Twenty months after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) deregistered 74 of the 91 political parties in the country, more than half of the parties that survived the electoral body’s hammer are docile and inactive, Daily Trust reports.
No fewer than 15 of the remaining 18 parties are inactive and unpopular as they only exist on paper. This is just as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and leading opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are wallowing in crises, ahead of the 2023 politicking.
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Following their poor outing at the 2019 general elections, INEC had on January 30, last year, deregistered 74 political parties. The INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, listed non-performance as one of the reasons for deregistering them.
The grounds for the de-registration, Yakubu said, included, “failure to win at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in one state of the federation in a presidential election or 25 per cent 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 elections or one seat in a councillorship election.”
With 74 out, Nigerians have been left with 18 others. The 18th party, Boot Party (BP), was registered through a court order after the 2019 general elections. But stakeholders, including political scientists, federal lawmakers and civil society groups, are expressing reservations on the performance of the smaller parties.
They lamented that most of the smaller parties in the country are formed by stalwarts of the APC and PDP as a fallback measure and for political manipulation.
The parties, pundits observe, have not shown readiness to challenge the two dominant parties even at a time when both parties are enmeshed in crises.
The 18 political parties that survived INEC’s hammer
The Accord Party (A); Action Alliance (AA); African Action Congress (AAC); African Democratic Congress (ADC); African Democratic Party (ADP); All Progressives Congress (APC); All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); Allied Peoples Movement (APM); Action Peoples Party (APP) and Boot Party (BP) survived de-registration.
Others are Labour Party (LP); New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP); National Rescue Movement (NRM); Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Peoples Redemption Party (PRP); Social Democratic Party (SDP); Young Progressive Party (YPP) and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
APGA has twice produced the governors of Anambra State, YPP won a seat in the Senate, ADC,AA, PRP, ADP,APM, LP and SDP won seats at the House of Representatives during the 2019 general elections, hence they survived INEC’S hammer.
Some of the other parties did not win any seat but fulfilled the Electoral Act requirement of 25 percent of the votes cast in one state of the federation in the 2019 presidential election or 25 percent of votes cast in one local government area of a state in a governorship election.
They are tools for trade-off – Kari
An associate professor of Political Sociology, University of Abuja, Dr Abubakar Umar Kari, said smaller parties in the country were tools for political trade-off as they are not rooted in people.
In an interview, he said everything was wrong with “those so-called parties”.
“They are often set up by few individuals or even friends to prosecute a specific or transient political agenda. Many of them are actually owned by those who registered them. And they are not meant to function as true parties but as convenient tools for political trade-off. They lack membership, and many of them do not even bother to invite people to join. They lack the requisite organisation and resources to compete favourably; hence many do not have organs and structures at the various levels, not to mention fielding candidates.
“But beyond that, it is pretty difficult to run a national party in a large country like Nigeria. It involves a lot in terms of personnel, money, reach and coordination, which are difficult to muster,” he said.
He, however, suggested that the smaller parties should restrict their reach to specific areas like zones, states, districts, where they can compete favourably.
“They should evolve distinct characters or ideologies to make them different and attractive as alternative platforms. They should consider entering into alliances among themselves (smaller parties) rather than serve as willing tools and spoilers for the big parties. And they should not be contented with just existing, but should be in the business of competition for power and playing real opposition.
“Yes, we need more than two parties because ours is a multiparty democracy. Also, we need more alternative platforms to make informed choices. However, there should be requirements that for a party to field candidates for certain positions (president, governors), it should attain a certain threshold in terms of winning seats within a specified period,” he added.
He also said that most of the smaller parties were formed by elements within the major parties for sundry purpose.
We don’t have political parties in Nigeria – Prof Fage
Also speaking, Professor Kamilu Sani Fage, a political scientist, opined that the reason for the inactiveness of the ‘smaller’ political parties is because “technically, in Nigeria we don’t have real political parties. What we have is more or less a club or association of people of like-minds; those whose interest is primarily just to get power and not because they have any ideology.”
Another reason, according to him, is “stringent conditions” put in place, like the expectations that political parties must have offices in two-third of states in the country and that they are supposed to have some form of financial strength to survive.
“If they don’t have control of power they will not survive because they don’t have the means to even contest for elections because everything is monetised,” he said, adding that these smaller parties, because of financial constraints, do not have the machinery to mobilise the electorate.
Another senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science in Bayero University, Kano, Dr Aminu Hayatu, shares similar opinions on the reasons these parties are not active, but added that in many situations, they are quickly hijacked by the elite as soon as they are formed because of the current political system.
Despite these problems, Fage and Hayatu, however, insisted that Nigeria needs more than two political parties to ensure good governance. Hayatu added that “multi-party politics is the best a democratic any country.
“If you have two parties, the danger is that you are likely to have issues based on religion. And you are likely to have three parties based on ethnic affiliations,” Prof Fage said while advocating four or five major political parties.
He added that despite the need for more than two political parties in the country, it should not escalate to an uncontrollable number like what was obtained before the 2019 general elections.
On what can be done to stimulate these smaller parties, Fage, a former vice president of the Nigerian Political Science Association (NPSA), said there was the need for the country to return to politics of ideologies and programmes.
“If we have parties with programmes and ideologies, you will see that they solidify themselves into major blocs. The other thing is that we should not allow proliferation of political parties; 18 are even too many. What we need is to allow the 18 to contest elections and those who cannot make it (win at least some electoral seats) will die a natural death,” he said.
Hayatu said as long as Nigeria’s political culture would continue on the basis of “corruption, selfish interests and lack of patriotism, it would continue to also affect the formation and growth of opposition political parties,” adding that, “There is the need to encourage the formation of political parties that are independent of the influences and infiltration of these major political parties so that even at the grassroots, we will have representatives and executive members who are members of other political parties, thereby making it possible to check the excesses of one another in the cause of delivering governance.”
Why we cannot function well – NCP chairman
The national chairman of the National Conscience Party (NCP), Dr Yunusa Tanko, said the political space in the country had strangulated smaller parties.
Tanko, who is also the spokesperson of the National Consultative Front (NCFront), said the system had been monitised, such that opposition parties find it difficult to navigate their ways.
“The system is heavily monitised, such that there is no equality in the contest. The law only protects the party in power. We need to look at our laws and make it fair and equitable to all,” he said.
Lamenting the way ruling parties use state resources to their advantage, he punctured the claims that most of the smaller parties were established by those in the ruling parties.
Smaller parties exist only on paper – Ex- Rep minority leader
The executive secretary of the Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reform (CODER), Dr Wunmi Bewaji, has attributed the inability of smaller parties to make impact in the political scene to lack of finance.
He said many of the political parties lacked the financial wherewithal to be active; hence they exist only on paper.
In a chat with Daily Trust on Sunday, Bewaji, a former minority leader in the House of Representatives, said, “The main reason is finance. We have 774 local governments in Nigeria. How many of these political parties we are talking about are even able to maintain any visible presence in any of the 36 states of the country? I ran the South-West office of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) for four years with headquarters in Ibadan.
“To run a party to be effective in state and local governments is not easy. I was a ward secretary twice in my political career. It involves a lot of money, and that is the reason many of these parties are existing only on paper,” he said
But Bewaji would not subscribe to the suggestion that less vibrant parties should be deregistered.
He said the INEC also contributed to the problem of minority parties by relating with them only in terms of their electoral victory.
The former lawmaker said political parties should be recognised based on endorsements from the people and the number of signatures they can garner.
A political scientist, Dr Kayode Esuola also said that while Nigeria needs more political parties for the sake of nomenclature, only two, the ruling and the opposition, usually compete.
He said, “Experience in Nigeria has shown that cooperation is faster and a less risky approach to political power than opposition; more so, where political power is sought for its own sake and not for pursuit of ideology.
“Globally, the multiparty system has largely remained a democratic nomenclature than political reality. Politics is a game, and competition in any game is best at two. This is why even in the US, the multiparty system is often collapsed into two during elections. We need more than two parties for nomenclature and interparty mobility, which is a right, but only two parties in needed, in practice, to run the system: ruling and opposition.”
He added that many people see smaller parties as fall back alternatives when they fail in their parties.
More parties to go soon – Senate c’ttee
The chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano), said more parties would be deregistered before the 2023 general elections to strengthen the country’s electoral system.
In a phone interview, Gaya, a former governor of Kano State, said their target was to have five strong political parties in the country before the next general elections.
“When I came in as chairman of the committee on INEC, we had 92 political parties. Now we have trimmed them to 18. I think it is an achievement by us and the government. We have been able to reduce the number of these political parties.
“A situation where you would have names of 92 political parties on the ballot is not good enough for democracy. It will even be too long for people to identify the logo of their parties. I hope we would also reduce the number parties from 18 to about 5,” he said.
Speaking to Daily Trust on Sunday on the matter, the Director of Voter Education and Publicity of the INEC, Mr Nick Dazang, said one of the reasons for the non-performance of opposition parties was lack of internal democracy.
He said the INEC was always displeased when parties failed to respect their rules and regulations or breached the constitution and electoral act.
“When the political parties fail to observe the rules or are bereft of interparty democracy, it means they can neither birth nor exude democracy in their conduct.
“Secondly, when they fail to conduct themselves democratically, especially at the level of primaries, such sham are often annulled by the courts and new elections ordered,” Dazang said, adding that this has numerous adverse consequences to the electoral process, as well as the country’s democracy and development.
Ismail Mudashir, Abbas Jimoh (Abuja), Clement A. Oloyede (Kano) & Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos)