Last week, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) stirred the hornet’s nest when it de-registered 74 of Nigeria’s 92 political parties on the ground that they failed to meet constitutional requirements that determine the continuous existence of political parties in the country. The Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who released names of the de-registered political parties at a press conference in Abuja, also said 18 parties made the list of registered parties in the country.
The registered political parties, which reacted angrily to INEC’s decision, said it was subjudice, adding they would take legal action against the commission. Among the de-registered parties are the National Conscience Party, which was established by the late human rights lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, Kowa Party and the United Peoples Party.
They also include Pastor Chris Okotie’s Fresh Democratic Party; Peoples Trust, whose presidential candidate was Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim; the Advanced Allied Party, the All Blending Party, the Advanced Congress of Democrats, the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, the Alliance for Democracy, the All Grassroots Alliance, the All Grand Alliance Party, the Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party, the Alliance For New Nigeria, the Alliance National Party, the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party, the African Peoples Alliance, the Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance, the Alternative Party of Nigeria and the Alliance of Social Democrats.
According to INEC, the 18 successful parties are the Accord Party, the Action Alliance, Omoyele Sowore’s African Action Congress, the African Democratic Congress, the All Progressives Congress, the All Progressive Grand Alliance and the Allied Peoples Movement. Others are Labour Party, the New Nigeria Peoples Party, the National Rescue Movement, the Peoples Democratic Party, the Peoples Redemption Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Young Progressives Party, and the Zenith Labour Party.
At the press conference, Yakubu said the commission had fixed the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states for September 19 and October 10, respectively. He explained that the Boot Party registered after 2019 general elections would continue to exist. Yakubu said the commission de-registered the 74 political parties because they breached requirements for party registration.
One of the breaches given by him was the 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. Another reason was the failure to win at least one ward in a chairmanship election, one seat in the National Assembly or state houses of assembly elections or one seat in a councillorship election.
He said, “In order to implement the provision of the Fourth Alteration to the constitution, the commission carried out an assessment of political parties to determine compliance with the requirements for their registration.
“Similarly, following the conclusion of the 2019 general elections, including court-ordered re-runs arising from litigation, the commission was able to determine the performance of political parties in the elections.
“In addition, they were also assessed on the basis of their performance in the area council elections in the Federal Capital Territory which coincided with the 2019 general elections. It should be noted that the FCT is the only part of the country where INEC is empowered by the constitution to conduct LG elections.
“Consequently, the commission has determined that 18 political parties have fulfilled the requirements for existence based on Section 225A of the 1999 constitution (as amended). Seventy-five political parties did not satisfy the requirements of the Fourth Alteration to the Constitution.”
However, in its reaction, the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) asked the electoral umpire to rescind its decision to de-register the parties due to pending court action instituted by 33 political parties. IPAC said it was aware of a court action instituted in the Federal High Court, seeking, among other things, an order restraining INEC from de-registering concerned political parties, pending the determination of the suit.
Notwithstanding IPAC’s criticism, a legal luminary, Yusuf Ali, said that INEC had the right to de-register political parties. “INEC has the power because there are thresholds set for political parties after general elections, which they must meet to remain as political parties. Once you do not meet the thresholds, your party is gone. We have too many parties. I see it as an abuse of democratic space to have over 90 political parties on the ballot paper, when we know that functionally, there are about three viable parties in the country. None of the political parties is based on ideology.”
Although there are mixed reactions trailing the de-registration of the parties, it is our view that INEC deserves commendation for its bold and patriotic action to de-register non-performing political parties. Without a doubt, the action taken by INEC to de-register 74 political parties will, to a large extent, help to restore party ideology and sanitise the nation’s party system by ridding it of the motley of political parties that serve as mere appendages to Nigeria’s two main parties – the ruling APC and opposition PDP.