This article was originally written for socialistworld.net, the website of the Committee for a Workers’ International.
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) vehemently condemns and rejects the action and decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to deregister the SPN and other seventy-three political parties, allegedly for failing to win elective posts or obtain 25% of any election in 2019 elections. This action of the INEC is undemocratic and represents an assault on the rights of working people for political representation.
We shall resist, both legally and politically, this undemocratic action. It should be recalled that the INEC was, in the first place, forced to register the party by legal and political action. The capitalist ruling elite, whose interest the INEC primarily represents, do not want a party with a bold socialist alternative programme and that promotes the interest of the working masses, youth and the poor. This was why the INEC did not initially register the party despite it having fulfilled all constitutional and legal requirements. It took the SPN over three years of struggle before it forced the INEC to register the party in November 2017.
We hereby call on the wider labour movement, pro-masses’ organisations, civil society and activists to condemn the action and build a campaign of legal and political actions, including press campaign, protest and demonstrations to resist this attack on the right to political representation.
According to the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, the parties were deregistered because they breached the requirements for registration. This is a reference to Section 225A of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 which provides the following grounds for deregistration: Failure to win at least 25% of votes cast in: (i) one State of the federation in a presidential election; or (ii) one Local Government of a state in a Governorship election and Failure to win at least: (i) one ward in the Chairmanship Election, (ii) one seat in the National or State House of Assembly election; or (iii) one seat in a Councillorship election.
SPN objects to the action and decision of the INEC on the basis of the above-stated clause in the 1999 constitution. Firstly, because the clause itself was undemocratic and was smuggled into the 1999 constitution through a recent constitution amendment done by the members of the National Assembly, in order to accomplish the deregistration of the political parties. Besides, the action was too hasty and is at variance with the section 225A upon which INEC claimed its action is predicated. According to section 225A, all elections, including the staggered and local government elections through which councillorship positions can be contested and won, are meant to be completed. Until when all these elections are completed, the accurate proportion of votes secured and the number of seats won by political parties following their expected participation cannot be ascertained.
Our position, therefore, is that INEC cannot rely on this Section of the 1999 constitution as the basis for the deregistration of the political parties given the fact that virtually all states across the country have not only failed to conduct local government elections but also that even the state and national elections conducted by INEC itself are far from being free and fair. The 2019 general elections were acknowledged by both local and international observers as one of the worst in the nation’s history. Vote-buying, ballot snatching, violence, rigging, breakdown of card readers, underage voting and other forms of electoral malpractices took place during the elections. Many INEC staff were arrested and prosecuted for aiding malpractices something which further confirms that the Commission itself knows that the last elections were far from being free and fair. This miserable record has continued with the violence and open rigging in the Kogi and Bayelsa elections.
It is our contention that pro-rich capitalist parties, like APC and PDP, and their satellites in some of the sixteen other parties that were not deregistered, are the ones mostly responsible for this kind of large scale manipulation because they are dominated by moneybag politicians and have unholy access and control over the state resources. Up to now, none of the big pro-rich political parties have been penalised as prescribed in the electoral laws for breaching the rules or engaging in malpractices during campaigns and elections. It is total hypocrisy for INEC to ignore what the major capitalist parties are doing.
It is in the light of this that we of the SPN strongly hold that INEC has failed miserably in its constitutional mandate to provide a level playing ground by organizing free and fair 2019 general elections had no right to activate section 225A of the constitution to deregister political parties for allegedly breaching the requirements for registration. Instead, it is the INEC chairman and his kitchen cabinet who should be sacked for mismanaging the last general elections something which affected the chances of smaller parties like the SPN.
However, SPN recognizes that some political parties are being established for opportunist purposes and for the enrichment of key party leaders. The SPN do not fall in this category and we have never collaborated with any of the pro-rich capitalist parties for pecuniary or other reasons. We, however, feel strongly that the fate of a political party arising from its conducts and activities should be left to the Nigerian people/electorates to decide.
The SPN also takes a serious exemption to the INEC allegation that political parties violated its requirement for registration as prescribed in the electoral law and the 1999 Constitution. Since its registration in November 2017, the SPN has always submitted to INEC, when due, its audited financial reports. The SPN also submitted itself to the INEC re-verification exercise on December 12, 2019, held at the party’s national headquarters, in Abuja. All these were done to ensure that the SPN was in full compliance with the condition for registration. It is therefore unacceptable that the SPN is now deregistered for failing to win a seat in an election dominated by manipulation, vote-buying and other infractions which are equally violations of the constitution and the electoral law.
The SPN further holds that the decision of INEC to deregister political parties that could not win a seat in the 2019 general election is a game plan by the ruling elite to limit the political space to the major capitalist political parties as a means of stifling political opposition. It signposts an attempt to roll back all the democratic progress made since the judicial victory scored by the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi and the National Conscience Party (NCP) in the landmark decision of the Supreme Court in the case: INEC v. Balarabe Musa and Anor prior to the 2003 general election.
INEC’s action also represents an attempt to reduce the role of political parties to mere winning of election and elective post alone. SPN rejects this in its entirety! Globally, the primary role of political parties in the society is that of social mobilisation of the people around certain ideals, programmes and policies, as a means of contributing to the development of such society. As a matter of fact, deregistration of political parties on the basis of winning elective post is a negation of the principle of multi-party “democracy”.
In the South African parliament, for instance, just thirteen political parties were represented while over fifty six other political parties have no representation yet none of the unrepresented political parties who were unable to win a seat has been deregistered or being considered for deregistration. The US model that the Nigerian ruling elite borrowed has two dominant political parties (Democrat and Republican) and about thirty eight other minor parties but, despite some other undemocratic features, does not have any national registration system for parties. For example, the Prohibition Party in the US was founded in 1869, and polled less than 10% in the 2016 presidential election, and it still can stand in elections.
As far as we are concerned in SPN, the major problem confronting the electoral system and elections in Nigeria is not the participation of multiple political parties. The real problem is the use of thugs and security operatives to thwart election process, multiple voting, massive vote buying, manipulations, intimidation of voters, bribery of electoral officers and security operatives.
Given the fact that these crimes which usually undermine the credibility of the election and electoral system in the country are mostly orchestrated and committed by the dominant capitalist political parties (PDP, APC, etc.), we of the SPN strongly believe that if any political parties deserve to be deregistered it is the dominant capitalist parties like PDP, APC etc. They have not only converted elections into theatres of war and absurdity but also that every governments formed by them across the country has individually and collectively failed to comply with the Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution that borders on the fundamental objectives and principles of State Policy.
According to the Section 16 (1 and 2) of this Chapter 2, the economy of the country should be run to secure maximum welfare of the people, for the major sectors of the economy to be managed by the State and the State and governance should not permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchanges in the hands of a few individuals or of a group. Since the advent of civil rule, the ruling elite through the dominant capitalist political parties have run this country in violation of Chapter 2 of the Constitution through sustained neo-liberal, anti-poor capitalist policies (privatisation, deregulation, commercialisation etc.) that continuously create mass misery, poverty, unemployment and has concentrated much of our collective wealth in the hands of a privileged few.
In conclusion, the SPN is not be miffed by this new development. We shall remain undaunted while continuing to challenge this undemocratic deregistration and building the SPN as a party of workers, youth and the oppressed masses. This is to deepen its commitment for a socio-economic and political agenda that will always meet the needs of all and not the profit, privileges and wasteful lifestyle of a few. We hereby restate our call on the labour movement to protest the undemocratic action of INEC with mass actions. But most importantly, labour needs to take serious step towards the formation and building of a mass workers’ party with socialist programmes.
The SPN is primarily a party of struggles. On our part, while fighting the undemocratic action of the INEC, we shall continue to intervene in the struggles and demands of the working masses, youth and poor against all anti-poor policies and actions of government at all levels.
Acting National Chairperson