Since Thursday last week when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) finally de-registered 74 out of 92 registered political parties in the country, divergent views have continued to trail the development.
The de-registration came after several months of speculations.
Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman, who announced the de-registration in Abuja said it was due to the inability of the affected parties to fulfil the requirements for existence based on Section 225A of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Yakubu said that the 1999 Constitution (as amended) vested in INEC, the power to register and regulate activities of political parties.
Although, as expected, the affected political parties have condemned the Commission’s action, political observers however, said that INEC’s decision was commendable as the legion of parties was nothing but a serious liability on the country and to the electoral umpire.
The INEC Chairman had alluded to the logistics problem during one of the 2019 post-election review meetings. He lamented that 76 political parties contested for the Presidential election and was the source of the serious logistics problem that the Commission had.
“We underestimated the kind of logistical problem that implied the size of the ballot papers, result sheets and so on. By the time these materials started arriving, we realised that it was a huge logistical problem”.
It had been alleged that many of the parties were not registered for any altruistic reason but for personal aggrandisement and medium for negotiation for political patronage and contract.
Stakeholders who spoke to BDSUNDAY commended INEC’s action as according to them, it would reduce unnecessary overheating of the polity because of large number of candidates for an election.
Idayat Hassan, director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), described the de-registration of the 74 political parties as a welcome development.
Hassan stressed that the proliferation of political parties have not in any way enhanced democracy but instead confuse voters and most parties are registered as brief case parties or just annex of a politician who can decamp last minute.
“Even this parties are not in compliance with the provisions of the constitution itself. For instance, how many of the parties have presence across states? Not even in five states. The confusion they bring on the ballot box, the logistics challenge and cost they pose to even INEC, they are simply not viable and it is time to have new rules on access to ballot”.
Christian Okeke, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, said it was a good thing that Section 225(a) of the constitution came into existence with the de-registration of the parties.
“Even though one can cite instance with a country or even more that have more political parties than Nigeria, in our own clime, considering our peculiarity and honestly speaking, are we not creating confusion and depleting our economy by managing a rather bogus number of political parties?
“A political party has no offices, no party structure, no executives, no properties, no membership drive, no candidates in elections, nothing! Just imagine that.
“Please, we need to tailor this our democracy to suit our needs and resources. We still need to prune down the number of political parties we have. Some may need to merge or voluntarily surrender their registration certificates for sake of national interest”, Okeke said.
Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu said multiple parties rob the nation of political ideology; hence, reduction is apt and would promote democracy.
Kalu noted that, “with this multiple parties if you ask them about their ideology, they can’t even tell you. So, it is high time we started streamlining this. There is no how in two or three parties you will not find the one that will suit your philosophy with regard to politics and leadership. Having so many political parties doesn’t make us a great democratic nation.”
Solomon Gbenga, national youth director, Young Progressives Party (YPP), said: “I have always been an advocate of multi-party democracy but some Nigerians actually abuse it. We cannot continue to do the wrong things and be expecting right results. Reducing party numbers will help INEC improve on their work”.
National President of Voters Awareness Initiative and lawyer, Wale Ogunade, supported INEC over the decision, saying that the commission should have de-registered more parties.
“I support INEC’s move; that is what the law says. If you can’t win a local government election, if you can’t win state election, either governor or state House of Assembly why do you want to still be called a political party? Most of the parties are prostitute; it is only in Nigeria that a party would abandon its candidate just before election and support a candidate of another party.
“It is a merchandise process; INEC is right.As far as I am concerned, there are only four or five political parties in Nigeria that should be in the ballot. If I have my way INEC would reduce them more,” he said.
Action hasty, unconstitutional – ANN
INEC’s move has howver, not gone down well with several of the parties who have expressed shock with their de-registration.
They said the commission did not notify them and acted against a court injunction that the commission should not de-register any party ahead of February 17th date for delivery of judgement in the suit challenging the Commission’s powers to do so.
Addressing a world press conference in Ikeja at the weekend, Emmanuel Dania, national chairman of Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), said it was wrong for INEC to deregister the ANN when the commission had not given the party the chance to participate in local government elections in all the 774 councils in the country to determine its strength, adding that INEC could not act outside the constitution.
The national chairman said the news of de-registration came as a shock to the party, because the commission never gave ANN any notification of de-registration even when INEC recently carried out a verification of it branches and national headquarters, promising to come and conduct similar exercise for its Lagos State chapter.
“The announcement of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) deregistering 74 duly registered political parties and the Alliance for New Nigeria captured on same list can be best described as hasty and unconstitutional.
“The Nigerian constitution is bigger than any organ or arm or agency of government and the provisions are to be upheld and respected by all, including INEC.
“The constitutional position is clear on how and when political parties can be deregistered and that position is yet to be attained,” Dania said.
According to him, “This position is contained in the press statement of Thursday, February 6, 2020 of The Inter Party Advisory Council of Nigeria (IPAC) which clearly highlighted that the constitutional provisions are clear as stated in section 229 defines a political party to include association whose activities shall include canvassing for votes in support of a candidate for election into a Local Government Council and this provision has not been fully and completely exhausted as a political party because we have candidates in Local Government Areas whose elections are coming up soon,” Dania said.
Political system skewed in favour of APC, PDP – Sonaiya
Remi Sonaiya, a former presidential candidate of the Kowa Party in the 2015 presidential election, is of the view that the political system favours the two major political parties which had tasted power.
The scholar accused the two major parties of using state funds to manipulate elections in their favour to the detriment of the smaller parties.
“I agreed, there is no doubt that having like seventy or more parties on the ballot is wasteful; is expensive and confusing for a lot of people.
“But I don’t think they can impose PDP or APC on us because many of us believe that they are the same party. They are just a group of people who are just mismanaging the country and taking advantage of the resources of the country to win elections.
“They take money from the government and they are using that money to win elections. So, whatgives them that right over the money that belongs to everybody than the rest of us?
“They keep saying that the smaller parties are not making impact but you are using the money of the country to buy votes; you give people N5, 000, N10, 000 or more to buy their votes. Because they know that Nigerians are poor they deliberately keep the people poor so that they can buy their votes,” Sonaiya said.
We were not served any court order – INEC
Reacting in an interview with BDSUNDAY, RotimiOyekanmi, chief press secretary to INEC chairman, denied that the commission was served any court order by 33 political parties.
He said that the only party which had taken the commission to court and whose case was pending was not de-registered.
“What the 33 political parties are saying is not true; they don’t have any injunction. When the INEC chairman was talking on Thursday, he did say that 16 parties met the condition as stipulated in the law and they remain political parties. The INEC chairman also spoke of two political parties; one is Action People’s Party, which went to court and obtained an order restraining the commission from de-registering it, even though the party did not qualify and meet our conditions we had to leave them until the determination of that suit.
“In the case of the 33 political parties, they said they filed a suit they are just beginning the process you cannot hold us to ransom, meaning that we should wait. If they say there is an injunction, did they show you the injunction? Was it served on INEC? That is the issue. Those that meet the target wining 25 percent of elective offices nationwide were not de-registered.
“They meet the criteria in different forms that was why they survived. INEC had the powers to de-register parties from 2011-2014; INEC de-registered about 30 political parties based on powers in the Electoral Act then.
“But the parties went to court that the electoral law is inferior to the constitution, but the National Assembly has amended the law and given us the power. But any association seeking to be registered and has fulfilled the conditions would be considered for registration,” he said.
Position of the Constitution on party deregistration
The Constitution amongst others stipulates that political parties should be de-registered for: “failure to win at least 25percent of the votes cast in one state of the Federation in a Presidential election or 25percent of the votes cast in one Local Government Area of a state in a governorship election.
“Failure to win at least one ward in a chairmanship election, one seat in the National or State Assembly election or one seat in a Councillorship election” qualifies a party to be scrapped.
Nationwide protest in the offing – IPAC
The National Chairman of Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC), Tope Fasua said the body was mobilising for a nationwide protest over the de-registration of 74 political parties and accused INEC of impunity.
Fasua, who also is the national chairman of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), one of the affected parties, faulted INEC’s decision as they were in court and the Commission has been served an order restraining it from the de-registration exercise.
“At the party level, we are one of the 13 parties that have taken the matter to court ab initio and the case is coming up on the 17th February and the initial hearing has been done but real substantial hearing is coming up on the 17th of this month and INEC has also been served but they went ahead and did this because of the impunity in Nigeria,” he said.
According to him, “It is very clear to any right-thinking person that INEC misinterpreted the law and therefore, the law should be properly interpreted because the law said that until the last local government and councillorship election has been conducted and all the elections have not been held in this country; so, you cannot determine that a party will not be able to score 25percent of votes.So, they have jumped ahead of time. Absolutely, it is ultra vires; it is totally unacceptable; it is reckless.”
“IPAC is also mobilising for a national protest on this issue because we are in a democracy and this action is reminiscent of 1984, 1985, 1986, the military regime of Buhari, Babangida and Abacha, respectively. Those were the days when parties were registered and de-registered at will,” Dania further said.