18 Mar The Need for Political Ideologies
There are 91 registered political parties in Nigeria with no clear ideologies making it difficult for the electorate to differentiate between the parties and what they stand for. In many other countries, political parties are differentiated by their distinct ideologies, which have led to increased political participation by the electorate, resulting in most citizens using their voting power. Citizens of these countries are clear on who they choose to vote for and why based on their ideologies.
Belief systems and execution-focused political ideas can be achieved through political ideologies. They represent a crucial element that guides political parties and their activities. Political ideologies must be clear, easily discernible and permanent. A professor of political science, Okudiba Nnoli defines ideology as a system of related ideas and principles focused on the social, economic and political associations of society as a whole. Therefore, political ideology guides political parties in their activities towards the socio-economic development of society through predefined sets of distinguishable beliefs.
If a systematized set of ideas guide political parties in Nigeria, it will provide clarity for the citizens. It will ensure that voters are familiar with their ideas and beliefs and anticipate their political behaviour and policies. In the United States of America for example, the political ideologies that exist have been categorized as conservative and liberal belonging to the Republican and Democratic political parties, respectively. They have been carefully crafted and their expressions are easily discernible from each other.
The US is not the only country with defined ideological systems; in the UK, the two main political parties that dominate the House of Commons are the Conservative and the Labour parties. These two parties have formed the governments since the Second World War. As is the case with the US, the ideologies of these political parties are also very distinct and clearly different from one another.
The guiding ideology of the Conservative Party emphasizes free market and individual achievement while the Labour Party emphasizes strengthening of workers’ rights, social security and healthcare for all. It is a party that looks to create a country that focuses on the needs of the many and not the few. With this predefined set of principles, decisions made by the Labour Party can be predicted to some extent. For example, the Labour Party in the past has been known to support policies in favour of scrapping higher education tuition fees and strengthening trade union rights. This behaviour is perfectly in line with their predefined ideologies. As such, if the Labour Party is in a position to make decisions about education, it is safe to assume that they will favour either a reduction or complete removal of the university fees.
Based on these ideological categorizations of political parties, it is easier for citizens to understand what the party they vote for stands for. It is easier for the public to anticipate the possible directions the government will go, based on the ideologies of the party in power and the issues at hand. It is also easier for foreign investors to have a fair sense of the political climate, therefore being able to anticipate possible political shifts that may affect them. This is a factor that affects foreign investment and international business involvement in a country with an unpredictable political landscape.
Nigeria is said to operate a multiparty system with some arguing it is more of a 2 party country. Even the two major parties are still very similar in their agendas and policies that it can be hard to differentiate their ideologies. The parties are so similar that their members switch sides so frequently that it is hard to keep count. For example, 15 senators defected from APC to PDP in late 2018while 11 senators also defected from PDP to APC as well. This goes to show there is almost no discernible difference between elected politicians, regardless of which party they belong to. If political parties in Nigeria properly craft their values and beliefs, it would be harder for party members to switch sides.
When there is no clearly defined ideological system in the political landscape of a country, the electorate will find it difficult to choose who deserves their votes. It can lead to a “vote for candidate X because I don’t like candidate Y” approach. This behaviour stems from the inability to distinguish between political stances due to the absence of an ideological frame of reference. It is important to ensure that party ideologies are not hastily crafted concepts prepared only once an election is approaching but that is unwavering and long-term. To get the vote of the electorate, political parties must differentiate themselves clearly by their ideologies showing that they have a long-term appreciation and plan for Nigeria.
 (Parliament.uk, 2018)
 (Labour, 2018)
 (Warry, 2017)
 (Benson, 2018)
 (Eribake, 2018)