?
This research is designed to assess the following hypotheses:
i. Party switching could be a threat to the democratic consolidation in a country.
ii. Abolition of party switching could result to good democratic process. iii. Party switching could allow elites to maintain the status quo.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This research/study is significant as it aims to provide lasting solution to the problems of party switching 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 AND LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
The research is designed to investigate the politics of party switching in Nigeria, its effects toward the development and the stability of the Nigerian democratic system.
However, this research is limited to examining party switching in Nigeria among the two dominant political parties (i.e. the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress), the findings of which would be used to draw inference (conclusion).
The theoretical guide of this study/research is derived from the Rational Choice Theory. The basic idea of the Rational Choice Theory is that the pattern of behaviour in society reflects the choice made by individuals as they try to maximize benefits and minimize costs. In other words, people make decisions about how they should act by comparing the costs and benefits of different courses of action.
Under this theory (Rational Choice Theory) a number of models emerge to explain why politicians switch party. These models include: “Office-Seeking” Model advanced by Downs (1957) who assumes that the prime motivating
factor for party switching is to get into office or power, and that policy if at all important has a purely instrumental function. This model therefore suggests that, personal gain and the lure for office motivate switchers to change parties.
Similar to Office-Seeking Model is the “Calculus of Candidacy” Model which suggests that the electoral connection is paramount (Andrich et al., 1992). To Andrich and Bianco (1992) politicians choose the party that maximizes their prospects of re-election. In keeping with theories based on the “Calculus of Candidacy” Model, it is assumed that Nigerian politicians are utility maximisers who seek to maximize their share of office in order to advance their political interests and career without any ideological considerations.
On the contrary, “Policy-Seeking” Model suggests that, it is the policy that is objective pay-off which party members seek. Though it is not always the case, it may be right to say that those politicians who switch parties because of policy preferences may do it for some ideological considerations. Other theorists argue that, some politicians “may switch with a vengeance” in order to show their colleagues in the old or the new party their electoral power and demonstrate their political ego. The theory of ego demonstration or muscles flexing is also relevant to the analysis of the Nigerian politics. It is often customary for some disenchanted politicians and ‘god-fathers’ to switch to alternative political party (ies) after they have lost out during the party primaries. A host of factors could precipitate party switching among which the assumption of rationality is the most critical (Ogundiya, 2009).
This research adopts systematic qualitative content analysis as its method. Therefore, the documents such as newspapers, textbooks, journals, articles and other written records based on the issue of party switching in Nigeria.
Therefore, the method of data collection for the research/study is secondary.
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