Will independent candidacy reduce number of political parties?

by Alexander O. Onukwue

In his speech during the launch of the APDA, Dan Iwuanyanwu asked the question many Nigerians continue to ask, why do we need new political parties?

With forty-five and counting, there will be many to choose from, but the quality of the content in the lottery pot is not likely going to be high. Eventually, many fizzle out or join stronger parties in an alliance.

Political parties are supposed to have their main aim as taking over power through elections, so parties which end up endorsing candidates of other parties weeks to the election cannot be said to be exactly on that mission. The other purpose of a political party is to act as a pressure group and to have a say in the conversations about public policy and the general welfare of the people. Beyond election seasons, most of the other parties barely speak much in public discourse.

Along the lines of reducing the cost of Governance, perhaps a revision of the requirements for registering political parties would not be a wild idea. Would there not be a significant reduction in the costs if we had to move from printing A4-sized papers with forty-five vertically listed parties to A6-sized papers consisting of a few parties who meet new criteria?

There is the argument that the easier the conditions, the easier it will be for young people to be part of the political process. However, the need for political parties is solely predicated on the apathy towards Independent Candidates. The Constitution does not permit it, and for the politician who does not want to mingle with the already established parties, the only option is to form one.

But it cannot continue to go on the present way, can it? The ‘Not Too Young To Run Bill’ is currently being pushed in the National Assembly to reduce the criteria for young people to be involved in politics. However, that will not solve the problem. As Donald Duke observed, the ‘tokenism’ of campaigns to reduce the cost of nomination forms in parties present a beggarly approach to politics, which is not desirable. Political offices should not be obtained with subsidies; the subsidiser will be in the position to dictate the tune. Such politician is likely not to be Independent in thought and action.

With the rise of individualism and more liberal tendencies, our society has changed a lot from what it used to be, and political parties are losing their value. Nigerians, for the most part, are more interested in a person’s ideas than of his party, the general assumption being that parties in Nigeria don’t have binding ideologies as obtainable in other places like the US and UK. Some work will need to be put in determining which Independent Candidates eventually get registered on the ballot papers, but it is something the National Assembly and INEC should be more committed to.

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