Pulse Opinion Why does Nigeria need 67 political parties?

It's remarkable to realise that the country has so many parties when most of them appear to be unnecessary.

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Flags of the People's Democratic Party (PDP)

(NigerianEye)
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On Thursday, December 14, 2017, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) approved the registration of 21 new political parties.

This brings the total number of parties in the country to 67, with INEC also disclosing that 80 new groups are seeking the commission's approval to be registered as political parties ahead of the 2019 general elections.

Earlier in November, a record number of 37 political parties had contested the Anambra gubernatorial election.

To illustrate how wholesomely useless a good portion of those parties turned out to be, 20 of the contestants got less than 100 (yes, one hundred) votes out of a total of 422,314 valid votes.

A further seven parties got less than 500 votes, while only four candidates got more than 3000 people to vote for them.

Buhari assures Anambra Governor, Obiano of FG's support play Willie Obiano got a second term as Anambra governor by winning in all 21 Local Government Areas of the state despite competing against 36 other candidates (Daily Post)

 

How effective are Nigerian parties?

During a quarterly consultative meeting with national leaders of political parties in October, INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, complained about how 18 of the then-46 parties had failed to comply with processes and conditions for registration while 24 had failed to submit election campaign expenses since the end of the 2015 general elections.

He said, "I want to draw your attention to the certain issues. The constitution is very clear on the processes and conditions for registration that must be complied with.

"Section 223 of the constitution talks about the validity of the composition of the political parties NEC.

"Unfortunately, out of the 46 registered political parties, only 28 parties are in compliance. 18 political parties have not complied.

"Parties are expected to submit to the Commission their election campaign expenses for the 2015 general elections but as we speak only five political parties are in compliance.

"While 24 other political parties did not comply, the case of 17 parties is understandable because they are registered after the general elections. But for parties that contested the general elections, only five complied."

Mahmood Yakubu play INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu (Punch)

 

Perhaps more tellingly, the INEC chairman also revealed how 17 parties didn't even have offices in the Federal Capital Territory as required by INEC.

"As we speak today, only 29 political parties are in compliance while 17 political parties have not. So, we have 17 political parties that have no offices in FCT or their rents have expired which amounts to the same thing as not having an office in FCT," he said.

If there are only a handful of parties complying with regulations that validate their existence, it's important to ask why there are so many of them around.

Why are there so many political parties?

When former Vice President Atiku Abubakar dumped the ruling All Progressives' Congress (APC) and rejoined the People's Democratic Party (PDP) early in December, he reinforced the malaise of party politics in the country.

Political parties in Nigeria are set up in a way that core ideologies that should anchor their actions are missing from the political discourse. This is why parties in Nigeria have more in common than the few things that separate them (like abbreviations and catchy slogans).

So, when a politician defects from one party to another, as is quite common, it's most usually based on what platform will best serve their personal interests which they paint on the party's blank ideological foundation.

This is why Atiku, or any other politician, can always hop parties with the same set of reasons that really has nothing to do with the party's range of beliefs that are usually lacking.

Outside of the major political parties with deep roots in Nigeria's history, and a few others that emerged as a resistance to those parties, a fair number of these new parties are created merely to serve as auxiliaries for the bigger parties.

Proprietor of the African Independent Television (AIT), Raymond Dokpesi, was a notable PDP member when he played an instrumental role in the creation of the Advanced People's Democratic Alliance (APDA) in June 2017.

Raymond Dokpesi at the unveiling of the Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA) in Abuja on Monday, June 5, 2017 play

Raymond Dokpesi at the unveiling of the Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA) in Abuja on Monday, June 5, 2017

(Sahara Reporters)

 

Dokpesi's involvement attracted attention as the new party was rumoured to be a back-up platform for members of the Ahmed Makarfi faction of the PDP if it had lost its case against the Ali Modu Sheriff faction at the Supreme Court (it didn't).

Even though the faction denied the claims at the time, Dokpesi later admitted to it in a November interview.

He said, "The colours, the constitution of the Advanced People's Democratic Alliance (APDA) – everything was PDP. The amendments that were agreed to at the strategy review committee meeting were what we put down there.

"I, Raymond Tony Aliegho Dokpesi paid the necessary fees to INEC for the registration of the party. The bank drafts are there to show that it was done and I did it with the clear knowledge of and permission of all the organs of the party.

"Everybody was aware that this was being done for the PDP. Yes, there were a few people who were not comfortable with it but the preponderance of the people wanted that to happen.

"There was nobody that came across me, that attended the several meetings that I left in any doubt that the APDA was a Plan B for the PDP. Plan A is the PDP."

ALSO READ: Why PDP's zoning policy is cancer to democracy

Conveniently, after Makarfi's victory at the court in July, the National Working Committee of APDA, in August, suspended Dokpesi for violating the party's constitutional provision.

Fast forward a couple of months later in December, Dokpesi was one of the prominent candidates for the chairmanship position of the PDP before he came third behind second-placed Prof. Tunde  Adeniran and winner, Uche Secondus.

As a PDP Plan B, according to Dokpesi, APDA is now nothing but a potential honeypot for more votes as 2019 approaches.

The unveiling ceremony of the Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA) in Abuja on Monday, June 5, 2017 play

The unveiling ceremony of the Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA) in Abuja on Monday, June 5, 2017

(Sahara Reporters)

 

What's the problem with 67 parties?

The problem is not just that there are 67 political parties, but that these parties are hardly different in ideologies that should clearly set them apart.

You could make an argument that it'd be incredibly easy to fuse them all into one big behemoth or three parties maximum.

Having 67 parties that are too close in their conducts renders a diversity of options, which is very important to a democracy, very useless and creates a headache for the electorate who have to choose from that infested pool.

What's the way out?

The simpleminded solution to having too many parties is putting a cap on the number of parties that can ever exist at the same time.

However, due to the country's multiparty system, the law compels INEC to register any and all associations that meet the criteria to be recognised as a political party.

Therefore, according to the dictates of the law, trying to limit a group's rights to be recognised as a political party due to a number restriction would be undemocratic.

Is a multiparty system good for Nigeria?

While it's worthy of consideration for the country's lawmakers to discuss reforms in this area, there are arguments that can be made in favour of retaining the status quo.

After 57 years of independence and fluctuating systems of governance, Nigerian politics is still so fragile and underdeveloped.

There's still a long way to go to shed a lot of the baggage that's weighing down true democratic processes that'll greatly transform the country.

Keeping an open door for any aspiring group to register as a political party doesn't necessarily register as a bad move for a budding democracy.

Current French President Emmanuel Macron didn't create his ruling party, En Marche, until a year before the 2017 presidential election.

Granted maybe such a situation is not easily obtainable in a country like Nigeria, but there's no reason to rule it out if certain measures are put in place.

Most importantly, new political parties shouldn't just exist as selfish power moves, distractions, or for strictly economic interests.

What the country's democracy sorely needs are parties that have strong ideological foundations that cater to the interest of everybody (or a great portion, at least) and have a clear vision on how to make meaningful contributions.

These parties have to be genuine alternatives to what's already obtainable and can really move the country forward if given the chance.

Currently, only a handful of parties in Nigeria have any form of representation in elective positions across the country, and this doesn't make for great reading.

However, as unpleasant as the revolving door of parties in Nigeria might appear, maybe the system that enables them will finally bear some good fruits in the future.

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