The Supreme Court agrees that the Independent National Electoral Commission was right and acted within its powers when it deregistered 74 political parties last year.
The most important use of a political party would be to spur members to contest elections. Aside from contesting the election, political parties canvass various policies and policies for the people as a pressure group. They play a significant role in decision-making to help legislation and the execution of policies. These political parties, when successful in elections, form and run the government.
So, the use of a political party isn’t limited to winning elections.
However, in the 2019 overall election (20 decades later), a record number of 91 political parties fielded over 23,000 candidates.
This was absurd and the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Mahmood Yakubu in explaining how the decision to delist none doing parties stated that the commission reached the conclusion after the 2019 general election, such as court-ordered re-run elections arising from litigations, stating the Commission was able to ascertain the performance of political parties at the elections.
He added that the political parties were assessed on the basis of their performance from the Area Council elections at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which coincided with the 2019 general election to reach the choice.
He rationalized the action, stating, “Prior to the Alteration, the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) had provided for deregistration of political parties.
As a regulatory body, the 1999 constitution as amended in part 225A enables INEC to perform its regulatory duties.
The department provides that INEC shall have the power to deregister a political party for (a) violation of any of the prerequisites for registration (b) failure to win at least 25 per cent of votes cast (I) on the state of the federation in a presidential election or (ii) one local government of this state in a governorship election (c) failure to succeed (I) one ward in the chairmanship election (ii) one chair at the national or state House of Assembly election or (iii) one chair at the councillorship election.
With the action, only 16 political parties now exist in the country according to 92. They’re Accord Party (AP), Action Alliance (AA), African American Action Congress (AAC), African Democratic Congress (ADC), African Democratic Party (ADP), All Progressives Congress (APC), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Allied Peoples Movement (APM).
Others are Labour Party (LP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), National Rescue Movement (NRM), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Young Progressives Party (YPP) and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
But some political parties went to court to challenge the decision of INEC to de-register them. There were conflicting conclusions, one in favour of the de-registration and another against the workout. This forced INEC to seek the Supreme Court decision.
The hopes of those 74 political parties which were deregistered from INEC in February 2020 for collapse to win in any competition following the 2019 general election to be re-listed on the ballot box has been permanently dented from the Supreme Court.
The commission had said its decision followed a relative review and court-ordered re-run elections originating out of litigations on political parties at the last elections.
It further said the political parties performed badly and failed to win at least one seat in the last general election.
Expectedly, the practice sparked public debate regarding whether the electoral umpire has the inherent power to create such a move.
Reacting to the conclusion, the President of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Dr. Leonard Nzenwa hailed the ruling and said the judgment had ended all speculations and as it will help INEC to now focus on critical issues in preparation for delivering credible, free and fair 2023 general election.
He explained that the judgment of the apex court will help INEC in planning. He wondered how the commission tended with 23,000 candidates who contested the 2019 general election.
Also speaking, the Council of Nigerian Ethnic Youth Leaders called on the National Assembly to immediately amend the Constitution and Electoral Act to stop additional registration of political parties saying the 18 remaining parties ought to be sufficient to satisfy all political trends in the nation.
In their part, the KOWA Party, the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), and the Socialist Party of Nigeria criticized the ruling wondering why the Supreme Court should prevent Nigerians from associating with one another.
A legal professional, Emeka Udeh wondered the apex court could rule against freedom of association as enshrined in the constitution. He stated that political parties are not necessarily meant to win elections but to also canvass opinions on the policies of authorities.
Though he explained, “since the court pleases, I can not fault the Supreme Court but I maintain the opinion that it is contrary to the spirit of the institution by individuals to freely meet and maintain opinions.”
Taking a stance, the Youths Alliance for Democratic Advancement additionally supported the conclusion of the Supreme. Court. The company issued a statement advancing reasons for status with the apex court. “The nation’s electioneering process will continue to endure retrogression using the long list of political parties on the ballot, which constitutes confusion and accounts for a high number of void votes, has been allowed to stay.
The Ekiti State Coordinator of the NGO, Michael Ogungbemi, had said, “the idea that 91 parties participated in the election was not good,” adding that registering 91 political parties in a developing country like Nigeria with a high level of illiteracy wouldn’t help the electoral system.
“Instead, INEC should register the majority of these parties for local governments and state houses of assembly elections together with performance benchmarks or criteria that if they score specific percentage of votes, they’d qualify to participate in the governorship and National Assembly elections and up to the Presidential election.
“If not checked and regulated, INEC may enrol to 300 political parties until 2023. Apart from these, INEC would not be able to manage this number of political parties in the future,” he added.
Prior to the INEC conclusion that has been ratified by the apex court, several Nigerians had at different times known as for the whittling down of the number of parties from the country.
For example, former Senate President at the aborted Third Republic, Chief Ameh Ebute, expressed concerns over the occurrence of 68 registered political parties in the political terrain, stating they had been unwieldy for the country’s democracy to make any meaningful improvement.
Ebute had contended that the registration of numerous political parties without firm ideology had been counter-productive to flourishing partisan politics.
He explained, “On the problem of political parties, it is my opinion that there’s no political ideology for politicians to think about before jumping from 1 party to the other. The sole ideology, for now, is battling for access to the national cake so as to have a share of it. I’m needing a two-party system. This will enable politicians to choose whether to be a progressive or a conservative.”
Sulaiman, who served as National Planning Minister under former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government, argued that Nigeria requires just three functional political parties to deepen democratic culture among the citizenry.
He explained “Some political parties today do not have offices in a variety of states across the country, but then, they occupy space on the ballot paper, thus causing confusion. When you talk about the inconclusive election, over-voting, some Nigerians from the rural areas could not differentiate between certain symbols since we’ve got a ballot paper that’s as long as a single kilometre.
What lots of Nigerians say for now is that the misuse of every process, explaining the Supreme Court judgement was intense to curb the abuse by Nigerians. Though, they admitted that there could be additional roles that political parties could play in a democracy.
Along this line of thought, a few Nigerians have called for a stop to the further registration of political parties to empower INEC adequate time for the 2023 general elections.
An INEC official told that the Supreme Court justices might not stop the commission from enrolling political parties as at the last count there is more than 100 petition from groups searching for registration as political parties.
He stated, “that the one thing which could stop INEC from enrolling more political parties would be a law and amendment of the constitution, even less the commission would be accused of blocking the political space where politicians could ventilate their views when they are choked.”
In his part, the KOWA Party, the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), along with the Socialist Party of Nigeria criticized that the ruling wondering why the Supreme Court should prevent Nigerians from associating with one another. A legal practitioner, Emeka Udeh wondered how the apex court could rule contrary to freedom of association as enshrined in the constitution. He stated that political parties are not always intended to win elections but to also canvass opinions on policies of the government. Though he explained, “because the court pleases, I can’t mistake the Supreme Court but I hold the view that it is contrary to the spirit of association with people to publicly meet and hold opinions.