Barely six months to the 2019 general election, the numbers of political parties keep on increasing. TOPE FAYEHUN in this report writes about the preparation of the smaller parties in a bid to wrestle power from the big parties.
Last week Wednesday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the registration of 23 new political parties, ahead of the 2019 general election. The number of political parties that are expected to participate in the much anticipated forthcoming general election has risen to 91 after the recent registration of 23 by the electoral body. According to the commission, they received a total of 144 applications from political associations seeking registration as political parties and “After a rigorous process of evaluation in accordance with the Constitution and Electoral Act which included assessment of the constitutions and manifestos of the intending parties and verification of membership of their executive committees and offices, the 23 associations met all the requirements and so have been registered as political parties.” “This brings the number of political parties so far registered to 91 and will be the last round of registration of parties until after the general elections on 16th February 2019, the statement added.
“This suspension according to INEC 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. The newly registered political parties are: Advanced Alliance Party, Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party, African Action Congress, Alliance For A United Nigeria, Alliance Of Social Democrats, Alliance Nation Party, Alliance People’s Movement, Alternative Party Of Nigeria, Change Nigeria Party. Others include: , Congress Of Patriots, Liberation Movement, Movement For Restoration And Defence Of Democracy, Nigeria Community Movement Party, Nigeria For Democracy, Peoples Coalition Party ,Reform and Advancement Party Save Nigeria Congress, United Patriots, United Peoples Congress, We The People Nigeria, Yes Electorates Solidarity ,Youth Party and Zenith Labour Party. The development is a sharp departure from what it was at the onset of the current democratic dispensation when the commission recognized just three political parties for the 1999 general election. From the three political parties in 1999, the number increased to 30 ahead of the 2003 elections and 51 in 2007, now 91 political parties.
As it stands today, the number of parties has increased to an unimaginable level, such that eligible voters can hardly keep track of the identity of political platforms, what they stand for and those behind them. Despite the fact that more than 90 percent of these parties exist on paper and the numbers are not convenient for INEC to manage, the electoral law still allows people to continue to form political associations and if they meet INEC’s condition, they should be registered as political parties. While justifying the proposed N189. 2 billion budget of the commission to conduct the 2019 polls, covering presidential, National Assembly, governorships and state assemblies elections, the National Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, and other top officials of the commission, said that the increase in the numbers of political parties will raise the cost of conducting the elections and the process cumbersome come 2019 . Yakubu stated that INEC had so far registered 12.1million new voters, in addition to the existing 70m, bringing the total voter population to plan for in 2019 to 82.1m. He 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.
He said, “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. ” However, analysts believe that the need for a paradigm change in our political system necessitated the daily registration of the new political parties by some Nigerians. According to observers, the two leading political parties, All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have dashed the hope of the masses in the country hence the need to look elsewhere for a solution. Also, the call to shun the two major political parties during the 2019 general election was championed by the Former President Olusegun Obasanjo in his letter to President Muhammadu Buhari. In the letter, Obasanjo said, “ I have had occasion in the past to say that the two main political parties – APC and PDP – were wobbling.
“I must reiterate that nothing has happened to convince me otherwise. If anything, I am reinforced in my conviction. “The recent show of PDP must give grave and great concern to lovers of Nigeria. To claim, as has been credited to the chief kingmaker of PDP, that for procuring the Supreme Court judgment for his faction of the Party, he must dictate the tune all the way and this is indeed fraught with danger. If neither APC nor PDP is a worthy horse to ride to lead Nigeria at this crucial and critical time, what then do we do?”. Obasanjo said, “We need a Coalition for Nigeria, CN. Such a Movement at this juncture needs not be a political party but one to which all well-meaning Nigerians can belong. That Movement must be a coalition for democracy, good governance, social and economic well-being and progress. Coalition to salvage and redeem our country. “This Coalition for Nigeria will be a Movement that will drive Nigeria up and forward. It must have a pride of place for all Nigerians, particularly for our youth and our women. It is a coalition of hope for all Nigerians for speedy, quality and equal development, security, unity, prosperity, and progress. It is a coalition to banish poverty, insecurity, and despair.
“Our country must not be oblivious to the concomitant danger around, outside and ahead. Coalition for Nigeria must be a Movement to break new ground in building a united country, a socially-cohesive and moderately prosperous society with equity, equality of opportunity, justice and a dynamic and progressive economy that is self-reliant and takes an active part in the global division of labor and international decision-making.” Obasanjo’s letter gave birth to the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) which was championing to drive away the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and President Muhammadu Buhari from power through the 2019 general elections The coalition latter adopted a political party, African Democratic Congress, ADC, to realize its dream of a new Nigeria. In a speech he titled ‘My treatise for future of democracy and development in Nigeria’, Obasanjo said, “Let me start by welcoming and commending the emergence of a renewed and reinvigorated African Democratic Congress, ADC, as a political party. “Since the inception of Coalition for Nigeria Movement, CNM, many of the sixty-eight registered political parties had contacted and consulted with the Movement on coming together and working together. “The leadership of the Movement, after detailed examination, wide consultation and bearing in mind the orientation, policies, and direction of the Movement, have agreed to adopt ADC as its platform to work with others for bringing about desirable change in the Nigeria polity and governance.” However, political pundits observed that there is no much preparedness on the part of the smaller parties for the task of dislodging both the PDP and APC in the next year general election.
For instance, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) widely believed that the fortune of the party will change when the likes of Prof Jerry Gana and Prof. Tunde Adeniran defected to the party after the controversial PDP convention held the middle of this year. The thought of the people was that party would emerge as the real third force for the country’ polity. Even, the home state of the national chairman of the party, Chief Olu Falae in Ondo state, the party is relatively unknown to the people. The poor performance of the party at the July 14 governorship election in Ekiti state also testified to this development. Political analysts believed that the forthcoming governorship election in Osun state where the party is expected to prove its worth with the calibre if its candidate, Mr. Iyiola Omisore, in the September 22, 2018 poll would whether prove political observers right or wrong. For the African Democratic Congress, ADC, although the party is one of the fast-growing political party presently in the country, using the influence of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo. This fact was corroborated by the national chairman of the party, Chief Okey Nwosu when he was speaking in Akure recently where he said, the former president had transformed the fortune of the party. Nwosu said, “The party had transformed from the small shop to the continental supermarket.” No doubt about the fact that with the coming of political heavyweights in Adamawa and Oyo states respectively, the party may become a reference point in the country soonest. But analysts are of the opinion that a lot of work still needs to be done before they can match the existing established parties, PDP and APC.
In the case of Labour Party, LP, the party which was brought to the political consciousness of Nigeria by former Governor of Ondo state, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko on December 14, 2006, is one of the leading opposition parties in the country. Since then, the former governor has been the chief promoter of the party in the country. Apart from recent decamping of the Mimiko and his few aides back to the party, nothing has been heard about the party in recent times. All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, is currently seeing as a regional party which purportedly belongs to the east. The leadership of the party is not even giving expansion a thought ahead of the 2019 poll. With all these obvious reasons, it is clear that the smaller parties might not be able to pose any threat to the chances of the ruling party in the coming general election. Hence, they agreed to form a coalition with PDP so as to be able to wrestle power from the ruling APC. Presently, some of the parties that signed an agreement for the coalition are pulling out, while others are saying the aim of the of the coalition is not about PDP. Pointedly, the national chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Olu Falae, recently disclosed that the coalition of 40 political parties in Nigeria should not be seen as an affair of the PDP. While noting that the Presidential candidate could emerge from any of the political in or out of the joint alliance, Falae said the purpose of the alliance is for a regime change.
His words: “It does not follow that PDP would produce a joint presidential candidate. The purpose of the alliance is for regime change. This regime has been unable to protect the lives and properties of its citizens. “If 40 parties are together, it will be a deterrent to rigging for the APC. The joint candidate may not come from R-APC, SDP or PDP. It may come from any of the smaller political parties. “The alliance is not PDP show. We are not appendage of the PDP or any other political parties. In Senegal and Gambia, they picked a joint presidential candidate. In 1999, AD and APP picked a joint presidential candidate. The AD was smaller than APP, yet it produced the joint ticket. “We cannot merge or absorbed by any political party. It does not follow that PDP would produce a joint presidential candidate.” Political Pundits are of the opinion that, if the perception of the PDP as the party of “thieves” that has been used by APC to demarket the party and some parties in the coalition says they cannot use the platform of the party again and suggested that they should use another platform, will the coalition still stand? No doubt, Abubakar Atiku is an aspirant in PDP, even the leading aspirant for that matter, while ADC is a member of the coalition and Obasanjo said he would not support his aspiration and Atiku eventually emerge as the candidate of the party, will Obasanjo not pull ADC out of the coalition? However, with the current intrigues playing out in the coalition, analysts are of the opinion that those who desire that the next president of the country should emerge from a new political platform different from PDP and APC, they will still have to wait or keep clamoring.
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