Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

No to INEC’s deregistration of parties

No to INEC’s deregistration of parties

For uncensored right to form parties and contest elections

Kola Ibrahim
Pro-tem Secretary, Osun State chapter
Socialist Party of Nigeria

The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) condemns in absolute terms the latest action of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in deregistering some 28 political parties under the guise of their non-performance at the last election. INEC is premising this undemocratic and draconian action on a purported power given it by the 2011 Electoral Acts to deregister parties. To us, this power is totally anti-democratic and unconstitutional as it contravenes Section 40 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, which guarantees right to association. This latest action of INEC, if allowed to stay, will take away the democratic gains of the current civil rule vis-Å•-vis multiparty democracy and right to contest under any banner. This action will throw us back to the dark military era where some people will sit somewhere to decide what political party Nigerians have right to join. It is ridiculous that at this time when we should be talking about giving constitutional power for, independent candidacy and existence of community and single-issue parties, the INEC is trying to take us back to the dark eras.

The current arrangement of formation of political parties was not granted to Nigerians by INEC but was fought for, both on the streets and in court of law by Nigerians. It will be recalled that, it was the struggle led by Chief Gani Fawehinmi and National Conscience Party (NCP) under his, and socialists’, leadership, which opened the space for multiparty democracy. In the landmark judgement, it was clearly stated that INEC has no power to decide which party to exist or not inasmuch as the constitutional provisions are met. Thus, the latest attempt of INEC is a backdoor approach to stifle the democratic space in order to allow the few moneybags who have had access to public treasury to continue to rule and of course ruin us.

The excuse of INEC that the political parties are unviable because they are not winning elections is at best laughable. Where is it written that existence of a party will be determined by electoral victory? A party may exist solely to contest and draw people’s attention to certain issues or to put pressure on governments through campaigning outside of elections. Moreover, the various ideologies and programmes of various political parties may take different times to be absorbed, understood and accepted by the mass of people depending on various factors and conditions. Denying parties’ right to existence based on immediate victory is thus an attempt to deny the mass of people opportunity to alternatives. It is worth recalling that the so-called advanced capitalist democracies that the INEC will easily refer to have evolving political systems with plurality of political associations including independent candidates and community groups.

That many political parties are not playing any visible roles in elections or are not having functional offices shows that the little democratic space in the constitution is still not enough for genuine peoples’ participation in the elections. For instance, the provisions that make parties to have offices and membership in two third of states in Nigeria is clearly undemocratic. This only helps to entrench the current arrangement where moneybags will have capacity to setup portfolio parties, which they can use to negotiate with their rivals in order to continue to have access to public treasury.

On the other hand, the working and poor people who want a break from the rotten politics and policies of the moneybags and capitalists are denied the right with this constitutional obstacle. Therefore, electoral activities are monetized and monopolized by the rich few in corridors of power, who will use every means to hold on to their privileges. This is why we in the SPN are canvassing for the right to independent candidacy and right of existence of single issue and community cum regional parties, as a way of broadening the political space. This will allow parties to participate in elections from the local levels to national level without having to look for millions of naira to establish a party. With this, INEC only needs to be informed of existence of these parties and include them in electoral list. This is a better alternative to the reactionary and retrogressive action of INEC.

We also reject the plan of INEC to seek for power to disqualify candidates in elections. This is clearly arrogating judicial powers to itself. This will surely make INEC to be the accuser and judge in electoral matters. Various organs of the state are responsible for prosecuting criminality and deciding the eligibility to contest. If, as a result of the bankruptcy of Nigeria’s capitalist state, these organs are ineffectual, is it not logical to conclude that INEC will do no better? If INEC is given such power, the situation can only get worse. The arbitrariness of the Iwu-led INEC is still fresh in our memories.

The SPN consequently urge the working and poor people of Nigeria to reject this latest undemocratic move of INEC and demand for genuinely democratic electoral system. The labour movement and all genuinely pro-democracy organizations must reject and in fact mobilize mass actions against this undemocratic action of INEC. The latest action of INEC is clearly being done on behalf of the rich few in the corridors of power in order to ostracize the working people from political contest. This again necessitates the building of a working people’s political alternative to the rot posed by the various ruling capitalist parties that have continued to hold the country at the jugular. This is why the labour movement in Nigeria must shed its toga of political passivity and help build a genuine pan-Nigerian working people’s alternative to which the SPN is committed.