We laud the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to delist weak parties and review the campaign funding of political parties that participated in the 2019 elections. The INEC National Commissioner for Voter Education and Information, Mr. Festus Okoye, who made the disclosure recently, stressed that the electoral umpire would embark on the exercise after the conclusion of the supplementary elections and petitions at the various election tribunals.
We support any move by the electoral umpire to delist weak parties and carry out a review of political parties’ campaign funding. At the same time, we urge the electoral agency to be guided by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) in carrying out the exercise.
The conditions to register associations as political parties are clearly spelt out in Section 222 (a-f) of the Constitution and Section 78 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). Also Section 78 (7) specifically states the conditions under which a political party can be deregistered. According to it, “The Commission shall have power to deregister political parties on the following grounds- (i) breach of any of the requirements for registration; and (ii) for failure to win a seat in the National or State Assembly election.” Also, Section 221 states that “No association, other than a political party, shall canvass for votes for any candidate at any election.” Therefore, we urge INEC to strictly follow the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act in carrying out the exercise. And where the extant laws are inadequate or do not conform to what the electoral umpire intends to do, then such laws must be amended before the exercise.
There is no doubt that many Nigerians and indeed keen observers of our electoral process believe that the present 91 registered political parties are unwieldy. The history of political parties shows that from a few political parties at independence, the number increased to about five during the Second Republic. During the ill-fated Third Republic, the government decreed two parties, the National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Since the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1999, the number of political parties has been on the rise. The attempts to register more political parties and deregister those INEC thought were not viable have been challenged in the courts. And the victory by some of the parties has encouraged the multiplicity of political parties in the country. Also, the liberalisation of the political space has unarguably led to the present 91 parties. There are indications that many more proposals are awaiting INEC’s consideration to become political parties. While there is nothing wrong with multi-party democracy, there is need to prune the number of political parties in the country to a manageable size.
In the USA, arguably the most advanced democracy in the world, there are two prominent parties, a number of other parties exist side by side. But not all the parties contest federal or, indeed, all elections. Some of them, going by their ideologies, exist for specific purposes.
Following from the above observations, and drawing from our own sour experiences arising from the just-held general elections, we believe that this is the right time for the electoral agency to reduce the number of political parties. Alternatively, parties may be registered and allowed to exist, but for parties to get on the ballot, they should be made to fulfil more stringent conditions. This would dissuade the numerous associations from seeking registration, and if they do, from getting on the ballot and creating the logistic nightmare for the electoral umpire as was witnessed in the recent elections.
On campaign finance, INEC must do its best to review it to avoid monetisation of the electoral process. Section 91 of the Electoral Act has set the limit for the various political offices as follows: N1billion (President), N200million (Governor), N40million (Senate), N10million (State Assembly) and so on. The electoral umpire must ensure that political parties and their candidates do not exceed the campaign fund sealing for each elective office.