Some Nigerians on Thursday reacted to the statement credited to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that Nigeria may go into the 2023 general elections with over 200 political parties on the ballot papers and result sheets.
INEC’s national commissioner, Festus Okoye, made the statement in Abuja on Wednesday at an Electoral Reform Roundtable organised by the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room and the Kofi Annan Foundation.
Okoye’s statement did not go down well with many Nigerians who were already outraged by the large number of political parties in the country which currently stands at 91.
Many Nigerians, especially youths, have taken to the social media to condemn the move, saying INEC should think of reducing the existing political parties and not adding more.
During the just concluded general elections, many of the registered political parties had zero votes while many voters were frustrated by the long ballot papers as they struggled to identify their party logos.
Speaking with Daily Independent, Afenifere, the pan Yoruba socio-political organisation, said INEC was turning the idea of multi-party democracy into a comedy.
Yinka Odumakin, the organisation’s National Publicity Secretary, said INEC was using the excuse that it could not reject the registration of any association that fulfilled the requirements for registration to turn the whole process into a joke.
“There is a way in Nigeria that we take every concept and we turn it into a joke. The whole idea of multi-party democracy has now become a joke in the country that we just create political parties anyhow.
“The guideline here is that, by law, if anybody applies to register a political party and he meets the conditions stated by the law, INEC cannot say no to the registration.
“But you can see a clear agenda to use that position now to turn the whole electoral process into a comic exercise where so many political parties are created to confuse the electorate.
“We saw how a party from the shelf was used to cause a major crisis in the Rivers elections which almost took the state into a war situation.
“So, I believe that there should be moderation in this whole exercise so that we do not bastardise our electoral process.
“Most of the people who are forming these political parties are doing so because of their selfish interests, but I am confident that the process will shape out itself as we move on,” he said.
Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), puts the blame squarely on Prof. Yakubu, the chairman of INEC, whom he described as “too weak and not proactive”.
A very livid Sagay who recounted his experience in the last presidential election said he struggled to locate the logo of his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), out of the 73 political parties that participated in the election.
According to Sagay, “Well, I think INEC is to blame for all this. A body like INEC should be proactive. When they found that the whole thing was getting out of hand with 91 parties, they should have done something about it.
“I myself, with my level of education, found it very difficult to identify my party logo out of the 73 political parties that contested in the presidential election.
“Now, INEC is talking of 200. Shouldn’t INEC now, through the government, propose an amendment to the provisions of the constitution for registration of political parties? That is what INEC should be talking of.
“They should get their lawyers to draft a document and send it to the Ministry of Justice so that the conditions for registration can be made more drastic and, at the end, we won’t have more than 10 political parties.
“For me, it’s all a sign of INEC’s weakness which has been a serious problem, particularly in this 2019 election as against the one in 2015 when we had a chairman of INEC who knew what he was doing.
“The current INEC chairman is a very weak man and doesn’t have any initiative. He is not proactive and collapses easily under problems and articulates problems without any solutions while waiting for somebody else to do it for him.”
Also speaking, Chief Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), said there was a need for moderation so that the electoral system which Nigeria is trying to sanitise and reform is not bastardised.
He said political parties should be mandated to get certain minimum votes before they are recognised to participate in elections.
“I think that we ought to balance the right of people to form associations, which includes political parties, with the right of society to be properly organised.
“What I think is that we should impose on political parties the requirements of getting a certain minimum votes in order to be recognised for the purpose of taking part in the electoral process.
“Many countries have adopted these procedures. In Germany, you need to have a threshold above which you are allowed to participate in the electoral process.
“If you are below the threshold, you are not allowed to have a political objective but you can organise yourselves for the purpose of propagating political views, but not to go for political process.
“I think that is the way to balance the situation; otherwise, it will become too cumbersome and the electoral system that we are trying to reform and build might itself collapse,” he said.