ABOUT 40 days to the 2015 general elections, most discourse on the exercise are fixated on the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, in a country of 26 registered political parties.
By Charles Kumolu
THE release of the names of presidential candidates and their running mates by the Independent National Electoral Commission,INEC, has for the umpteenth time raised questions on the visibility of other political parties in Nigeria.
Of the 26 registered parties, only 11 submitted names of candidates to run for the presidency.
The certified parties as obtained from INEC website include: Accord, A; Action Alliance, AA; Advanced Congress of Democrats, ACD; Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN; Alliance For Democracy, AD; African Democratic Congress, ADC; African Peoples Alliance, APA; All Progressives Congress, APC; All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA; Citizens Popular Party, CPP and Democratic Peoples Party,DPP.
Others are Independent Democrats, ID; Kowa Party, KP; Labour Party, LP; Mega Progressive Peoples Party,MPPP; National Conscience Party, NCP; New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP; People For Democratic Change, PDC; Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM; Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA; Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN; Social Democratic Party, SDP; United Democratic Party, UDP; Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN and United Progressives Party, UPP.
The 11 parties that are fielding candidates for the polls are APC, PDP, KP, HDP, ACP, AD, UDP, ADC, NCP, AA and UPP.
The LP and APGA had already adopted President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP as their sole presidential candidate. That pegs the number of those without candidates for the office of the president and most elective positions at 15.
Parties appear and disappear
Though the country posses a political history where parties appeared and disappeared in various guises, the gradual amendments of the electoral law which led to an increase in the number of parties from three in 1999 to 63 and now 26, made expectations of a robust representation of the various parties in the 2015 general elections rife.
The October 2014 lifting of the ban on political campaigns by INEC increased anticipations.
But so far, the political landscape is largely dotted by the activities of the APC and ,PDP leading to concerns over other parties that were registered by the INEC to participate in the exercise.
Although, platforms like the SDP, APGA and LP, seem to be having some negligible level of representation at regional levels, the perceived parochial ideologies behind their formation, appear not to have done much to increase their visibility.
The SDP for instance, is a fallout of the alleged absence of inclusive representation in Ogun State chapter of the APC, which ultimately alienated the supporters of a former governor of the state, Chief Segun Osoba from the party.
For APGA and LP, analysts are yet to be convinced that they are not appendages of the ruling PDP.
But for INEC, the perceptibility of a few others would have remained in the dark, given that they are not known to have commenced campaigns or embarked on other electioneering activities.
Investigations by Vanguard revealed that aside some dissatisfied governorship aspirants, who defected to APGA to actualize their aspirations, none of the presidential candidates have made serious moves beyond the purchase and submission of nomination forms.
Faced with this grim situation which contravens popular craving for a robust multi-party election, questions abound as to the rationale behind having such parties with little or no presence.
Speaking on the matter, Director General of Centre for Good Governance and Accountability, CGA, Dr. Aliyu Madugu told Vanguard that poor presence of the parties is not unconnected with the absence of ideologies behind their formation.
“When parties are not convened out of conviction and vision, what do you expect?’’ Madugu asked, ‘’these parties don’t exist for the common good of the society. Behind the reasons for these parties are selfish and pecuniary interests. I expect INEC to prune the number of these so called parties after now.”
Visuality of most parties
Madugu’s assertion was dismissed by the presidential candidate of Citizens Popular Party,CPP, Dr. Sam Eke, who cited the current insecurity across the country as the major factor limiting the visuality of most parties.
Absence of ideologies: Eke, who is also the National Publicity Secretary of Inter Party Advisory Council, IPAC, said: “The insecurity in the country is what makes it look as if some parties are not participating. So long as the the Boko Haram insurgency has not been brought to submission, people would be discouraged to get involved in the electoral process.”
On the assumption that most of the parties are lacking in ideology, he said: “It is unreasonable for some people to suggest that the parties exist for personal reasons because INEC is so powerful now that it can deregister any party. The parties primarily exist to win elections. We are working to correct these impressions at the level of IPAC but IPAC is a toothless bulldog. Efforts are ongoing to introduce the IPAC bill in the next dispensation to enable IPAC carry out its functions efficiently.
The system now is not too enabling for other parties to thrive, since the PDP and APC are making it a do or die affair. Both parties are at war at the expense of the political space.”
Asked if the situation does not corroborate submissions that some parties have not justified their reasons for existence, Eke responded thus: “Suggestions that the parties have not justified reasons for their registration is wrong.”
Limiting the political space
Hence, he cautioned: “Any attempt at limiting the political space to accommodate few parties is wrong. That amounts to inviting anarchy. All the parties should be allowed to develop at their own pace. Their presence should not be limited as a result of the number of candidates they are able to field. The performance and presence of parties should be based on how well they perform in the elections.”
Continuing, he said: “INEC did not release 11 names as being reported by the media. The number of presidential candidates is 14. That report ended up embarrassing other parties. My name is number seven on the list as a presidential candidate of Citizens Popular Party, CPP.”
For the National Chairman of IPAC, Dr. Yunusa Tanko, funding remains a major challenge limiting the conspicousness of most of the platforms.
“Every registered party is interested in presenting candidates for elections. The major challenge that confronts them is the issue of funding. The parties lack the financial resources required to sponsor candidates.
“Most of the parties are weak because they depend on elected people for sponsorships. Some are trying their best but there are limits to that. That is why we have been calling on INEC to make funds available for the parties. Till this moment nothing has been done in that respect. All over the world, electoral umpires provide financial support for political parties.
“My party, the NCP has fielded candidates for the presidency and we have done so in the current process. But that could not be replicated for other elective positions. What some of the parties that currently have presidential candidates have succeeded in doing is to popularize their platforms. That is why some adopted the President as their sole candidate.”
Continuing, he said: “It is not true that the parties lack ideology. One of the prerequisites for party registration is manifesto. Every registered political party has a manifesto which spelt out what it seeks to achieve.
Poor or near absence of enlightenment has also confined some of the parties to the backwater. That aspect is money consuming and most of these parties cannot afford the money required.”