Political stakeholders in Nigeria, have expressed optimism that the country will remain a multi-party democracy, in spite of challenges facing smaller political parties.
A cross section of those who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Tuesday, said that the multi-party system was healthy for the country’s democracy.
Mr Kenneth Udeze, the National Chairman, Action Alliance (AA), said that the current multi-party system was healthy to the country’s democracy and would not be easy to be truncated by any group for political gains.
Udeze said that having a multi-party system was one of the best things that had happened to strengthen the country’s democracy over the years.
“It is impossible for Nigeria to come down to a two-party system when the best thing that has happened to its democracy is the multi-party system.
“Having a multi-party system is not just peculiar to us, it is like that in most of the Western countries and even in U. S.
“It is not the Republicans or the Democrats that are the only political parties in the US, there are many others competing in the political space.
“It is just that at the end, when it comes to presidency, it is narrowed down to those two dominant parties which is same in Nigeria,” he said.
Udeze noted that it was impossible for Nigeria to run a two-party system because there were so many vibrant political parties funded by non-state funders and guided by different mandates in terms of winning elections.
According to him, some parties concentrate on winning election in local government councils, some in zones, it doesn’t now mean that those parties are not winning or in existence.
Udeze said that the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) were dominant because they were well equipped to run their affairs through state funds unlike other parties.
“What is happening in this country is like a merry-go-round, because today the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will come and say that parties that does not win an election will be deregistered.
“Just as we had 92 parties before, now we have 18 after INEC deregistration, but many political associations are awaiting registration by INEC as political parties.
“They have paid their N1 million registration fees to be registered as a political party and the law is very clear, and allows for political associations to turn into political parties.
“So even if 2023 comes and INEC deregisters those who could not win an election, don’t forget that others are pending to be registered and others are still applying to be registered,” he said.
Mr Yabagi Sani, National Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) supported the claim, saying that political parties should not be blame for the development, rather the National Assembly, especially the leadership of the two chambers.
Sani opposed the view that most small parties go to bed immediately after election, until when it is time for the next election cycle.
He said that no party that went through the tedious process of getting a party registered in Nigeria would go to sleep without making efforts to win elections or continue to be relevant in the political space.
He said one of the major factors being faced by smaller parties was that after they had laboured, spend their time, energy, sources and managed to win one or two seats, just few months after elections, the elected officer defect to a bigger party.
“Sometimes, some of these elected officers either instigate or pay some people to start creating crisis in the party. He then says there is crisis in his party and he move to bigger party. We all know it.
“So, who is now fooling who and who are we really harming by doing that? It is ourselves. The bracing irresponsible way politicians cross to another party few weeks after winning election on a party platform bit may imagination.
“Surprisingly, you see this bigger party before you went to campaign and win elections on the platform of another party.
“To me you don’t have the fear of God and you are not being fair to those who gave you their platform, campaign for you, market you, ensure that you win the elections and after winning, they don’t mean anything to you anymore, ” he said.
Sani added:“Unfortunately, the leadership of the National Assembly sit there laughing; welcoming and celebrating somebody who moves from one party to another, destroying those smaller parties that have spent their resources getting the mandate.
“So, I think it is the leaders of NASS that are the greatest enemy of our democracy in this country.’’
He expressed concern that the democratic system was not working in accordance with the rules and regulations as people who are supposed to correct the negative trends are benefiting from it.
Sani decried the situation were NASS leaders who sworn by the holy books to protect the democracy and advance the course of democracy, turn blind eyes to elected officers who brazenly defect to other parties without reason.
“As the Speaker of the House or Senate President, you are supposed to declare that seat vacant, but they will not, they will allow a party that was not on the ballot to receive him. Remember this individual’s name was not on the ballot, it was the party,” he said.
He said that Nigerians must begin to address some of those salient issues which were inimical to the growth of democracy in the country.
“When you encourage those things without taking necessary action as spelled out in the Constitution you are gradually destroying the foundation of democracy and multiparty system,’’ Sani said.
He advised the leadership of the NASS to uphold its responsibility of protecting and advancing the course of democracy in Nigeria.
“Democracy has laws but if it is not respected, how do you want it to function? It will not function. So don’t blame the ordinary Nigerians, ” he said.
Sani also attributed the shabby ways the local councils election was being conducted by state Independent Electoral Commission as another major factor affecting the functionality of smaller parties.
“We know that the local government election can be described as organised crime.
“The governors do not allow any other party to win. Even if you win, they will deny you the victory and give it to their own party. So, how do you expect democracy to grow in that kind of environment?
“The attempt is to have a two party system or at best one party system. That is what we are gravitating to,’’ Sani said.
The IPAC National Chairman stressed the need for the citizens, the media and CSOs to hold people in government accountable, also let them know that their actions and inactions were inimical to the growth of democracy.
He also advised Nigerians to take advantage of the forthcoming elections and the 2023 general elections to effect the change that they desired.
“ Some of these elected party or official do not have anything to offer to Nigerians. They have been in power now for 23 years going from one group to another deceiving Nigerians.
“That is why Nigerians must look our ways like the Africa Democratic Party (ADP) that has the ability to deliver,” he said.
Dr Agaba Halidu, a lecturer at the Department of Political Science, University of Abuja, said that drifting toward a two party system was not a good omen for Nigeria, as a country with population of over 200, who were highly informed.
This trend according to Halidu, will constrain Nigerians’ choice to two parties.
He identified some of the factors making Nigeria to drift towards two parties system of APC and PDP, to include lack of political structure and ideology by most political parties.
He said that over time, two parties have the structural base at both national and grassroots levels, while others were running their parties as business entities without widespread structural based, especially at the grassroots.
“Another variable contributing to two parties dominating Nigeria political space is lack of financial strength by most political parties.
“We all know that in politics, the level of influence you exert in the society depends on your financial and resources base.
“If you look at it, over time only the APC and PDP have the financial muscle because they have been in government between 1999 and now. So, it is not easy to break into the click, because you need money before you can do that.
“Aside that, it is like the mantra of APC, PDP have sank deep into minds of Nigerians. If you seek for political power outside APC and PDP you may not get the mandate,’’ Halidu said.
He said though it was becoming late to address the trend before 2023 general election, as it required long term planning to break the jinx, certain measures could still play major role.
Those measures according to Halidu, include the formation of alliance by political parties and change of attitude by politicians.
“Smaller political parties can come together and form a force as it was done by the APC to gain power in 2015.
“ The PDP thought it was going to continue ruling, but when ANPP, CPC, ANN and others came together as a force, they were able to exert influence.
“Political parties should borrow a leap from what APC did in 2015,” he said.
He also advised politicians to be ready to do the right thing.
“If that is not done, we can change 1,001 parties without making any considerable progress,” he said.
Halidu also stressed the need for strong ideology among political parties.
“Our parties are not build on ideology, which is a driving force.
“Our politicians should establish parties base on ideology would help them to stand the tests of time,” he said.
Halidu said that the citizens should be less concern about the number of political parties but the behaviour of our politicians, who needed to act rightly and provide good governance.
“One of the concerns Nigerians are expressing now is that they have at one time or the other tried different parties but there seems to be no hope or improvement for good governance.
“We should be more worried about the behavior of our politicians. For me it is not the number of political parties that is the problem. Even if you have 100 parties today and our party men are not ready to do the needful, I do not think it will address the problem,” he said.
But, Prof. Adele Jinadu of Political Science Department, University of Lagos, said that the current party system dated back to the 1960s.
Jinadu said that Nigeria had had since independence a mixture of single dominant party system at the state level and variations of two-party and multiple party systems at the federal level.
He said that Nigeria had a two-party system at the national/federal level because of the imperative need for a coalition government at that level during independence.
He said that was because it was difficult for a single party to secure a majority seats at the federal house of representatives under the parliamentary system in the country between 1960 and 1966.
“With the introduction of presidential system under the 1979 Constitution and the reform of the party system under the constitution we have since had a multiparty system.
“We since have a multiparty system dominated by two major parties or coalitions of two major parties at the federal level, except during party reform introduced by the Babangida administration legislating a two party system,” Jinadu said.
He said that there were many factors that had contributed to the structure of the two party systems in Nigeria.
“They all have their roots in the origins of the country’s political parties after the Richards Constitution in the transformation of ethnic political associations formed in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
“They were formed into ethnic based political parties to secure ethnic voting banks for regional elections and later federal elections by the political leadership of various ethnic groups,’’ he said.
Jinadu said that the effects of two party systems at the federal and state levels could not be discussed without situating their origins in the broader political economy or the economic and political environment of ethnic diversity and the antidemocratic political culture in the country.
“While a child of that political environment our political parties and the political elite have progressively deepened the antidemocratic environment of competitive and electoral politics in our country.’’
On the way forward, Jinadu said that Nigerians needed to imbibe a republican democratic culture anchored on eternal vigilance to serve as a guardrail of protection democratic politics.
“The republican never fail to adopt a Neighborhood Watch approach to competitive party and electoral politics to protect their mandate and make sure it matters and makes a difference.’’(NAN)