THE Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s deregistration of 74 political parties has elicited plaudits and criticisms for the electoral umpire with some of the parties threatening to challenge the action in court. The action of the INEC, on Thursday, has reduced the number of parties in the country to 18 from 91 that took part in the 2019 general elections. It’s inconsistent with freedom of association — Shonibare Acting National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, Chief Supo Shonibare, said: “Pluralism which is an essential ingredient in a democratic culture entails a multi party system of government. The constitution guarantees freedom of association. “Any restriction is inconsistent with freedom of association. I have never been able to understand curtailment of political parties. We have been pulled into some sense of preference for our imitation of the concept of a two party system, under some misguided premise that that concept requires a legislative caveat curtailing parties to two; as Babangida Military junta did. “Even in the UK, where the two-party system is touted, it is descriptive of the fact that two Parties denominate as main Party and main opposition, which has always been the situation in Nigeria; even in situations of many political parties. When we had no restrictions in the first and second Republics, we had no factions in political parties. Whenever there was any irreconcilable dispute within main support bases in the Parties, those not in control in those Republics simply went on to form a new political party to seek political power. “You encourage factionalized entities in a restricted space. Indeed ruling groups will encourage factionalization to destabilize the opposition. “The issue is that if we had had a settled immutable political vehicles, then APC wouldn’t have emerged. We would still have had PDP, APP and AD- all controlled by the then PDP ruling party. “The ruling APC may be looking at reading off the same script. We should be careful what we wish for. It is politically advantageous for the ruling groups to have a situation where there’s a constriction of political vehicles able to contest for political power. In that event, you can control and take over a limited number of political parties- like the Obasanjo regime did in 2000-2001 with AD and APP being taken over by the ruling Party. It was our Courts which came to establish the pluralist nature of our democratic culture & our constitutional provision. I suspect there’s a contrived attempt to intentionally sponsor many political vehicles so that some agitation for a restrictive control can be justified. They have more political parties in neighbouring Benin Republic and Togo. There are several political parties in Ghana. In other African jurisdictions, the security apparatus is not involved with the proliferation of additional political parties, as it’s alleged in our Country.” INEC is right but…. —Arabambi To Comrade Abayomi Arabambi, Chairman of the Labour Party, Ogun State: ”The act of the INEC in de-registering some political parties is not unexpected or outside the provisions of the Constitution as it is today. The history of court interventions, the alterations to the electoral act and the amendment to the Constitution eventually empowered the INEC to assess each party’s performance after election to determine if the parties satisfied the provisions of the Constitution. “By law as at today, if any party fails to satisfy the constitutional requirements , such party will be de – registered. However, it would have been neater for INEC to let the various ongoing litigations be concluded before wielding the axe. “Having said this, it behoves us in LP to be very sincere on some of the issues that informed the very many existing political parties . It is an obvious fact that some very rich political leaders just use their reach to register some alternative parties while they remain in their first choice parties. “These very rich political agents of crude politics are busy using such parties of mistake to cause confusion in the polity. “Of course , it is true that INEC acted rightly and within the provisions of the Constitution. It has to be noted that the number of registered National political parties are unwieldy. Let it be taken into consideration the space on the ballot paper that should allow for boldness and eligibility of the various logos of the political parties taking part in the election.
Most of the dormant parties are mere ego – dressing for some individuals. It is now clearer that for each political party to remain registered, a great deal more efforts should be exerted to satisfy at least the minimum requirements of the Constitution.” Some of the parties were jokers —Odumakin Mr. Yinka Odumakin, spokesman for Afenifere, pan Yoruba socio- political group, said: “We recognize the right of association enshrined in the constitution and will always defend it. But there is no denying that a lot of the parties are jokes. Our advice to INEC is to continue to clean up the electoral process so we can truly determine the strengths of the parties so that the ones that do not meet requirements of existence would not compete when they are deregistered.” It’s a welcome devt. — Abayomi, Cairo, Morakinyo Dr Tunji Abayomi, a constitutional lawyer, described the deregistration as a welcome development that would help reduce the high cost of conducting polls in the country. “ lt is a welcome development because most of the political parties are just existing by names without adding value to the country. Many of the political parties in Nigeria are irrelevant to the democratic process. INEC’s step would reduce cost of conducting elections in the country,” he said. In like manner, Dr Tayo Cairo, a former Chairman of the PDP in Ondo State, said: ” lt is always confusing to the electorate to see about 100 political parties on the ballot papers. Not more than 12 political parties have recognisable and functional offices in the country, deregistering the affected parties was not out of order. I believe Nigeria should not have more than five viable political parties. Unnecessary proliferation of parties would not help the system.” In his reaction, a former member of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Hon. Adebayo Morakinyo, commended the INEC for what he called the bold step. Morakinyo explained that the decision would further sanitize the electoral system and reduce the unnecessary huge cost of conducting elections in the country. He said: “Most of these political parties only function during election period, when some elements often used them to make money from desperate politicians. “Some of these political parties cannot boast of winning a polling unit let alone winning a ward, some of them don’t even produce candidates during election.” Action is suspicious — Oguntuase The Chairman of PDP in Ekiti State, Chief Gboyega Oguntuase, opposed the decision of INEC, saying it is a game plan ahead the 2023 general polls. Oguntuase explained that PDP does not trust INEC and does not have confidence in any of its actions. He explained that INEC ought to have given the political parties a time frame and necessary conditions to be met before deregistering them. It’s shocking — Osun IPAC The Chairman of Inter Parties Advisory Committee, IPAC, in Osun State, Pastor Popoola Olatunji, described INEC’s decision as shocking, especially as it failed to follow due process. He said the electoral umpire ought to have allowed the case against deregistration before the High Court take its due course before taking its decision. Besides, he added that the political parties that ought to have been deregistered first were the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, and the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for running foul of the financial regulation of the commission. “It is shocking. While people are clamouring that political parties are too much, I believe the Independent National Electoral Commission should have done the needful. There was a case in the High court, the commission ought to have waited for the outcome. As much as I am not against the body doing the right thing it should be done legally. I urge Nigerians to join their voices against what the electoral umpire has done. “Part of the criteria set for deregistration is winning election, yet INEC is not waiting for Edo and Ondo states elections to hold since our elections are staggered. Besides, we have so many states that have not conducted local government elections. Is INEC preempting that the parties cannot win elections in those states? Moreover, the parties that ought to be deregistered were not. The APC and the PDP ought to have been deregistered because of their inabilities to render their financial expenses for the last general elections. I am not against them deregistering parties or doing the right thing but they should follow due process. They should have followed the litigation before the High court to the supreme Court before taking this decision, “he added. INEC‘s action illegal, unconstitutional —ANN THE Alliance for New Nigeria, ANN, one of the political parties de-registered by the INEC, said the action of the electoral umpire was illegal as it contravened the provisions of the 1999 Constitution. The party said through its National Publicity Secretary, Akinloye Oyeniyi, in a statement that the Constitution is bigger than all organs and agencies of government which INEC is one. According to him, “INEC lied by saying it acted based on the Section 225 of the Constitution because that section actually has in it that until all elections from the office of the president to that of the councillors in the 774 local governments and area councils are concluded, no political party can be deregistered. “We know INEC is acting a script and is aware a court ruling will be coming on the 17th of this month, hence this illegality. The constitutional provisions are very clear; and we are in the electoral process in states organising their council polls to fulfil this provisions. The question now is why would INEC carry out the illegality in contravention of the constitution? “We are appealing to our teeming members and supporters to remain calm, the party is putting all in its disposal in motion to protect and sustain their constitutional rights to belong to a political party of their choice and freedom of association.” Deregistration by INEC a rude shock — Galadima National Chairman of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN, Alhaji Buba Galadima, said: “The news of the deregistration of 74 political parties by the INEC came to us as a rude shock. Also worrisome was the inclusion of our Party, ACPN, in the list despite being in the Supreme Court with the INEC. “Our Party considered the deregistration of the ACPN in the circumstance as callous, pre-judicial and a contempt of the Supreme Court that is expected to fix a date for the judgement on the matter of being unlawfully excluded from participating in the governorship election of Kogi and Bayelsa States. “ The deregistration exercise at this period by INEC of the ACPN is pre-emptive of the outcome of the Appeal against it at the Supreme Court and so the rush to deregistration. The deregistration was in bad faith and unacceptable to us. INEC must wait for the outcome of the Appeal at the Supreme Court before deregistration of INEC”. They are businessmen, I support INEC-Yerima To Alhaji Shettima Yerima, President, Arewa Youth Consultative Foru, AYCF, “It is better to deregister most of them because they are not productive. You cannot form a political party that cannot produce even ordinary councilor in the entire 774 LGA and you call yourself a political party. Some of them are there for strictly business and that is why it is easy for them when they sit down, they will just wake up and say they have endorsed the candidate of this or that party meanwhile they don’t even have followers and members. All they do is to hold their offices in their briefcases and go about collecting money everywhere. For me I totally agree with it. Let us have viable parties even if it is just two parties.” INEC was right, most of the parties exist only in paper—Salem Also, Hon. Bamidele Salem said: ” I support that move. It is in compliance with the provisions of the Nigerian constitution as amended and it will actually save us a lot of stress and a lot of cost. If you look at what it takes INEC to conduct elections as a result of this multiplicity of political parties most of which only exist in name and on paper, there is no point. I strongly believe that we can make do with 10 or less political parties in Nigeria.” INEC should be worried about poor voter participation in 2019 elections — Okorie UPP Also speaking, National Chairman of the United Progressive Party, UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie said: “UPP and its leadership were taken aback by the unwarranted deregistration of 74 political parties including our party. “INEC Officials visited our National Secretariat on verification exercise where they confirmed that our well appointed National Secretariat met all the criteria of functionality. They commended it as belonging to the first six Political Party National Secretariats in all considerations. “Our National Executive Committee Members from 36 States of Nigeria and the FCT were on hand with all the verification and identification requirements. These are the major requirements of the amended Electoral Act for a political party to remain on the Register of Political Parties. The other requirements include winning any election in a general election or winning the Chairman or Councillor in a State Local Government Election etc.
“Over 30 States in Nigeria have not held their local government elections since the amended Electoral Act became operational before the obviously vexatious deregistration of Political Parties. INEC has inflicted severe and avoidable damage to Nigeria’s democracy. Notwithstanding the illegality of the action of the Commission, it defies logic that the Commission will deregister 74 political parties that are already growing and gaining traction in the democratic space while at the same time ready to register over 100 new political parties that will start from the scratch to learn the ropes and begin to promote their symbols and manifestos to the electorate for subsequent elections that are around the corner. “INEC should be more worried about the poor voter participation in the 2019 general elections which is below 35% national average. INEC should be expanding the political space instead of constricting it. INEC should be deepening our democratic culture and ethos instead of destabilizing it. Our National Executive Committee will meet soon to decide on our next line of action”.