In February 2020, months after the election, INEC deregistered 74 parties whom they said hadn’t complied with the constitutional requirements – in their reckoning. INEC deliberately misinterpreted the constitution, doing violence to that document and to the franchises of the 74 parties. Allegedly, using one of the parties – National Unity Party – INEC frontloaded a case at the courts asking only one question “can INEC deregister parties?” Of course, INEC can deregister parties.
The Supreme Court has confirmed that. But INEC CANNOT deregister parties except it obeys the constitution. The constitution, as amended, says that these parties be allowed to contest ALL elections. In the game of chances, you must give every chance. INEC says it had held 33 state elections and was okay with that. That is a breach of the constitution. Any of the parties could meet any of the requirements at any of the three state elections that they are excluded from (Ondo, Edo and Anambra). The constitution says clearly that a party should win 25 per cent of a presidential election, or 25 per cent at any state election, or 25 per cent of a Senate, House of Reps or House of Assembly election, or 25% of a local government election, or a council seat. This is how the constitution (as amended) sought to protect multiparty democracy and political expression in Nigeria, but INEC is only concerned about pleasing those who pay their salaries and appoint them into office.
A colossal shame that the headship of INEC, a supposed professor, cannot wash himself clean forever! INEC then pleads that well, it is not in charge of local council elections – that those elections are handled by state electoral commissions. That means that the power to DEREGISTER parties cannot be exercised by fiat except those state bodies are carried along. In fact, many states invited us to field people in their elections AFTER INEC had purportedly deregistered the 74 parties.
Anyhow, the latest news is about how the NUP case has been decided by the Supreme Court. INEC Commissioner, Festus Okoye cannot grant an interview without mentioning NUP a dozen times. There is allegedly an unholy relationship between INEC and that party gone rogue. But again, no one has said INEC cannot deregister. The question is the procedure and many of the parties have approached the Supreme Court on that basis.
The other big news is that Nigeria is in trouble everywhere. The APC government – especially the taciturn Buhari – chose the path of war rather than peace. Buhari, instead of allowing Nigerian youths to anchor their anger in politics and to keep trying their best by engaging lawfully and constitutionally with a view to making a change in their own country through politics, decided to sign that obnoxious amendment to the constitution, as presented by the Ekweremadu-led committee.
Unfortunately for them, in the drafting, they shot themselves in the leg such that a proper implementation of that constitutional amendment will give life to the parties they hoped to destroy. We will stop at nothing to get justice anyway. It was Buhari’s body language that INEC followed to strangle the little baby parties (some of them six months old) in their cots. Sheer murderers committed political infanticide! The aim was to create a one-party state with the APC, but now, the APC has given up on running Nigeria, to the extent that the president stooped so low as to ask a US Secretary of State to come and establish a base for the US Army in Nigeria! Why do old men fight to own things they cannot manage or enjoy? The same Buhari is busy pleading and begging Nigerians after having shown up as superman who could solve all our problems. Now, he says some people are ‘mercilessly’ against Nigeria.
What would it have cost APC and their surrogate INEC (including the vestiges of fat cats in PDP in the Ekwemadu-led committee) to allow the young parties grow? Would we not have been engaging on the basis of ideas? Since Buhari did not have a mind grand enough to institute a government of national unity, we accepted the electoral robberies and continued to organise. Today, we hear some people urging him to co-opt talent from elsewhere but his party. Of course, that can never happen. And it is way too late. Let Buhari and APC carry the whole blame for whatever has befallen Nigeria… for a time. That is the price of greed, wickedness, lack of magnanimity, selfishness, foolish pride, myopia, nepotism and tribalism… everything that has laid Nigeria prostrate since independence.
Imagine how many young Nigerians this move disenfranchised and threw back into militancy? Seventy-four parties had at least 20 national excos each. That is almost 1,500. Multiply that by 37 for the states, that is 55,500. For the LGs and wards, a back of the envelop calculation will take you to over 500,000 who were politically engaged by these small parties who could have been allowed to grow. This is discounting those who worked with candidates. We could have engaged over one million youths and that is a significant number. Not all of them voted for us when it came to brass tacks but that is no problem. New ideas take time to germinate, but we didn’t reckon on the bullying from INEC and its shameless paymasters. APC confused many of them with money during elections, then moved for the jugular, to their eternal shame.
APC, Buhari and INEC would rather Nigerian youths form themselves, not into intellectual political parties, but into armed groups, into Boko Haram, armed herdsmen, bandits, IPOB, ESN, Nnamdi Kanu types who curse Nigeria daily and calls her a zoo; Igboho types who vowed to stop any election in 2023 and who champion secession, kidnappers, yahoo-yahoo boys, corporate prostitutes, drug-addled thugs, cult members, cheap drug addicts and so on. Let no one blame the gods, this current situation Nigeria has found herself is EXACTLY what Buhari’s spirit drew for Nigeria. There is no way we could have done better. The APC only tagged along, while INEC was the shameless willing tool. The courts are not much better. The judiciary is in the pocket of the executive, especially since the Number 3 man, Walter Onnoghen, was disgraced out of office, by people who are morally worse than him by every stretch of contention. On another day, when these bad luck people may have shipped out, perhaps Nigeria will choose another destiny. Multi-party democracy is firmly rooted in our constitution. It needs no further amendment, only compliance.
Also, I urge Nigerian youth to keep hope alive. The way I see it is that Nigeria and our collective destinies are bigger than whoever occupies some positions now. We cannot despair and start looking for visas everywhere. That is a sign of total frustration. While we look for positive things to occupy our hands and minds in the interim, let us understand that our country is ours to save and to build. We cannot ship out of our country en masse and allow all sorts of strangers to come and tap the goodness of this beautiful land, with the best weather in the world, the best food, the best people, the best of everything that God has put in our custody. We are not cowards. We may not be able to win these people politically, I admit. Where will we find all these billions? But we can defeat them intellectually. That gives me much confidence. Our chance will come, no matter how much they deploy the instrument of state to frustrate our efforts and turn Nigeria into a hellish place. Shame on them all.