chapter  7
20 Pages

Ethnic party bans and institutional engineering in Nigeria

ByMatthijs Bogaards

While most African constitutions contain a ban on ethnic parties, only a minority have implemented these bans.1 Nigeria is the country in sub-Saharan Africa that enforced its ethnic party ban most rigorously. Between 1989 and 2002, electoral commissions denied registration to no less than 64 parties for failing to establish a national presence. This record makes Nigeria a particularly interesting case to analyse in this special issue on ethnic party bans in Africa. A second reason why Nigeria merits closer attention is that ethnic party bans in Africa’s most populous country have been part of a broader menu of institutional innovation, thereby constituting a veritable laboratory for the analysis of political engineering for ethnic conflict management. Several of these institutional innovations have since been adopted elsewhere, such as spatial distribution requirements for presidential elections and party organizations.2 This article embeds the analysis of ethnic party bans in a comprehensive overview of the ways in which a succession of Nigerian leaders, both military and civilian, have sought to create a national party system that would transcend regional, religious, linguistic, and ethnic differences.