African Ruling Political Parties and the Making of ‘Authoritarian' Democracies: Extending the Frontiers of Social Justice in Nigeria

  • SB Kura


African democracies are distinguished by the character of their political parties. They are easily labelled as illiberal civilian autocracies. These features coupled with emerging so-called dominant ruling parties, demonstrate the inclination towards a new form of ‘modern' democratic authoritarianism. In other words, the ruling dominant parties are appearing to be a ‘reincarnation' of the one-party system and military rule that held sway for about three to four decades in Africa (from the 1960s). In the process of this transformation, African ruling parties have been grossly destabilising opposition and perceived dissenters through clientelism, patronage politics and extra-legal means, thereby undermining the provision of social justice in the guise of democratisation. In the light of this there seems to be a theoretical and empirical lacuna in the discourse of social justice, in explaining the contradictions inherent in safeguarding democracy through undemocratic practices, such as election misconduct, manipulation of judiciary, lack of provision of human rights, assassination and victimisation of political opponents, through which the provision of social justice is undermined. In this context and given the democratic authoritarian tendencies of African ruling political parties, this paper seeks to explore the pattern of authoritarian practice in Nigeria's ruling party – the People's Democratic Party (PDP) vis-à-vis the problems of social justice provision. Nigeria has returned to democracy about a decade ago, but the country is sliding towards a one-party system. The abuse of social justice, through detention, assassination and police brutality, defies any logic of democratisation. The paper therefore seeks to introduce a working framework for extending the frontiers of social justice for an integrative analysis and understanding of social justice in developing African democracies.

African Journal on Conflict Resolution Vol. 8 (2) 2008: pp. 63-102

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1562-6997