How Many Political Parties Do We Need In Nigeria?


By Kabiru Danladi Lawanti
In an ideal democracy, in which political parties are built based on ideology and the desire to provide public service, one could say our political landscape is widened, given Nigerians more alternatives during elections, with the registration of new political parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Last week, four additional political parties were registered by the electoral body, bringing the number of political parties in Nigeria to 54. These newly registered parties are United National Party for Development (UNDP); National Movement of Progressives Party (NMPP), Kowa Party (KP) and People for Democratic Change (PDC).

A cursory look at all the registered parties one find it difficult to identify where they differ, in terms of ideology or programmes, they are only associations that revolve around individuals, who were aggrieved, because they were denied tickets to contest elections, or are paid by the People's Democratic Party to cause further division in the opposition. Others are group of people – members of the same Mosque or Church, or group of old boys association – people who are in no way representing the will of the people.

In other cases you will find the party as just an association of people who joined the party simply because their colleagues or village members are in the party. Or they joined the party because they are married to the daughter of the chairman of the party.

To many observers and commentators, the democratisation process in Nigeria is a one characterised by our inability to evolve a workable political system due largely from lack of vision of most of the political elite. Nobody can dispute the fact that political party pluralism or multi-partisan is very important for the progress and development of democratic system.

Political parties are necessary and desirable institutions for democracy, however, we have to note that, no progress will come out of most of these political associations, basically, because in the first place they were formed with a sole intention of having a platform to do business with the ruling party during elections.

We have seen in the last ten years, in almost all the political parties an alliances of influential individuals and small groups who are able to control and, often enough, manipulate party structures, candidacies, deciding who becomes a councillor, chairman and or members of house.

To a large extent, these individuals decide who becomes a governor of a state and or the president. The parties are turned into a business venture where “political entrepreneurs” who invest huge amounts of money expect rewards on such investment, through large contracts.

From 1999 to date, the parties that emerged, from the ruling party, to the smallest parties, are characterized by undemocratic practices, intra-party strive, and corruption. Besides fuelling corruption, the political parties or association's state of affairs is decidedly non-transparent and undemocratic.

Take for instance the ruling PDP – a party characterised by strange bed fellows, whose idea of democracy is imposition of candidates from the party level up to general election and where money is the bedrock of loyalty and support and mobilisation and conscientisation of the people took the back seat.

However, we have to acknowledge that the PDP, despite all these, is one party in Nigeria that can be said that has a defined focus – to remain in power for the next sixty years. With the kind of opposition we have today, yours sincerely believes PDP will rule till eternity.

The tragedy of the Nigerian society today is the fact that we can seem always to know that we have a problem, we can even discover the cause of the problem, but unfortunately display a tragic lack of will to take the necessary appropriate action. If not why should we be talking about INEC registering political parties now?

Of the over 50 political parties that participated in the last general elections, only five made any meaningful impact. The remaining 45 or 95% have not secured even a councillorship seat in any of the 754 local governments in Nigeria.

Whereas the Electoral Act was very specific that any political party that fails to score 10 per cent of the seats during the local government elections as envisaged by paragraph, 10(2) of these guidelines, the political party shall continue to operate only at local government level in all subsequent elections as envisaged by paragraph 10(1) until such a time it complies with the provisions of paragraph 10(2) of these guidelines. We wait and see how many political parties will be allowed to fill in candidates for national elections in 2011.

It is sad to say, but what we have in Nigeria as political parties are anything but parties. It is what political commentators described as mushroom 'outfits'.

No political party in all the registered parties by INEC represent the interest of poor Nigerians. This alienates the electorate, led to emergence of poor representation at all level of government and prevents the evolution of an accountable governance in the country.

Political parties are important vehicles for candidates' recruitment and the organization of parliament and government and serve as key institutions of representative democracy and intermediary between individual citizens and the state.

For our democracy to survive we need strong and ideological parties that reflect the interest of everybody – the poor, the rich, the educated, the uneducated, the farmer and business entrepreneur. They have to provide alternatives, clearly spelt out on how to move this country forward.

Anything short of that will just strengthen the PDP, which for the last ten has virtually done nothing in terms of improving the standard of living of ordinary Nigerians, thereby ruining the hopes they had for democracy.

Kabiru Danladi Lawanti,
Area 11, Garki,
08035150369, 08054546764, 08099282770

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