Political Ideology in Nigeria: 2019 election to shape Nigeria’s Political Ideology

Answering question regarding the NNPC:

“Yes, I would want to go ahead. There is no doubt about that. The government should have a very minor shareholding. Nigeria is in dire need of funds to develop its infrastructure and other sectors of the economy.”

Atiku Abubakar

The consensus in the Northern parts of Nigeria is that President Muhammadu Buhari is likely to win his re-election bid in 2019. People are still mystified about what comes after. Nigerians are curious about the fate of the nation, would Buhari continue to fight corruption and make changes in his policies? Alternatively, would it be a new era where they rip the benefits of their patience following his first tenure as democratically elected president?

Some others are bidding on the opposition’s (PDP) renewed momentum with the emergence Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President who defected from APC to join the PDP in 2018. His candidacy led many people to second guess their earlier assessments on Buhari’s “foregone” victory. Because, during the 2015 election, Atiku and some of his cronies defected from the PDP to boaster support for Muhammadu Buhari. Now that Atiku himself is contesting, there are speculations the votes will be divided in the North and Atiku is quite popular in the Southern parts of the country.

Political Strands and Manifestos

Following the campaign rallies, debates, rhetoric and media discussions between the two candidates across Nigeria, the masses are placed in a spectrum between conservatism and socialism. The APC is leaning towards more of government intervention to create a sustainable economy for Nigeria with the introduction of the next level Manifesto. The manifesto includes some critical issues on the growth of Youth, less reliance on petroleum and fighting corruption. Additionally, the APC is leaning towards economic equality among Nigerians with the government playing more significant roles in providing social welfare to Nigerians, through Npower programmes and other entrepreneurship schemes like trader money. 

Muhammadu Buhari of APC: Political ideology in Nigeria.
Muhammadu Buhari GCFR is a Nigerian politician currently serving as the President of Nigeria, in office since 2015. He is a retired major general in the Nigerian Army and previously served as the nation's head of state from 31 December 1983 to 27 August 1985, after taking power in a military coup d'état.

“We have tried our best to justify our promise to improve our economy with the resources available to us despite the fluctuations in the price of crude oil within the time we held sway” 

Muhammadu Buhari

On the other hand, the PDP is in favour of privatization and minimum government intervention in regulating the national economy. The PDP manifesto (make Nigeria work again) stated that it would uphold principles of social justice and the equality of opportunities for all citizens. However, it falls short in providing how it will give equal opportunities as its presidential candidate Atiku stated during an interview that privatization is the key to grow Nigeria. He added that he would sell 90% of the national petroleum corporation to enable innovative ways to generate revenue for the country.

Atiku Abubakar GCON is a Nigerian politician and businessman. He served as the 11th vice-president of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007 under the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo. He is a member of People's Democratic Party. In 1998 he was elected Governor of Adamawa State

“Yes, I would want to go ahead. There is no doubt about that. The government should have a very minor shareholding. Nigeria is in dire need of funds to develop its infrastructure and other sectors of the economy.”

Atiku Abubakar

Meanwhile, some Nigerians are sceptical due to PDP’s previous privatization policies where they undersold a lot of National assets to friend and colleagues. Additionally, Atiku was quoted saying he will enrich his friends. 

Perception of the Masses

Atiku and the PDP are using populist grievances and the unemployment discourse to garner votes. It is also possible that the opposition parties can take action to reverse policies implemented by the APC.

The masses are somewhat unaware of the debates going on between the two parties, a majority of them are uneducated on politics and Nigeria usually practice democracy by persons and parties involved. Professor Lucky Imade Osagie stated that it is due to the lack of political ideology that politicians jump from one party to another without facing any consequences. The ideological borderline between the PDP and the APC is not entirely clear, as some members of the PDP agree with the policies implemented by the APC and vice varsa. Nonetheless, a former member of the house of representative Honorable Farouk Adamu Aliyu stated, Nigeria is not there yet to have a political ideology; however, it is on the tracks of achieving it.  

Political ideologies Explained

In social studies, a political ideology is a certain set of ethical ideals, principles, doctrines, myths or symbols of a social movement, institution, class or large group that explains how society should work and offers some political and cultural blueprint for a certain social order.

When you look at the political ideologies in the west especially the United States and the United Kingdom, you will find a type of clear border between two main parties. The idea of left-wing and right-wing ideology began during the French revolution as those in support of the revolution are considered to be the lefties, and those in favour of the monarchy are called the right-wing. The fundamental difference between the left and right-wing ideologies is narrowed down to the individual liberty and government power. The left-wing advocate for equal society and strive for the state to play a substantial role in people’s lives. i.e. higher taxes on the wealthy and increase regulation in business. Socially, the left tends to support progressive views such as rights to abortion and gender transformation. Economically, the left follow interventionist or Keynesian Approach, i.e. the government will have to intervene to avoid economic recession.

The rights, on the other hand, believe in less government intervention in people’s lives and business adding to the ability to opportunity for inequality for a greater good of the country. Socially the rights oppose almost all the things which the left support such as abortion, gender transformation and so on. The right-wing is more leaning towards religious views. Economically, the right uses the laissez-faire (leave things alone) approach, which means fewer government regulations to increase innovation and lower taxes to boost growth. The right thinks that government interference in the economy is bad for business and the market should be left alone to correct itself.

In the US and UK parties on the left include the democratic party and Labour, While parties on the right-wing are the Republicans, conservatives and the UK independent party. There is a centre ground where the parties like the liberal democrats lie as shown in the figure below. It is hard in the west to see a member of a Republican party defecting the Democrats or a member of labour party defecting to the conservative party, merely because they vary when it comes to social issues such as gender transformation and abortion. 

Putting Buhari and Atiku on an Ideological Spectrum.

Trying to place both candidates on an ideological spectrum is not difficult when you look at their manifestos and campaigns. However, it is not entirely clear as there is a common consensus on social ideology among both parties. None of the parties is strictly adhering to laws that allow gender transformation and promoting abortion. Hence, it is easier for a candidate to move from one party to another without facing any backlash. On the other hand, when it comes to economic policies, it is clear as illustrated below where each party stands looking at their manifesto.

APC is leaning towards left, i.e. the Democrats in the US and the PDP leaning towards the right. Just because, the APC wants more government intervention in economic policies and supporting the growth of the masses in an equal fashion though it might take longer to achieve. Meanwhile, the PDP is leaning towards individual liberty and survival of the fittest allowing more privatization and less government intervention. 


These all being said the use of left or right to judge parties is not entirely accurate, as there are many political spectrums to judge how far the left or right the parties are. Additionally, the spectrum is not entirely two dimensional, i.e. left and right. The figure below shows the alternative views to the top where some hold authoritarian views, while to the bottom some hold libertarian views. Authoritarian want tougher government interference while Libertarian want the opposite. It is difficult to place a party on one side of the spectrum, for example, the PDP hold right-wing economic policies while adhering to the left wing social politics. 

In social studies, a political ideology is a certain set of ethical ideals, principles, doctrines, myths or symbols of a social movement, institution, class or large group that explains how society should work and offers some political and cultural blueprint for a certain social order.

The idea behind this article is to point out that even though most Nigerians don’t know about political ideologies and some scholars also concluded that there are no political ideologies in the country, the 2019 elections will place Nigeria on a trajectory towards achieving a political ideology. With the PDP calling for lesser government involvement in the regulation of the economy and more privatization and the APC, on the other hand, calling for more intervention and control of the economy for all. 

Even though it is good to have these ideological spectrums to make voting easy, it is also good to remember that they are not always accurate. Looking at the parties policies yourself is often the best way to choose who gets your vote come February 16th rather than following the label or person blindly.


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I recommend that you watch this short documentary on Youth participation in the 2019 elections.

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