The most important use of a political party would be to spur members to contest elections. Apart from contesting the election, political parties canvass different policies and policies for the people as a pressure group. They play a significant part in the decision-making to assist legislation and implementation of policies. These political parties, when effective in elections, form and run the government.
So, the use of a political party is not limited to winning elections. Be that as it may, Nigeria has witnessed a proliferation of political parties because of the return to democratic rule from the Fourth Republic.
But in the 2019 general election (20 years later), a record amount of 91 political parties fielded over 23,000 candidates.
This was absurd and the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Mahmood Yakubu in explaining the way the decision to delist none doing parties said that the commission reached the decision following the 2019 general election, including court-ordered re-run elections originating from litigations, saying the Commission was able to ascertain the performance of political parties in the elections.
He added that the political parties were assessed on the basis of the performance in the Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which coincided with the 2019 overall election to arrive at the choice.
He rationalized the action, saying, “Prior to the Alteration, the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) had supplied for deregistration of political parties. According to this provision, the Commission, between 2011 and 2013, deregistered 39 political parties
As a regulatory body, the 1999 constitution as amended in section 225A empowers INEC to perform its regulatory obligations.
The department provides that INEC will have the power to deregister a political party for (a) violation of any of the prerequisites for enrollment (b) collapse to win at least 25 per cent of votes cast (I) on condition of the federation in a presidential election or (ii) one local authorities of the country in a governorship election (c) collapse to succeed (I) one ward in the chairmanship election (ii) one seat at the state or national House of Assembly election or (iii) one seat at the councillorship election.
Together with the actions, only 16 political parties currently exist in the nation according to 92. They are Accord Party (AP), Action Alliance (AA), African American Action Congress (AAC), African Democratic Congress (ADC), African Democratic Party (ADP), All Progressives Congress (APC), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Allied Peoples Movement (APM).
However, some political parties went to court to challenge the conclusion of INEC to de-register them. There were conflicting conclusions, one in favour of this de-registration and another against the workout. This forced INEC to seek the Supreme Court decision.
The hopes of those 74 political parties that were deregistered from INEC in February 2020 for failure to win in any competition following the 2019 general election to be re-listed on the ballot box has been permanently dented from the Supreme Court.
The commission had stated its decision followed a relative review and court-ordered re-run elections originating from litigations on political parties in the past elections.
It further said the political parties played badly and failed to acquire a minimum of one seat in the last election. INEC also said the parties breached the need for registration of political parties under section 225 of the Nigerian constitution.
Expectedly, the practice sparked public debate as to whether the electoral umpire has the constitutional power to make such a movement.
Reacting to the conclusion, the President of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Dr. Leonard Nzenwa hailed the judgment and said the ruling had stopped all speculations and as it will help INEC to now focus on significant issues in preparation for delivering credible, fair and free 2023 general election.
He clarified that the ruling of the apex court will help INEC in preparation. He wondered how the commission fared with 23,000 candidates who contested the 2019 entire election.
Also speaking, the Council of Nigerian Ethnic Youth Leaders called on the National Assembly to quickly amend the Constitution and Electoral Act to stop additional registration of political parties stating the 18 remaining parties ought to be sufficient to satisfy all political tendencies in the nation.
All Grand Alliance Party (AGAP), Fresh Democratic Party (FDP) and Alliance for Democracy (AD) cried foul and accused the inaugural umpire of illegality.
In his own part, the KOWA Party, the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), and the Socialist Party of Nigeria criticized that the ruling wondering why the Supreme Court should stop Nigerians from associating with one another.
A legal practitioner, Emeka Udeh wondered how the apex court could rule contrary to freedom of association as enshrined in the constitution. He stated that political parties aren’t necessarily meant to win elections but additionally to canvass opinions on policies of the government.
Though he explained, “since the court pleases, I can not confuse the Supreme Court but I maintain the opinion it is against the spirit of association by people to freely meet and maintain remarks.”
Taking a stance, the Youths Alliance for Democratic Advancement also supported the conclusion of the Supreme. Court. The organization issued a statement advancing reasons for standing together with an apex court. “The nation’s electioneering process will continue to suffer retrogression with the long list of political parties on the ballot, which constitutes confusion and accounts for a high number of void votes, was allowed to remain.
The Ekiti State Coordinator of the NGO, Michael Ogungbemi, had said, “the idea that 91 parties engaged in the general election was not great,” adding that registering 91 political parties in a developing nation like Nigeria with a high level of illiteracy would not assist the electoral system.
“Rather, INEC should register most of these parties for local governments and state houses of assembly elections together with performance benchmarks or criteria that should they score a certain percentage of votes, they’d qualify to participate in the governorship and National Assembly elections and up into the Presidential election.
“If not assessed and controlled, INEC may register up to 300 political parties until 2023. Apart from these, INEC would not be able to manage this range of political parties in the future,” he added.
Ahead of the INEC conclusion that was ratified by the apex court, many Nigerians had at different times known as for the whittling down of the number of celebrations in the country.
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For example, former Senate President in the aborted Third Republic, Chief Ameh Ebute, voiced concerns over the existence of 68 registered political parties at the political terrain, stating they had been unwieldy to the country’s democracy to create any meaningful improvement.
Ebute had contended that the registration of numerous political parties without firm ideology had been counter-productive to flourishing partisan politics.
He explained, “About the issue of political parties, it’s my opinion that there is no political ideology for politicians to think about prior to jumping from one party to the other. The only ideology, for the time being, is battling for access to the federal cake so as to have a share of it. I’m needing a two-party system. This will enable politicians to select whether or not a progressive or a conservative.”
Sulaiman, who served as National Planning Minister under former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government, argued that Nigeria requires just three operational political parties to deepen democratic civilization among the citizenry.
He said “Some political parties now do not even have offices in various states across the nation, but then they occupy space on the ballot paper, thereby causing confusion. When you speak about the inconclusive election, over-voting, some Nigerians in the rural areas could not differentiate between specific symbols since we have a ballot paper that’s as long as one kilometre.
What many Nigerians say for now is that the misuse of each process, explaining the Supreme Court judgement was an extreme to curb the misuse by Nigerians. Though, they admitted that there could be additional roles that political parties may play in a democracy.
In this line of thought, a few Nigerians have called for a stop to additional registration of political parties to enable INEC adequate time for the 2023 general elections.
An INEC official told that the Supreme Court judgment might not stop the commission from registering more political parties as in the last count there are more than 100 petitions from groups searching for registration as political parties.
He said, “that the one thing that could prevent INEC from registering more political parties is a legislation and amendment of the constitution, even less the commission will be accused of blocking the governmental space where politicians could ventilate their views when they’re choked.”
On his part, the KOWA Party, the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), along with the Socialist Party of Nigeria criticized that the ruling wondering why the Supreme Court should prevent Nigerians from associating together. A legal practitioner, Emeka Udeh wondered the apex court could rule contrary to freedom of association as enshrined in the constitution. He opened that political parties are not necessarily intended to win elections but additionally to canvass opinions on policies of authorities. Though, he said, “because the court pleases, I can not fault the Supreme Court but I hold the view that it is contrary to the spirit of association by people to publicly meet and hold opinions.
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