In this report, TUNDE OGUNTOLA writes on the recent registration of 23 more political parties a few months to the 2019 general elections and its likely impact in the political process.
The degree of political intrigues in the nation’s political space ahead of the 2019 general elections is rising daily. The quest for power through constitutional and legitimate means has led to unprecedented upsurge in the number of political parties in Nigeria.
Checks show that most of the registered political parties are funded by politicians from other major political parties to serve as an alternative abode or platform for them if they lose elective positions during primaries. Just like a business centre, these parties are open for business ready to offer ticket to the highest bidder. More worrying is the fact that many Nigerians are not comfortable with the moneybag politics, which has eaten deep into the fabrics of our democracy.
When a party is controlled by an individual, it lead to a situation which the financial fortunes of the political party lies in the hands of individuals or a select few which increases the ills associated with godfatherism. In many countries, the activities of political parties are financed in varying degrees from public funds in order to provide a level playing field for all political parties. Nigeria stands to gain by the adoption of measures which will make godfatherism a thing of the past.
The style of operations of these political parties constitute a problem; particularly those that do not control elective offices, they go into hibernation, pending the next election cycle, where they dust up their offices not to contest for positions but to endorse candidates of major parties. But while others argue that such alliances are not out of place and are indeed common practice all over the world, the concern has remained the lack of ideology prevalent in political parties in Nigeria.
A clear challenge for these parties has been finance, particularly in a climate where politics is a very expensive venture. However, other pundits believe that small political parties should rather project counter ideas and seek offices at grassroots levels based on well thought out and tested ideology rather than focus on seeking national elective offices.
Political analysts are of the view that instead of registering new parties people should be encouraged to seek ideological soul mates in the existing political parties.
More worrisome is the stress that Nigerians are going to face at the polling unit. In as much as democratic fatigue syndrome is not so much caused by the people, the politicians or the parties – it is caused by the procedure. Democracy here is not the problem. The long list of political parties on ballot paper during voting is the problem. Where is the reasoned voice of the people in all this? Where do citizens get the chance to obtain the best possible information, engage with each other and decide collectively upon their future? In fact some Nigerians will get to know some political parties’ names on the Election Day. Where do citizens get a chance to shape the fate of their communities? Not in the voting booth, for sure.
Consequently, no fewer than 91 political parties have so far been registered to participate in the forthcoming 2019 general elections. The INEC fortnight ago approved the registration of 23 new political parties. With this status, the parties’ names and logo will be on the ballot paper, hence they are expected to participate fully in the electioneering process.
The national commissioner and member, Voter Education and Publicity Committee, Mohammed Haruna, said the commission received 144 applications from political associations seeking registration as political parties but only the 23 parties met the requirements of the commission. He also disclosed that the commission would not register any other party until after the 2019 general elections.
The 23 newly registered parties are Advanced Alliance Party (AAP), Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP), African Action Congress (AAC), Alliance for a United Nigeria (AUN), Alliance of Social Democrats (ASD), Alliance National Party (ANP), Allied People’s Movement APM), and Alternative Party of Nigeria (APN). Others are Change Nigeria Party (CNP), United Peoples Congress (UPC), We The People Nigeria (WPN), Yes Electorates Solidarity (YES), Youth Party (YP), and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Congress of Patriots (CP), Liberation Movement (LM) and the United Patriots (UP). INEC also registered Movement for Restoration and Defence of Democracy (MRDD), Nigeria Community Movement Party (NCMP), Nigeria for Democracy (ND), Peoples Coalition Party (PCP), Reform and Advancement Party (RAP), Save Nigeria Congress (SNC).
It would be recalled that the number of registered political parties rose from 30 in 2015 to 40 in 2016 with the approval of the electoral body. The parties are: Better Nigeria Progressive Party (BNPP), Democratic Alternative (DA), Masses Movement of Nigeria (MMN), National Action Council (NAC) and National Democratic Liberty Party (NDLP). Others are Nigeria Elements Progressive Party (NEPP), National Unity Party (NUP), Nigeria People’s Congress (NPC), Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) and Peoples Redemption Party (PRP). Before then, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had deregistered some political parties, following a new regulation.
The electoral umpire said, “After a rigorous process of evaluation in accordance with the constitution and the Electoral Act, which included the assessment of constitutions and manifestos of intending parties as well as verification of membership of their executive committees and offices, the 23 associations met all the requirements and have been registered as political parties.
“This brings the number of political parties to 91 and will be the last round of 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 a political party to be concluded latest six months to a general election.”
INEC said it would issue a notice of election today, in accordance with Section 30 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended). “These will kick-start the countdown to the 2019 general elections,” it said.
With over 91 political parties in a ballot paper, illiterate people who do not have much knowledge will be overwhelmed with the list; they can be easily fooled to vote for any party also. Acknowledging that Nigeria adult literacy rate was at level of 59.6 per cent in 2015, up from 51.1 per cent in 2008 one can describe the rate of illiteracy in the country as alarming.
Conversely, looking at the cost implication of the polls, President Muhammadu Buhari had written to the National Assembly before he travelled for vacation to consider a supplementary budget, a virement to the tune of N242billionn for the conduct of the 2019 general election, which is still before the National Assembly, this is even as Nigerians have urged the lawmakers to rise above partisanship as they deliberate on the INEC budget because funding remain a critical issues that could negatively impact the forthcoming elections if not addressed.
Already, a worried INEC is raising concerns about the delayed funding which could affect its preparation for the elections. “As you know, our procurement process is very cumbersome and to make procurement, it may take up to four months and this may affect what we are doing at INEC,” said one of its officials last week. The 2019 general elections is less than 200 days away. Besides funding, there are other worrying issues which include the legal framework for the election which is still pending as the president is yet to assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018 sent to him since June 25.
Ultimately, the cost of the 2019 elections would have been greatly reduced if Nigeria practices a two-party system, which simplifies the election process. The average voter here casts a ballot based on a handful of core issues that are important to them. In the United States for instance, a conservative voter might cast a ballot for the Republican Party because they support the party’s stances on abortion and taxation. A liberal voter might cast a ballot for the Democratic Party because they support stance on freedom of choice and a right to healthcare access. Voters are more likely to participate when they have confident that their actions can bring about social change.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Electoral Matters, has queried INEC, over the duplication of items provided for in the 2018 budget for the 2019 polls. The committee chaired by Aisha Dukku (APC-Gombe) queried the rationale behind the huge budget proposal. She observed that most of the subheads captured in the N189.2 billion were contained in the N45.5 billion approved budget for INEC.
Total sum of N45.5 billion as proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari was approved by the National Assembly. Findings showed that details of the INEC expenditure was given in the 2018 Appropriation Act signed into law by President Buhari.
In her remarks, Dukku reiterated the House’s resolve to strengthen the nation’s electoral process and aid INEC in discharging its functions.
Aisha Dukku gave the assurance during the INEC budget presentation to members of the committee for the conduct of 2019 general elections. She explained: “It is only by so doing that one can begin to unravel the intricacies of the entire range of issues involved and their inter-connection.
“You will agree with me that for a government that promised change to its people, the foundation of this change ought to be evident in the way we plan our elections and electoral processes. The estimates should represent a true picture of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, FRA.”
The lawmakers expressed concern over INEC’s previous budgets, saying they were neither productive nor effective because of poor planning.
“It is our prayer and hope that the present administration would address the issues with budgeting especially as regards to funding unlike the previous budgets that were not productive in the entire planning of elections.”
The lawmakers also queried N28.6 billion proposed as honoraria for 2,763,990 ad-hoc staff during the 2019 general elections.
From the total sum of N2.916 billion proposed for RAC preparation for the general elections, the commission proposed for RAC management/activation, N56.600 million for operation kite for 2,000 tents, N123.474 million for unstipulated number of megaphones, N6.016 billion for unspecified number of sleeping mats and N232.773 million for unspecified number of tactical torchlights, respectively.
A particular item that stood out was the provision of N6billion to feed policemen during the polls next year. Three lawmakers: the Chairman, Committee on Army, Mr Rima Shawulu; the Chairman, Committee on Legislative Budget, Mr Golu Timothy; and Mr Gaza Jonathan asked how feeding policemen alone would consume N6billion.
They also observed that in the security component of the elections’ budget and the regular budget of the Nigeria Police, there was provision to cater for police welfare while on important assignments.
“When policemen are sent out on assignments such as elections, they are paid. There is a budget for them and we still have N6billion here.
“Is this one a duplication? You have put another N7billion here again for security and procurement of security vehicles, why?” Shawalu queried.
On his part, Jonathan asked, “Why did you provide about N700million for international observers? We know that the European Union and the United Nations, they all make provisions for their independent observer missions. Is INEC going to pay them in 2019?”
However, a well-briefed Mahmoud took time to provide answers, starting with the N69billion extra elections cost above that of 2015. He stated that INEC had so far registered 12.1million new voters, in addition to the existing 70million, bringing the total voter population to plan for in 2019 to 82.1million.
Mahmoud also told the committee that INEC would have to make a provision for 91 political parties in 2019 with a “longer and more challenging” ballot paper.
According to him, “We have to monitor the activities of all these political parties like primaries, congresses and conventions. We have to process forms for all of their candidates.
“What this means is that, if all the 91 parties will present candidates for all the categories of elections, INEC will have to produce 141,778 nomination forms.
“Again, it means we are budgeting for additional ad hoc staff, up to almost one million and still counting, because we actually have over 140 applications by associations seeking registration, awaiting consideration.”
On the N6billion provided for police feeding, Mahmoud said it was an initiative by INEC to adequately cater for policemen and other security personnel because of the long hours they would stand watching to ensure that nothing went wrong.
Ahead of the forthcoming general elections, analysts are of the view that investors are apprehensive about the political risks associated with the 2019 elections. The investors, who are mostly foreigners, would prefer to sit on the fence and watch developments to avoid losing money. This unsavory scenario cuts across almost all facets of the economy. The implication is that the economy may be stagnated from now till May 29, 2019, when the elections would have been concluded and a new government inaugurated. And, depending on who becomes president, things could change in the most unexpected manner.
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