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Neopatrimonialism and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria

The third wave of democratisation which was believed to have began within the mid-Seventies ushered in transitions of nations from non-democratic to democratic regimes. This transition started in Portugal and Spain and continued via the Nineteen Nineties, with the top of the Chilly Warfare spreading via virtually all international locations (Huntington, 1991; Gates et al., 2007). Consequently, the variety of formal democracies skyrocketed from 41 in 1974 to about three-fifths of the world’s international locations in 2003 (Diamond, 2006). Nonetheless, most of those democracies are struggling to consolidate. Mainwaring and Bizzarro (2019) contend that among the many 91 new democracies that emerged between 1974 and 2012, 34 skilled breakdowns and 28 stagnated after the transition. The rising traits of democratic breakdowns have led to the proliferation of research by students concerned with understanding why democratic transitions have resulted in stillbirth and lack of consolidation. Sadly, the solutions to this query stay inconclusive regardless of producing scholarly debates.

Utilizing Nigeria as a case examine, this examine argues that the lack of the nation to realize democratic consolidation stems from the neo-patrimonial nature of the Nigerian political system. A neo-patrimonial regime combines legal-rational and conventional patrimonial rule techniques, consisting of clientelism, monopolistic rule, and prebendalism (Bratton and Van de Walle, 1997). Neo-patrimonialism has stalled democratic transitions in Nigeria, resulting in a scarcity of political inclusion. Consequently, institutional mechanisms meant to carry the federal government accountable, equivalent to separation of energy and checks and balances, solely exist in principle as the manager exert huge affect over different authorities establishments. Furthermore, people occupying these establishments owe allegiance to their political godfathers since their appointments are patronage-based. This argument, analysed from the structural or institutional perspective, contrasts with the findings of a latest examine by Sigman and Lindberg (2017), which state that neopatrimonialism in Africa doesn’t hinder democratic consolidation. The examine of Nigeria’s democratic expertise is important, because the nation is the most important democracy in Africa.

This essay is split into 4 elements: the theoretical underpinnings, democratic establishments in Nigeria, why Nigeria is but to realize democratic consolidation, and concluding remarks.

Theoretical Underpinnings: Neopatrimonialism and Democratic Consolidation

Democratic consolidation, like different contested ideas within the social sciences, doesn’t have a particular definition. The absence of a usually agreed definition suggests the problem of figuring out ”when a democracy has grow to be consolidated” (Arthur, 2010:206). An indicator of consolidated democracy put ahead in literature is the “two flip over check” by Samuel Huntington (1991), which happens when winners of founding elections peacefully handover energy after their defeat in a subsequent electoral contest, and the brand new winners, in flip, peacefully relinquish energy to the victors of a later election. Nonetheless, this check has been criticised by students equivalent to Schedler (2000), who argues that electoral-based indicators are inadequate measures of democratic consolidation. Different students have proposed the longevity or generational check, which entails utilizing common aggressive elections of a minimum of twenty years to guage whether or not democracy is consolidated even when it doesn’t end in a change of presidency (Beetham, 1994). Nonetheless, this measure is problematic as a result of it’s typically difficult to guage the capability of recent democracies to withstand a ”shock or disaster” if governments keep longer in energy (Abdulai and Crawford, 2010:29).

However the conceptual challenges, this examine will undertake Linz and Stepan’s (1996:15) substantive view of democratic consolidation as “the one recreation on the town” as it’s extra complete. The three dimensions of Linz and Stephan’s definition recognized by Abdulai and Crawford (2010) are (a) behavioural, which suggests the democratic regime is free from secessionist threats or worry of revolution. (b) attitudinal, when most individuals are dedicated to democratic ideas in effecting political change. (c) constitutional, when the structure kinds the idea of battle decision. The absence of those three dimensions in Nigeria signifies that the nation is but to realize democratic consolidation.

Then again, neo-patrimonialism refers back to the coexistence of bureaucratic administration and patrimonial logic with “a minimum of the pretence of legal-rational types of state legitimacy” (van de Walle, 1994:131). Whereas patrimonialism is outlined as a system based mostly on private relationships the place a person who workout routines the only proper to rule derives its legitimacy from tradition and custom (Weber in Sigman and Lindberg, 2017), neopatrimonialism might be seen as a system of social hierarchy based mostly on vertical energy distribution giving rise to patron-client networks established round a powerful particular person or group. The three core elements of neopatrimonialism which kind the idea of dialogue on this essay are: (a) Clientelism involving a reciprocal relationship between a consumer and patron the place sources or public items are being distributed in change for political help (Oarhe, 2013). (b) Prebendalism entailing the usage of state sources by the incumbents to learn themselves, supporters, political godfathers, or members of their cultural teams, areas, or constituencies (Joseph, 1987). (c) Personalisation of energy within the political govt or monopolistic rule.

Democratic Establishments in Nigeria since 1999

This examine adopts a minimalist understanding of democracy, specializing in democratic establishments and procedures because of the significance of formal and casual establishments in democratisation, particularly relating to offering a steady mechanism the place contending events organise to affect political processes (Clark et al., 2017). The failure of democratic establishments in Nigeria to successfully carry out their constitutional tasks after political independence in 1960 has led to a sequence of democratic reversals. From 1966 to 1993, Nigeria skilled seven profitable coup d’états resulting in army takeovers of political powers (Gberevbie, 2014). When Nigeria re-transited to democracy in 1999, a number of institutional mechanisms have been put in place to guard the nation’s fragile democracy. The Nigeria structure established democratic establishments equivalent to the manager, judiciary, legislature. Moreover, to stop arbitrary use of political energy by authorities establishments, procedures equivalent to separation of energy and checks and balances have been entrenched within the structure. Furthermore, the Impartial Nationwide Electoral Fee was established to organise elections into political workplaces, and anti-corruption our bodies have been established to fight corruption.

Nonetheless, these establishments and procedures established are but to be consolidated. That is evident in Nigeria’s rising circumstances of electoral corruption and violence (Angerbrandt, 2018). Furthermore, the electoral fee has been inefficient because the variety of disputed electoral petitions by defeated opponents proceed to rise within the nation (Gberevbie,2014). Additionally, the legislature and judiciary haven’t successfully carried out a few of their constitutional roles as political energy is monopolised by the manager arm in Nigeria (Fagbadebo and Francis, 2016). Apart from, anti-corruption establishments are used as a weapon to battle political opponents, and political appointments are based mostly on nepotism. These have posed a problem to democratic governance in Nigeria, resulting in separatist agitations and demand for revolution. Moreover, Nigeria is bedevilled with political violence from aggrieved teams such because the Niger-Delta militants who now not belief the constitutional technique of resolving battle (Udoh, 2013). The presence of separatist agitations, demand for revolution and political violence factors to the absence of the three dimensions of democratic consolidation recognized by Linz and Stepan’s (1996).

Neopatrimonialism and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria

The attributes of neo-patrimonialism have confirmed to be antithetical to democratic consolidation in Nigeria because it has resulted in institutional failure, which obstructs democracy within the nation. The significance of practical establishments achieve democratic consolidation is pressured by Fukuyama (2015), who contends that the inadequacy or absence of practical institutional mechanisms could destroy the inspiration of a steady democracy. One of many manifestations of neopatrimonialism in Nigeria is the personification of political energy by the manager. Though the separation of energy between the manager, legislature and judiciary is a constitutional provision in Nigeria, the political executives have in depth energy leverage over different branches of presidency. The legislature within the nation is seen as an appendage of the manager, thereby depriving the legislature of equal standing. This explains why solely the manager is known as “authorities” by the Nigerian populace. The essence of separation of energy is to stop any organ of presidency from turning into too highly effective and to information towards the abuse of political energy. Within the democratisation course of, separation of energy is important because it helps to guard new democracies from democratic reversals and constitutional retrogressions (Jongerden, 2015). With out separation of powers, there can be a scarcity of presidency accountability. Francis and Fagbadebo (2016) contend that the prominence of the manager in governance in Nigeria has made it troublesome for the legislature to design efficient mechanisms for remodeling their legislative potentials as a software of implementing accountability. Consequently, the legislature in Nigeria can’t train its oversight powers of holding the manager accountable impartial of the affect of their political godfathers (Fagbadebo, 2019). The implication is that constitutional provisions for implementing horizontal accountability, equivalent to impeachment, are used as devices of political harassment and intimidation resulting from weak establishments of accountability within the nation (Fagbadebo, 2019).

The absence of horizontal accountability has hindered Nigeria from reaching democratic consolidation. Over time, the manager in Nigeria has displayed horizontal unaccountability via their highhandedness and disrespect for legislative summons. A latest instance of this contempt is the failure of President Buhari to honour the summon of the Home of Representatives to debate the state of insecurity in Nigeria on December 10, 2020 (Udemezue and Chioke, 2021). One other instance of govt recklessness is the 2018 invasion of the Nationwide Meeting complicated by the state safety equipment, which is an company of the manager. This assault on the legislature represents a gross violation of the nation’s constitutional order, a menace to its democracy and attestation of the manager monopolisation of energy. Nonetheless, there may be additionally a manifestation of this contempt within the executive-judiciary relationship, as the manager in Nigeria continuously and intentionally ignored court docket orders. The failure of Buhari’s administration to launch the previous safety adviser, Sambo Dansuki, regardless of being granted bails by the judiciary, is an occasion of the manager serial violation of court docket orders (Uwazuruike, 2021). The dominance of the manager and, by extension, the overbearing energy of the presidency in Nigeria undermines the precept of checks and balances. This additionally means that the nation is exhibiting some attributes of hyper-presidentialism, which suggests the power of the president to subvert institutionalised limits on its powers or the place the bounds are inadequate (Baba, 2018).

The second function of neopatrimonialism in Nigeria is clientelism. Nigeria’s political area is constructed on a patronage system the place a political godfather determines ‘who will get what, when and the way. Scott (1972:92) defines godfatherism as “a particular case of dyadic (two individuals) ties involving a largely instrumental friendship during which a person of upper socioeconomic standing (patron or godfather) makes use of his affect and sources to supply safety or advantages or each for an individual of decrease standing (consumer or godson) who for his half, reciprocates by providing normal help and help, together with private providers to the patron or godfather”. In Nigeria, the political godfathers dictate who contest elections and the eventual winners. The affect of the godfathers is dominant inside a political occasion, as they take essential choices on behalf of different occasion members. Additionally, intra-party procedures utilized in deciding on candidates are set-aside to accommodate the preferences of the godfathers (Ogundiya, 2010). This weakens the function of political events as an essential democratic establishment.

Godfatherism in Nigeria is basically completely different from the ‘large males’ phenomenon that beforehand dominated African politics. It is because the political godfathers will not be concerned with holding political positions. As an alternative, they management political establishments by proxy utilizing their protégés, whom they unilaterally or in collaboration with different few political gladiators hand-picked to occupy public workplaces. In return, the godfathers demand substantial monetary returns or energy to manage political appointments from their protégés as a reward for his or her funding (Lackey, 2013). Albert (2005) notes that godfatherism will not be a unfavourable phenomenon if the purpose is to place the most effective people into elective workplaces. Nonetheless, the godfathers in Nigeria have turned politics into enterprise ventures, the place elections are rigged to impose predetermined candidates on the voters.

The actions of political godfathers in Nigeria have extreme implications on participatory democracy.  Godfatherism in Nigeria has led to the lack of the voters to train their standard sovereignty with out hindrance, as elections solely serve to validate the godfathers’ selections. Consequently, this has fostered a tradition of political apathy as a result of the electorates now not belief the electoral course of, thus ensuing within the failure of bizarre residents to affect main authorities choices via elections.  Apart from lowering the function of the electorates, election in Nigeria is characterised by large fraud and violence. Nkwede et al. (2014) contend that the godfathers make use of extremist techniques equivalent to falsification of outcomes, rigging, and poll snatching throughout elections to make sure the victory of their desired candidates. Consequently, elections in Nigeria fails to fulfill the minimalist democratic normal of being free and honest.

One other mechanism utilized by the godfathers to govern electoral contests in Nigeria is to place their protégés in command of the electoral course of, both as an electoral commissioner or head of the electoral physique. A latest instance is the unconstitutional nomination of Lauretta Onochie as a commissioner of the Impartial Nigeria Electoral Fee by President Buhari regardless of being a significant stakeholder within the ruling occasion. It took a public outcry for her nomination to be rejected by the Nigerian Senate. As well as, there may be the manifestation of clientelism in ministerial appointments in Nigeria as ministerial positions are normally reserved for occasion loyalists or given as a reward for his or her contributions in elections (Joseph, 2014). This is the reason President Buhari appointed people who contributed considerably to his election as cupboard members. The idea of godfatherism may also be used to elucidate legislative ineptitude and govt dominance in Nigeria.

In Nigeria, the third function of neopatrimonialism, which is prebendalism, is intently linked with clientelism. A number of research have uncovered the prevalence of rent-seeking practices by the nation’s three principal organs of presidency (Kifordu, 2010; Fagbadebo, 2019). Within the 2020 Corruption Notion Index of Transparency Worldwide, Nigeria was ranked 149 out of 183 international locations (Transparency Worldwide, 2021). The rating represents a 3 locations decline within the 2019 Corruption Notion Index, making Nigeria the second most corrupt nation in West Africa. Nigeria’s unfavourable corruption rating signifies the worsened nature of corruption within the nation. One attainable rationalization for this worrying state of affairs is that political workplaces in Nigeria are seen as an avenue of wealth accumulation and distribution. The first purpose for taking part in politics on the gladiatorial stage in Nigeria is prebendal, as public sources are used for private or organisational achieve. As an alternative of being accountable to their constituents, most politicians in Nigeria are accountable to their political godfathers.

This prebendal perspective implies that elections in Nigeria grow to be a do-or-die affair the place all types of unlawful means are deployed to realize victory. This explains the prevalence of electoral violence in Nigeria. Apart from, politicians who failed to fulfill the monetary calls for of the godfathers are both impeached or changed at subsequent elections. As an example, the previous Oyo State governor, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, was impeached for being ‘ungrateful’ to his godfather, Chief Lamidi Adedidu, after disagreeing on points referring to political appointments and monetary returns (Kalu et al., 2018). It’s important to state that the impeachment was attainable as a result of Chief Lamidi Adebibu not directly controls the state’s legislature via his protégés. Moreover, anti-corruption our bodies in Nigeria are inefficient since they’re merchandise of prebendalism. The anti-corruption businesses in Nigeria are both utilized by the manager to cowl high-profile corruption circumstances or to witch-hunt political opponents. Prebendal practices amongst authorities establishments are antithetical to democratic consolidation, because it undermines political legitimacy and residents’ belief.


On this essay, neopatrimonialism has been used to elucidate why a rustic may expertise democratic transition however not democratic consolidation. Since Nigeria re-transitioned to democracy in 1999, its expertise with democratic practices has left a lot to be desired. The neo-patrimonial nature of the Nigerian political system, with attributes equivalent to energy monopolisation, clientelism and prebendalism, has hindered the nation from having a consolidated democracy. It is because accountability mechanisms equivalent to elections, separation of energy and checks and balances haven’t been efficient because of the overbearing nature of the manager and the actions of political godfathers. Moreover, elections in Nigeria serve to validate the alternatives of political godfathers quite than a mirrored image of standard alternative. This has implications on how electoral contest is perceived, resulting in the lack of the electorates to train their standard sovereignty successfully. Consequently, this has weakened democratic establishments in Nigeria, leading to corruption, political apathy, electoral malpractices, and violence. The above negates the ideas of democracy and has obstructed Nigeria from experiencing democratic consolidation.


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