IDEOLOGY AND THE PARTY SYSTEM IN 21ST CENTURY NIGERIA AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Nigerian politics seems to be gravitating towards a two dominant party system, as is the case in the United States of America. Between November 26, 2013, when the five Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors defected to the newly registered All Progressive Congress (APC), and May 29, 2015, eventual triumph of the former opposition party, the APC, there was a dramatic change in party membership and tendency towards a two dominant party system. Having adopted the U.S. form of democracy, it was expected that their system would be an example which the emerging Nigerian two dominant parties must emulate. However, there were complaints that the PDP and APC do not offer much in terms of alternative policies. The argument was that the major parties in a two dominant party system must articulate clearly alternative visions and strategies in an ideologically-driven manifesto. This suggested that such parties must have distinctly opposing values and ideologies. The importance of ideology for party electoral support declined with the dominance of the market economy over other systems in the 21st century. However, these diminishing roles of ideological differences, and the emerging emphasis on performance in governance for party electoral support in neo-liberal democracies like Nigeria and the U.S, are yet to be given their deserved scholarly treatment. The aim of this study is to examine the role and significance of ideology for party systems in neoliberal democracies with Nigeria and the U.S constituting the basis of ensuing generalizations. This led to three research questions: does the dominance of the market economy lead to the convergence of conservative and liberal ideologies in Nigerian and U.S party systems; do liberal economic policies dominate the Nigerian and U.S party systems and, does the emphasis on performance in governance for party support in Nigeria and the U.S. account for diminishing role of ideology? Using qualitative descriptive analysis, the thesis argues that the post-cold war global consensus on the neo-liberal ideology has led to the convergence on the ideological centre. Neo-liberal economic policies: free enterprise, privatization, deregulation, commercialization, liberalization, foreign direct investment, and reductions in government spending dominate political and social discourse and behavior in the 21st century Nigeria and the U.S. party systems. In the absence of diametrically opposing political ideologies, well-articulated in the form of manifestos, support of political parties anchor largely on personalities, policy effectiveness and performance in governance.
Keywords: ideology, two party system, catch-all party, neo -liberalism, party support.