2019: ‘91 Political Parties Unwieldy’

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Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara (5th right), with former Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega (4th left), Head of European Union Delegation to Nigeria, Amb. Ketil Karlsen (5th left), Convener, Not Too Young To Run Movement, Mr Samson Itodo (2nd right) and other dignitaries, during the Not Too Young To Run celebration conference in Abuja, recently.

Political analysts have said that having 91 political parties in a developing country like Nigeria is unnecessary and awkward and abysmal.
They made the assertion while speaking with The Tide source yesterday in Lagos on political developments in the country.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on August 16, issued certificates to  23 newly registered political parties, raising the number of registered parties in Nigeria to 91.
The Commission in a statement issued by Mohammed Haruna, its National Commissioner and Member, Voter Education and Publicity Committee, in Abuja said that it was the last round of the registration of parties until after the general elections on February 16, 2019.
“This suspension is in line with Section 78 (1) of the Electoral Act, which requires all applications for registration as political party to be concluded latest six months to a general election.”
Earlier, Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had explained that the commission would continue to register any association that meet the legal requirements for registration as political party ahead of 2019 general elections.
“Once associations meet the legal requirements as political parties, the commission is under obligation to register them, but the law also provides for a period of six months to general elections.
He noted that as part of its duties, the commission would do what the law required of it, saying “if we don’t, they will go to the court and the court will order the commission to register them as political parties.
“But, we will not allow the commission to be dragged to court over a matter which we have responsibility under the law. So, we will continue to do the needful, “ he said.
A Professor of Political Science at the National Open University of Nigeria, Femi Otubanjo, said INEC was a victim  rather than a villain  in the act of registration of political  parties.
According to Otubanjo, their hands are tied by the Constitution. They have no choice but to register parties  that have met the prerequisites for registration.
“’Registering more parties is awkward and unnecessary, though, we can not rule out the fact that these minor parties that are registering can transform into major political parties.
“’But again, the ideological space does not allow for so many parties. People can always stick to two or three political parties.
“INEC is not the one creating this problem, the problem is already embedded in our constitution and I do not think any good will come out of reviewing  the constitution in this regard,” he said.
Otubanjo said that INEC would have to produce an understandable documentation of ballot papers as well as embark on more voter education to manage the situation.
He said it would be cumbersome dealing with over 90 political parties.
“’What this means is that INEC has to do more work by producing a more acceptable and understandable documentation, particularly the voters’ list  or ballot list for voting and have more materials on the day of election
“INEC will have to do more voter education, which is where the challenge is right now. They need to educate voters to know the different symbols of political parties.
“It will be more difficult work for INEC because  it will not be easy to conduct an election with huge longish ballot paper in a largely illiterate country.
“That is the only was to manage this situation  and make sure that people are able to vote adequately.
“The political parties have a greater responsibility to educate their supporters on their symbol so that they don’t lose votes due to the inadequacies of their supporters.
“They have to teach and enlighten their supporters how to identify your symbol and vote immediately,  without spending so much time searching through the a long list of symbols.
“So, a lot of voter education is required when you have a longish ballot paper they need to be enlightened about what to do,” Otubanjo said.
Contributing, a Professor of Jurisprudence and International Law, Akin Oyebode said the registration of too many parties is abysmal and called for a review of the Electoral Act to de-register or exclude political parties that have little or no following.
“In other systems that we know of, you may put a minimum that a party should score in an election to continue to be relevant as a political party. May be five or two per cent.
“Now, it is an all-comers game and when or where is it going to stop? We have to review our electoral laws to exclude parties that have little  or no following.
“Even in the U.S., it is  not just the Democrats and the Republicans, there are what we call fringe parties.
“What we need to do in Nigeria, is to separate the wheat from the chaff. Let us know parties that have good followership, prescribe minimum or certain criterion for them for recognition.
“If you fail to get certain percentage of votes you lose your registration,” he said.
Also, the 2nd Vice-President of the Nigeria Bar Association, Mr Monday Ubani, said that having a longish ballot paper would create confusion for voters.
“As far as we know, the two major political parties that will make impact in 2019 general elections remain APC and PDP, all others are appendages.
“The political parties are too many. I think INEC has an agender for allowing  such. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
“And the law requires that all the political parties  be listed in the ballot paper, I still wonder how they will enlist all the 91 parties without creating confusion for the voters.
Ubani said that INEC wants to justify their huge budget by registering more parties.
“And now, that INEC is crying that it needs funds to conduct the election, it is now registering more parties so they will justify the huge budget they are demanding.
“These political parties and INEC need to do more  to educate the masses to avoid confusion on the election day.
“The ballot paper will be too long and a voter will take so much time searching for the symbol of the party he or she wants to vote for. This can even cause another delay for voters on the queue,” Ubani said.
Also, another Professor of Political Science, Sunny Akpotor, said that opposition would be weakened due to the registration of too many parties by INEC.
Akpotor, who works in the Delta State University, Abraka, said that strong and proper opposition developed democracy and present options for citizen.
“When the parties are too many, opposition role will be weak and Nigerians may not be able to make a choice.
“In the U. S., only two major political parties are winning. In Nigeria, the parties are seen or heard of, only during electioneering. Thereafter, they disappear for nearly four years, until the next election period.
“A few big parties assume the role of opposition, so, for what purpose are we registering more parties?