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
2023: Court Fines Abiola For Late Filing Of Documents
The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has awarded a fine against Kola Abiola, the presidential candidate, People’s Redemption Party (PRP), over failure to file his court documents within time.
Justice Fadima Aminu, in a ruling, also fined the PRP over its delay in filing its counter affidavit in opposition to the aggrieved presidential aspirant’s amended originating summons.
Ms Aminu had fixed November 25 for a definite hearing in a suit filed by Patience Ndidi Key, a female presidential aspirant in the June 5 primary election conducted by the party.
The judge, who granted the application filed by Ms Key to amend her originating summons on November 18, ordered all parties to file their processes before the next adjourned date and adjourned to Friday for a definite hearing.
Ms Key had, on June 28, sued PRP, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and Mr Abiola as first, second and third defendants, respectively.
In her earlier originating summons marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1001/2022, Ms Key had challenged the emergence of Mr Abiola as the party’s presidential candidate.
She had prayed the court to nullify the poll that produced Mr Abiola as the PRP’s presidential candidate.
She also prayed for an order setting aside the declaration of Mr Abiola as the winner of the primaries conducted across the country.
Upon resumed hearing in the matter, the plaintiff‘s counsel, Magnus Ihejirika, informed that the matter was adjourned for a definite hearing.
Mr Ihejirika, however, said the defence lawyers were yet to serve on him their counter-affidavits to enable him to respond appropriately.
The lawyer to the first defendant (PRP), Regina Audu, explained that there was network failure on Thursday at the FHC filing office when she tried to file her application.
The lawyer, who said she could only do that on Friday, prayed the court for an adjournment.
Ijeoma Madu, who appeared for Mr Abiola, spoke in the same vein.
But Mr Ihejirlrika described the defence counsel’s act as “a deliberate attempt to stall proceedings in the suit.”
The lawyer, who said the case was filed on June 28, said, “time is of essence in its determination.”
He said by provision of the constitution, the court had only 180 days to dispose of the matter, saying practically now, the court has less than a month to have the case determined
He argued that the defendants were only employing a delay tactic to stall the hearing and determination of the suit.
Mr Ihejirika, who told the court that he comes to the court from Kebbi, said if the court would be inclined to grant the defence application, a cost should be imposed.
He asked for a cost of N200,000.
The defence counsel, who disagreed with him, prayed the court to dismiss the request.
In her ruling, Ms Aminu said an award of cost should not be a punishment but compensation.
The judge, consequently, ordered the PRP (first defendant) and Mr Abiola (third defendant) to pay the sum of N20, 000 each to the plaintiff’s counsel.
She adjourned the matter until December 2 for a definite hearing.
US Restates Commitment To Free, Credible 2023 Polls In Nigeria
The United States has reiterated its commitment to free, fair and credible 2023 general elections in Nigeria.
It noted that the elections next year provide a strong opportunity for Nigeria to solidify its place as a democratic leader in Africa.
The United States also charged the press to ensure professionalism and responsibility in the coverage of the polls.
The US Consulate Regional Security Officer, Jim Suor, made the remarks during the closing ceremony of the Lagos edition of the four-city regional election reporting workshops at the weekend.
The workshop is organised by the Embassy of the United States in Nigeria in partnership with West Broadcast and Media Academy (WABMA), and Enugu Liberty Society is aimed at strengthening the media’s understanding and appreciation of its responsibility of reporting accurately on elections and the electoral processes.
He said, “The 2023 elections are a pivotal opportunity for Nigeria – Africa’s most populous country and largest economy – to solidify its place as a democratic leader in Africa.
The United States hopes to see an election that is credible, transparent, peaceful and above all that reflects the will of all of the people of Nigeria.
“Peaceful and credible elections are key components of Nigeria’s democratic development. The upcoming 2023 general election provides a channel for the Nigerian people to shape their future and choose a leader who will govern fairly and transparently and ensure access to basic services for all.”
Suor noted that the media was critical in entrenching a strong democracy, not just in Nigeria and Africa as a whole but everywhere in the world.
He further said, “Press freedom and a professional, responsive, and independent media are critical parts of any democracy. We need responsible members of the media to play a role in policy debates, to help the public understand policies and – when needed – to hold leaders accountable for their decisions.
“Recognising the vital importance of a free press and the Fourth Estate to democracy and good governance, we partnered with the West Africa Broadcast and Media Academy (WABMA) to help the media appreciate the huge responsibility of reporting accurately on elections and the electoral processes.”
The Enugu Liberty Society also partnered in organising the workshop which has held in Ibadan, Port Harcourt and Lagos, and would be moving to Enugu next week.
The United States representative also urged the media not to relent on its doggedness and courage in holding the government to account.
He added, “Before my arrival in Nigeria two years ago, I had read about the courage and sheer doggedness of the Nigerian press in the dark days of military dictatorship. In my time here, I have seen that you are still the voice of the forgotten. You have not lost your thirst for the truth or your willingness to go wherever a story leads you, thereby contributing to transparency, accountability, and good governance in your country.”
The workshop facilitators were drawn from both within and outside Nigeria and they handled different aspects of what is expected of pre, during and post-election reporting expectations from the media.
Duke Laments State Of Affairs In C’River, Roots For PDP Candidate
Ex-governor of Cross River State, Mr Donald Duke, has said that he feels sorry for the next governor of the state, as he opined that such individual would be faced with an uphill task of reinventing governance in the state.
He stated this at the inauguration of 1,080-member campaign council of the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in Calabar on Saturday.
The former governor, who has been saddled with the task of leading the campaign council, noted that the essence of good governance had been lost in the state in the last eight years.
According to him, “I never bargained to be governor of the state, but was driven by passion and commitment to positively change the fortune of the state, when I eventually became one.”
He said that where he and his team envisioned the state to be by now was not where it was.
“I am worried about development in the state, a whole generation had been lost.
“We know where the state ought to be by now. The plan was that we would have been governing the state without relying on federal allocation by now. The plans were all laid out.
“Whole paradise had been lost. This is certainly not the best of time to govern Cross River State,” he said.
Duke, however, said he was hopeful that the PDP governorship candidate, Sen. Sandy Onor, has what it takes to restore the lost glory of the state.
He stressed that Onor’s past experiences in government had adequately prepared him for the uphill task of reinventing the state.
“As a former Local Government Chairman, Vice Chairman and at a time Chairman of the Association of Local Government Chairmen of Nigeria (ALGON), in addition to being a former Commissioner for Environment and Agriculture and now a Senator, Sandy has what it takes to right the wrongs.
“I am glad that it is Sandy that will bring back the state that we have lost. I can stake for him because I know who he is,” he stated.
In his remarks, Senator Onor said that the state had lost direction, as everything about the state had been abused and debased.
Earlier in his address, the state party Chairman, Mr Venatius Ikem, called for the support of all party faithful, irrespective of their present status.
Ikem noted that all party members had the responsibility of selling the party’s candidates across the state.
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