Political parties in Nigeria

Mar 14, 2023|Stears Explains

After the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won the 2011 presidential election, making it their fourth consecutive victory at the federal level, opposition parties in Nigeria began discussions on how best to unseat their common rival—the PDP.

Years of negotiations passed, and sometime in 2013, a coalition/merger of several political parties, including the ANPP, CPC, ACN, a faction of the APGA, and a faction of the PDP, formed the All Progressives Congress (APC).

To the new party’s advantage, its emergence coincided with a period when the country was frustrated with the PDP’s misrule. By posing as a credible alternative, APC exploited these sentiments to pull off the unprecedented and defeat the incumbent president in the 2015 general elections.

While devoid of any distinct ideology, the party described its members as progressives. But that did not hinder its members from decamping to other parties once their political interests demanded it. This behaviour underscores one fundamental feature of political parties in Nigeria: they are basically vehicles to clinch power.

But this wasn't always the case; in the not-so-distant past, Nigerian political parties stood for something meaningful or at least were influenced by resistance to oppression. On the cusp of independence from British colonial rule in 1959, some of the major political parties were the National Council for Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC} and the Action Group (AG). These parties, though largely ethnic in their make-up and regional in outlook, emerged from anti-colonial movements such as those of Egbé Ọmọ Odùduwà and the Igbo Federal Union.

Having given you a background on political parties in Nigeria, let's now get to the proper definition of what a political party is.

What are political parties, and why are they formed?

A political party can be defined as a political group that is officially recognized by an electoral body as being part of the electoral process. It is an organization on whose platforms candidates run for office. While it is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas and values about politics, in countries like Nigeria, this is hardly the case, as politicians join and dump parties to actualize their ambitions. Take Mr Peter Obi, who came third in the just concluded presidential election. He recently left the PDP to pursue his presidential ambition in the Labour Party.

Despite being devoid of ideology, political parties in Nigeria tend to have policy goals. Such as APC’s N-power program; an initiative to reduce youth unemployment and expand social development. To institutionalize their policies, parties hope to get as many of their members as possible into a representative body, like the National Assembly. This is important in decision-making to help with legislation and the execution of policies. 

Political parties also matter because they offer citizens an opportunity to participate in governance, either by joining the parties in power or the opposition to hold the government accountable. While in power, political parties make decisions that impact our lives, and in opposition, their active presence keeps the incumbent on its toes. Political parties attempt to sway the public for their support, as can be seen with the APC and Nigerians in 2015 and, more recently, the Labour Party’s emergence as a strong third force.

Having understood what political parties in Nigeria are and why they matter, let's look at the number of political parties in Nigeria.

How many political parties are in Nigeria today?

As approved by the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] for the 2023 general election, there are 18 registered political parties in Nigeria. This is a sharp contrast to the  91 political parties Nigeria had in 2019.

The 18 registered political parties in Nigeria, as approved by INEC, are Accord  A, Action Alliance AA, Action Democratic Party (ADP), Action Peoples Party (APP), African Action Congress (AAC), African Democratic Congress (ADC), All Progressives Congress (APC),  All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Allied Peoples Movement (APM),  Boot Party (BP), Labour Party (LP), National Rescue Movement (NRM), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Young Progressive Party (YPP), and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).

Previously, there were more than 18 political parties in Nigeria, but INEC deregistered many.

Below, we look at what led to the deregistration.

Why did INEC deregister parties?

After the 2019 election, INEC deregistered 74 parties for failing to “satisfy the requirements” of continued registration based on their poor performances during the elections.  Poor performance could range from an inability to win at least 25% of the votes cast in one state during the presidential election to a failure to win at least one local government in the state in a governorship election.

These parties were still organizationally active as the deregistration of 23 parties was being challenged in court. However, the Supreme Court agreed that INEC was right and acted within its powers when it deregistered 74 political parties in 2020.

INEC’s metric for assessing “poor performance” aligns with Section 225A of the Electoral Act as amended, which empowers INEC to carry out its regulatory duties. The section is captured below. 

The section provides that INEC shall have the power to deregister a political party for (a) breach of any of the requirements for registration (b) failure to win at least 25 percent of votes cast in (i) one state of the federation in a presidential election or (ii) one local government of the state in a governorship election (c) failure to win at least (i) one ward in the chairmanship election (ii) one seat in the national or state House of Assembly election or (iii) one seat in the councillorship election.

Top parties represented in the National Assembly

All Progressives Congress (APC)

Chairperson: Abdullahi Adamu

Secretary: Iyiola Omisore 

All Progressives Congress was formed on February 6, 2013, as a merger of the ANPP (All Nigeria Peoples Party), CPC (Congress for Progressive Change), a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance [APGA], a faction of the People’s Democratic Party called [n-PDP], and ACN (Action Congress of Nigeria] political parties.

Since its emergence, the APC has won the presidential election three times in a row. With the latest being the victory of President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

At the National Assembly, the party clinched 57 out of 109 Senate seats and 162 out of 360 House of Representatives seats in the just concluded elections.

People's Democratic Party

Chairman: Iyorchia Ayu 

Secretary: Samuel Anyanwu

The PDP was one of the parties that emerged in the build-up to Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999. The party won every presidential election between 1999 and 2011 and was in control of the federal government for 16 years before being dislodged by the APC in 2015.

As of the time of writing this report, the PDP has 29 senators and 129 house representatives.


Labour Party 

Chairman: Julius Abure

Secretary: Alhaji Umar Farouk Ibrahim

Created in 2002, the Labour Party had been in oblivion until it recently emerged as one of the major political parties in Nigeria after the just concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections. The party’s recent performance is attributed to the reinvigoration provided by Mr Peter Obi, who decamped into its fold from the PDP to pursue his presidential ambition. Support for Mr Obi bolstered the membership strength and followership of the party.

Apart from its presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi, coming third in the presidential election, the party now has 40 seats in the National Assembly seats—six senators and thirty-four house representatives.

Social Democratic Party

Chairman: Shehu Gabam

Secretary: Dr Olu Agunloye

The Social Democratic Party was created in 1989 by then-military President Ibrahim Babangida. It was created alongside the National Republican Convention as part of Babangida's initiative to establish two detribalised parties. The party’s first chairman was Babagana Kingibe, with prominent politicians like Atiku Abubakar, Sule Lamiido, Umaru Yar’adua, Bola Tinubu, and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, as members in its heydays. The party came sixth in the recently concluded presidential election and won two senatorial and four houses of representative seats.

Political parties in Nigeria - Frequently Asked Questions

What are the five major political parties?

  •  Five (5) major political parties in Nigeria are PDP, APC, LP, APGA, and NNPP 

How many political parties are there?

  •     There are 18 political parties

Where else?

  1. 3 takeaways from Nigeria’s 2023 Presidential election—Michael Famoroti puts forth three key insights you should look out for from the recently concluded election.

  2. Why was the 2023 governorship election postponed? —We examine the reasons behind INEC’s decision to postpone the governorship polls.

  3. Why was voter turnout in the 2023 General Elections so low?—Fadekemi Abiru offers a range of explanations for the low voter turnout in the recently concluded election.