The Legislature and the Challenges of Political Institutionalization in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic

Patrick I. Ukase , PhD, Terwase Dzeka, PhD


Towards the close of the 20th century, sensational political changes took place in Africa and in other Third World Countries (TWCs), which ignited widespread democratization in several nation-states previously under diverse forms of autocratic regimes. However, the zeal and enthusiasm with which these TWCs embraced democratization diminished as soon as elections were concluded, thus jeopardizing the sustainability of the emerging democracies. For instance, in African states, democratization has remained problematic. The dilemma is that there exists an articulated desire to democratize the polity but the spirit, commitment and political will to actualize this desire is to say the least, lacking. Indeed, elected and appointed political office holders at all tiers of government circumvent and subvert the democratization process through the deflation of the constitution and all known democratic norms and principles. Sadly, this allows the State to suffer, in most cases, from the personalization of state authority. Democratization as a process enthrones structures that were hitherto not in existence in the state. The strength or otherwise of any democratic governance is therefore a function of the extent to which actors are able to internalize democratic etiquettes and also foster political institutionalization. Invariably, political institutionalization can only be guaranteed when democratic regimes are sustained. This paper, therefore, examines the challenges of institutionalizing a very critical component and arm of Government in Africa (that is, the Legislature), but with particular emphasis on Nigeria since the return of democratic governance in 1999. The paper argues that within this period, the legislature faced numerous challenges which made it difficult for her institutionalize itself within the power matrix of the presidential system, which the country’s present democratic arrangement is anchored on. While identifying some of these challenges, the paper contends that except political institutionalization is guaranteed, democratic regimes can hardly be sustained in Africa. The paper adopts a historical approach, employing descriptive, narrative and empirical tools in arriving at our conclusions.

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