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The Futility Of Two-Party System In Nigeria

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Basically the countries that are known to be operating a two-party system are United States of America, Japan, Jamacai, Hundaras and to a large extent, United Kingdom, Great Britain. But even in these countries, small parties still exist. Such parties are restricted not by legislation but by their capacity and modes of operation.

In other words, they do not have national presence. Here, you have two parties emerging and becoming strong such that when there is need for election people are now faced with the choice of just the two parties at the national and state levels.

In Nigeria, section 40 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has guarantees freedom of participation to every individual. Subject to INEC recognising any political party and looking at section 221 and 227 of the constitution they spell some regulations which INEC can impose on parties.  These have been tested in court but that is not my brief.

In other words, INEC has been given the regulatory power. It registers, regulates and also supervises political parties. That is why we have over 50 political parties.

Historically in Nigeria, this is the first time. We are going to have that number of political parties. From the first election in 1959 which ushered in the independent government, we had a few political parties – the National People’s Congress, the Action Group, the United Nigeria Congress and the rest. A few, not more than six.

The second republic which was Alhaji Shehu Shagari-led government had a few political parties as well namely  National Party of Nigeria, (NPN) the Unity Party of Nigeria, (UPN) the Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP)  and a few others which did not have national spread.

As could be seen, even in the first Republic, the fight was straight between the NPP and AG, other parties like the UNDP teamed up with  Action Group, whereas the NPC and NCNC teamed up in coalition or quasi coalition.

Now in the second republic, the NPN was of majority but some how, it had quasi coalition with the NPP led by Nnamdi Azikiwe. The UPN was left to stand on its own as the principal opposition party.

In the botched third republic that is the diarchy ran by General Ibrahim Babangida, what emerged was a two party system. They were the National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP). The experiment of that time cannot be assessed at this moment because it was a diarchy and the election that would have allowed us to assess that regime was aborted or annulled by that government. So we cannot fully assess the advantages and disadvantages of a two-party system in Nigeria.

Historically, Nigeria has been operating a multi-party system even though limited to a very few number of political parties. This is the first time we are experimenting with more than five or six political parties. The question one would ask is, “Is that beneficial? And I believe that is why the debate at the National Assembly is hot. Because on one side of the divide there are people who are saying that “yes, two-party system is the answer”,  and on the side, there are people who are saying “This is the first time we’re having it so, good in terms of expanding the political sphere and allowing people to operate, so two-party system, No”.

There is also a middle course group which is insisting that we can allow multi party system but let us go back to the old system of having a least five or six and then with a caveat; independent candidature so when you juxtapose all these arguments vis-à-vis our historical background you will realise that we are still young in our democratic experiment.

The countries officially practicing a two-party system have advanced democracy. For instance, the Japan constitution of 1946 has not created a two-party system.

Infact it is only in Nigeria to the best of my knowledge that the issue about creating a political party is provided for in the constitution. In Afghanistan there is a general right for every citizen to form a political party or belong to a political party. There is no regulation of any kind. But the only condition is that the political parties must not be based on tribe or ethnicity and must not have foreign affiliation.

When you consider the fact that Afghanistan is a monolithic society in terms of the fact that the 2004 constitution of Afghanistan made it the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, you will consider that even in such monolithic society, they have allowed multi-party system to operate.

Nigeria is too large, too multi-ethnic, too multi-cultural to just have two parties. Japan is a monolithic society as well. They speak one language basically but that they are targeting two-parties may be because of their cultural background. But if you look at United States of America uptill today if there is a need to include another state in America they will emerge at the mercy of the constitution.

The constitution provides that states may still be incorporated, into the union if the need arises. Even though they are practicing a multi-party system, they have restricted it to two-party not by legislation but by evolution, by growth. They have allowed as many political parties as possible; but by evolution based on ideologies, two schools of thought have shaped the Republicans and the Democrats Parties.

The Democratis are considered to be for the poor, the deprived and the immigrants. So when they are campaigning they campaign along this line.

The Republicans are called the grand old party because they are conservative in nature. They are believed to be for the rich and also believed to be anti-immigrants. This extenuating circumstances apply to some extent to Nigeria but, not all. We have more people in this country but we don’t have immigration as an issue. But we don’t have ready ideologies that is why you see some body decamping today to one party and coming back again.

In Nigeria, there is no ideological frame work of any of  the political parties. So, we cannot effectively practice two-party system, at least for now. It could come up tomorrow, it could evolve. Legislating into a two-party system does not enjoy my support. But I will toe the middle line.A two party system is not ideal in Nigeria. I believe that about 10-party system is okay.

No matter the  ideological school, culture or tribe, you must necessarily find a space to operate within this 10-party structure. And again, I will add that I am in support of independent candidature so that if per chance you discover that you cannot fit into any of these political set ups, then you run as independent candidate

Sebastine Hon is a legal practitioner and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

 

Sebastine Tar Hon

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PDP Reschedules NEC Meeting For Sept 26

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has slated September 26 for its second National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the year.
The date was announced by the party through its 2024 adjusted timetable and schedule of activities for congresses, which were released to party members and stakeholders on Monday.
Ahead of the September NEC meeting, the party has slated July 27 for the conduct of ward/delegate congresses to elect ward executives as well as three ad hoc delegates in 23 out of the 36 states of the country, including Abuja.
The timetable also disclosed that, among other things, the NEC is expected to ratify the list of executives that will emerge from the congresses.
According to the timetable, local government congresses to elect council executives and national delegates in 21 affected states are expected to follow on August 10th.
Recall that in April, the PDP held its first NEC meeting after acrimonious elections in 2023, where many of its high-profile members were involved in anti-party activities.
The party remains polarised, with some members supporting former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the party, and others queuing behind the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister, Nyesom Wike.
The outcome of the election and issues surrounding the role played by its leaders led to the suspension of the National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, by his Igyorov Ward executives from the Gboko Local Government Area of Benue State.
However, the effort to remove the Acting National Chairman, Ambassador Illiya Damagum, to allow the North Central region where Ayu hails from to produce its successor was deferred to the next NEC meeting earlier slated for August, which has now been shifted to September.

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Edo, Ondo 2024: INEC Warns Personnel Against Corrupt Practices

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says the success of any election largely depends on the professionalism and competence of those responsible for conducting it.
INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said this while warning its personnel against unethical and corrupt practices in the upcoming Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
He spoke on Monday in Abuja at a lecture in honour of late Abubakar Momoh, former director-general of The Electoral Institute (TEI), from August 2013 to May 2017.
Prof. Yakubu, represented by the National Commissioner, and Chairman, Board of Electoral Institute, Prof. Abdullahi Zuru, warned that any unethical practice before, during and after those elections would incur severe punishments under the law.
The theme of the lecture was: “Achieving Professionalism Among Election Personnel Through Effective Training in Preparation for the Edo and Ondo Governorship Elections.’’
He advised electoral officers to be guided by the principles of integrity, impartiality, transparency, professionalism, gender and disability sensitivity.
He said it was important for electoral personnel to be knowledgeable, skilled and well-equipped with relevant competencies to handle the complexities and challenges of the electoral process.
“Moreover, the crucial role election personnel play in upholding the integrity of our democratic processes cannot be overstressed.
“The manner in which they discharge their duties and responsibilities affects the degree of confidence voters will have in the electoral process, which will impact their participation and turnout,’’ he said.
Prof. Yakubu said that to ensure credibility and trustworthiness in elections and build trust among the electorate, INEC had always prioritised the professional development of its election personnel.
He said the commission identified effective and efficient electoral training as the key to unlocking professionalism among election personnel.
“The commission’s involvement in effective training programmes has empowered its staff to uphold the highest standards of integrity and professionalism in order to strengthen our processes and procedures to serve the interests of all Nigerians,’’ he said.
The Director General of TEI, Dr Sa’ad Idris, in his remarks, said that INEC, in pursuit of its mission and vision, had prioritised professionalism toward achieving free, credible, transparent and inclusive elections.
“As we prepare for the 2024 Edo and Ondo off-cycle governorship elections, the commission is assured that the outcome of effective training of election personnel will manifest in a high level of professionalism”, he said.

 

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Reps Propose Rotational Presidency, Six-Year Single Term

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A bill seeking a single term of six years for the President and state governors was brought up on Monday by 35 members of the House of Representatives.
The bill also canvasses the rotation of the presidency among the six geopolitical zones of the country.
The 35 legislators, under the auspices of Reform-minded Legislators, said the proposition would lead to a reduction in the cost of governance.
Addressing a press conference at the National Assembly Complex on Monday, the spokesman for the group, Ikenga Ugochinyere, added that the move would unite the country and ensure a seamless transition and unprecedented development for the country.
Hon Ugochinyere emphasised the need to interrogate the challenges facing the Nigerian state, saying, “We should not be afraid to meet and discuss our problems, challenges, fears, aspirations, and prospects as a people. We should not discuss in fear and we should never fear to discuss.”
Speaking on the bill, Hon Ugochinyere, who represents Ideato North/Idaeto South Federal Constituency of Imo State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said, “On governance, we are proposing a constitutional alteration to provide for the rotation of executive powers among the six geopolitical zones to ensure equal representation and reduce the desperation and tempo of agitation for the creation of states. We are proposing to amend Section 3 of the constitution to provide for the recognition of the division of Nigeria into six geopolitical zones.
“And also, to amend the constitution to provide for a single tenure of six years for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the state governors. This will bring about a reduction in government spending and wastage; promote efficiency in governance, and national stability by providing a single term of six years for the President and the governors.”
The lawmakers drawn from different political parties are also seeking amendments to the constitution “to create the office of two Vice Presidents from the southern and northern parts of Nigeria.”
Hon Ugochinyere explained that the First Vice President would be a succession vice president, while the Second Vice President would be a minister in charge of the economy, and both shall be ministers.
Hon Ugochinyere said the 35 lawmakers were also pushing for a “constitutional amendment to provide that the President and the First Vice President shall come from the same part of the country (North or South) and the First Vice President shall become President whenever the President becomes incapacitated, that is, VP (succession), VP (Administration and Economy).”
The bill also seeks financial autonomy and accountability of local government councils by prescribing an independent Consolidated Local Government Council Account solely superintendent by Local Councils. It prescribes long-term imprisonment for any misuse of local government funds.
On electoral reforms, the group proposed amendments to the relevant sections of the Electoral Act to ensure “that all elections (presidential, governorship, National Assembly, state Houses of Assembly, and local Governments) are held on the same day.”
Hon Ugochinyere said, “We are pushing for amendments to relevant sections of the Electoral Act to provide that no declaration of a winner of an election shall be done by the relevant Independent National Electoral Commission officials until such officer has compared the results with the list of accredited voters and ensured that the results to be declared are in tandem with the list of accredited voters and the B-VAS machine or any other electronic device.
“Amend the Electoral Act to provide that any INEC officer who declares a false result will be liable for civil and criminal action personally brought against him by parties in the elections.
“An amendment to the Electoral Act to provide that all election-related litigations must be resolved and determined by the Elections Petitions Tribunal, Appeal Courts, etc before the winners are sworn into the respective elective offices.

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