Key questions:

  1. In Nigeria's recently concluded elections, only four political parties out of 18 won at least 25% of the vote in at least one state. What are the implications of having too many political parties?

  2. Are there any incentives and benefits of merging political parties?

As the February 25th presidential elections approached, one of the subplots was the debate about when or if Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (RMK) would step down for one of the other candidates in the presidential race.

Kwankwaso—former governor of Kano State—left the PDP to begin his New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) to impact the 2023 elections. Of course, RMK did not endorse any candidate. Instead, he put up a strong showing in his home state, winning Kano in the presidential election and ensuring the NNPP won the governorship seat

While the media may have exaggerated the chances of RMK quitting the race, those rumours were not unusual for Nigerian politics. In fact, they are par for the course. That is because, being part of a smaller party with no realistic path to the presidency, observers of Nigerian politics expected him to step down.

Let a thousand parties bloom?

These smaller parties serve three main purposes. First, they can often serve as fallback positions for politicians who miss out on party tickets in the bigger parties like APC and PDP. This causes frequent decamping to and from parties. In the event of failure (or even success), it is very common for some of these politicians to ‘re-camp’ to the bigger party they came from. The biggest example is Peter Obi, who, seeing no path to the PDP’s nomination, went to the Labour Party and picked its presidential ticket.

Another recent example happened in Ogun State in 2019, where Adekunle Akinlade, the preferred candidate of outgoing governor Ibikunle Amosun, lost to Dapo Abiodun in the APC primaries. Amosun took Akinlade to the Allied People’s Movement (APM) to contest on that platform, while Amosun stayed in the APC. Akinlade narrowly lost to Dapo Abiodun in the governorship election.

Secondly, these parties also become an avenue for voters to air their grievances against the established