The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says the increasing number of registered political parties is not a challenge to it or the electoral process of the country.
Aminu Idris, Director, Election and Party Monitoring, INEC, gave the assurance at the Debate on “Increasing number of political parties in Nigeria and access to ballot in 2019’’ on Tuesday in Abuja.
The debate was jointly organised by two civil society organisations – Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
Nigeria currently has 68 registered political parties.
Mr Idris said that the parameters for registering a political party was determined by the Constitution, adding that INEC was making effort to ensure that the increasing number did not became a challenge in an election.
He said that the recent election conducted by the commission had demonstrated its capacity to manage the situation.
“The challenge of managing the ballot is the challenge that INEC has to face.
“Sometimes we addressed it by customising the ballot papers with logo of participating parties in an election in such a way that you make the choice less cumbersome for the electorate.
“For the commission, it is a matter of necessity that we must manage the ballot, given the number of political parties we have at all the times.’’
The National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bolaji Abdullahi, who was one of the panellists, said rather than problem, increasing number of political parties would increase peoples’ participation in democracy.
Mr Abdullahi said that the challenge was weak political parties or those without grassroots base wanted to participate in every election, including presidential.
“As a matter of principle, I don’t see anything wrong in registering many political parties. The question is to discipline themselves and their level of participation.’’
On his part, Emmanuel Agbo, Deputy National Secretary, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) linked the increasing number of political parties to the ambition of some individuals to be parties’ national leaders.
Mr Agbo, however, said that there was need to enlighten political class that disagreement within parties should not lead to registration of new party.
“The best way to defend democracy is to promote greater understanding among the political class.
There must be ability to tolerate one another, knowing that we are coming from different economic, political, cultural and social backgrounds but amalgamated into an organization.
“Once these differences exist, it will be difficult for all our interests to always be one.’’
Another panelist, Peter Ameh, National Chairman of the Progressives Peoples Party (PPA), said that having 68 register political parties was not a problem as Senegal had more than 300 parties and Benin Republic, had over 150.
Mr Ameh said it was important to treat the causes of problems for political parties in the country, rather than treating the symptoms.
These causes, according to him, include defection of officials from smaller political parties to bigger ones and the credibility of local government elections conducted by State Independent Electoral Commissions.
“The only credible local government election in Nigeria is that of the FCT, conducted by INEC. Others, if APC is not winning all the elections in Kano State, PDP is winning all in Delta State.’’
Mr Ameh said that the more the country continued to improve its electoral system, the better it would be for the citizens.
Earlier, in her remarks, Programme Coordinator, Democracy and Accountability, OSIWA, Catherine Angai, said political parties were registered for different reasons, including mobilisation of electorate and holding government accountable.
She said that the debate was to address some salient questions such as “are political parties doing what they are registered to do? Is there internal democracy among them?’’
“Are there some things wrong with our political parties? These are many other questions that this debate must address?’’ Mrs Angai said.
Chairman, Partner for Electoral Reform, Mr Ezenwa Nwagwu, commended the organizers of the conference.
He, however, stressed the need to regulate participation of a political party in an election, especially at the national level.
“For instance, there could be a rule that if you don’t win at least four seats in a local government election, you cannot participate at the federal level.’’