Nigeria as at independence had about18 political parties but only a few had what we could consider as National parties. In fact, the biggest parties were strong in the regions in which they were established.
The Obafemi Awolowo-led Action Group (AG) had strong roots in the Western region. The Sardauna led Northern People’s Congress (NPC) established in 1949 had strong footings in the Northern part of the country. The Nnamdi Azikwe NCNC which was first known as the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons before Independence and rechristened the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens after Southern Cameroon left Nigeria to be part of Cameroon in 1961. The NCNC was very prominent in the Eastern Region and it was the closest to what had a national spread of the three major parties.
This was not to say other parties didn’t pull weight but the parties listed above were able to play politics along regional lines and thus had the majority of followers in their respective regions. Other parties that were existent as of the first republic which had a medium following included The Mallam Aminu Kano Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) which rivaled the NPC in the north. Other parties in the north included the shortly-lived Borno Youth Movement and Zamfara commoners party.
In the middle belt of the country, parties such as United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) had members across the states we consider North Central these days, the Igala Union which was quite sym- pathetic towards NPC had its root in Igalaland in present-day Kogi, the Igibira Tribal Union had its roots in Igbiraland.
In the East, The NCNC had the Democratic Party of Nigeria and the Cameroons(DPNC) and The United National Independence Party (UNIP) as parties they are contending with.
In the West, The AG was the leading party but other parties were Dynamic Party which was formed by Chike Obi in Ibadan, and the Midwest Democratic Front which had its base in today’s Edo and Delta state.
These parties were abolished after the Military took over power in 1966.
Following the assassination of General Muritala Muhammed, his successor, Olusegun Obasanjo was keen on returning power to the civilians and a new constitution was drafted and one of the main features of this constitution was the transition from the Westminster Parliamentary system of government to the American styled Presidential system and parties were allowed to form for the elections that happened in August 1979 which brought in Alhaji Shehu Shagari as the first Executive President of Nigeria.
There were six major political parties that contest- ed in the 1979 general elections and they included the Ibrahimi Waziri led Great Nigeria People’s Party, National Party of Nigeria (NPN) which would produce the Executive President for the two elections that happened in that period, there was also the Tunji Braithwaite led Nigeria Advance Party, there was also Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) which had a lot of big wigs from the now-defunct NCNC, the People’s Redemption Party which was like a rebirth of the first republic Northern Element Progressive Union, and the Unity Party of Nigeria led by Obafemi Awolowo which had similar leanings as that of the first republic Action group.
Again these parties were abolished by the Military Junta that took over in 1983.
The third republic was the short-lived republic between 1991 and 1993. There were two parties in the republic which were the National Republican Convention (NRC) and Social Democratic Party(SDP). The Military formed these parties, and they were the only parties opened to the public to join. The famous Presidential election which was allegedly won by MKO Abiola was held.
Following the death of Nigerian head of state, General Sanni Abacha in 1998, General Abubakar Abdulsalami who took over from him established INEC, and Nigeria has had two major parties since the beginning of the republic in 1999 which includes the All Progressives Congress (APC) – ruling party and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – opposition party.
Other parties that are now defunct in the era include All People’s Party (APP), Alliance for Democracy (AD), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).