Political parties are the major stakeholders in any democratic process, with usually one that is in power, being called the ruling party and an opposition party or parties, as case may be.
Ever since the first republic, Nigeria has been a multi- party country, which gives room for competition among parties. Quite a good omen for the country’s democracy.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is the electoral umpire in Nigeria, with the sole power to conduct election, monitor activities of political parties amongst others.
INEC, had, during the tenure of Professor Attahiru Jega on 6th December, 2012, de-registered 28 political parties.
That led to many legal fireworks on whether or not INEC has the power to de-register political parties or not.
In the second month of the year 2020, the commission’s chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, announced the de-registeration of 74 political parties, meaning they would not be participating in any elections in the country.
Yakubu further said the de-registration followed the poor performance of the parties in the 2019 general elections and court-ordered re-run elections arising from litigations.
The electoral umpire said the 74 political parties did not satisfy the requirements of the Fourth Alteration to the Constitutional Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
That provision of the law made the commission to determine that only eighteen (18) political parties have fulfilled the requirements for an existence based on Section 225A of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The action was clearly in preparation for the coming 2023 general elections.
When INEC took that decision many political stakeholders commended the action, saying that reducing the number of political parties will reduce cost of election in the country.
Though the political parties affected took the case to the legal battle up to the Supreme Court, the judgement came out in favour of INEC.
Forming a political party in Nigeria is an indisputable right of individuals, which has its root under Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (Amended), which provides that:
“Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interest, provided that the provisions of this Section shall not derogate from the powers conferred by these Constitution on the Independent National Electoral Commission concerning the Political Parties to which that Commission does not accord recognition.”
Forming a political party in Nigeria involves having an association of members constituted and ready for the proposed party to participate in an election.
Any Individual who intends to run a political office must be a registered member of a political party or can form and register his party.
The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC is empowered by the Constitution to organize elections and register political parties in Nigeria.
Some of the Constitutional requirements for the formation of a political party in Nigeria is contained in Section 221 and 222 of the 1999 Constitution.
The application for registration is made by the Chairman of the association of the political party, addressed to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, and submitted to the headquarters of INEC.
Curiously, however, few days after supreme court affirmed INEC’s de-registration decision the commission has received 45 new applications from associations seeking to be registered as political parties. I have problem with that, because it has made me think whether this could akin to the saying “Soja Come Soja Go, Barrack Remains.”
In a situation where most of the political parties exist only in name and on paper without any genuine efforts to cultivate voters and win elections or even have an identified office do not spell good for our democracy.
I personally don’t think Nigeria needs so many political parties because when we check all the so- called parties, is there any good ideology attached to the formation of all these political parties? Do they have any different ideologies from the existing registered political parties? Nigerians can pass judgement on that.
Thus, the need to amend the section of the constitution that contains the issue of political parties registration so as to reduce proliferation of unwanted or unnecessary political parties in Nigeria becomes even paramount. And more than ever before, Nigeria only needs strong political parties rather than the mushroom number of them prolonging our voting slips.
Alhassan A. Bala, an Abuja-Based Broadcast journalist can be reached via [email protected]