It was breaking news on the TV: “Tribunal nullifies election of Gov. Diri and ordered INEC to conduct fresh elections within 90 days.” My initial reaction was that of shock and disbelief and my unvoiced statement was “what again?” To me the issue of who governs Bayelsa State has been concluded since the ‘only’ other political party, APC, had been silenced by the Supreme Court. Before this breaking news, Gov. Douye Diri, as far as I was concerned, was sitting ‘berekete’ with his two buttocks and standing ‘gidigba’ on his two legs as the governor of Bayelsa State.
Then I heard the details – a political party by the name Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP) had approached the Tribunal seeking nullification of the Bayelsa State governorship election on the ground that it was wrongfully excluded from the ballot! O my God! How many Nigerians or even Bayelsans know ANDP? Can ANDP win a single councilor seat in Bayelsa State or any state of the federation? For how long will these small, inconsequential, zero-weight ‘political parties’ continue to bring confusion into our polity? For how long will the freedom of association provision in our constitution be abused to the detriment of our growth and progress?
The shenanigans we are witnessing today cannot be the intention of Chief Gani Fawehinmi upon whose judicial victory in 2002 the liberation of the political space for formation of political parties was premised. Chief Gani Fawehinmi had approached the Nigeria Supreme Court to enforce the registration of his National Conscience Party (NCP). That singular judicial victory had opened the floodgate for other ‘political parties’ whose intentions are everything but electoral victory.
These so called political parties, aka “briefcase parties”, which members are the founders with maybe their immediate family members and with their headquarters located in the living rooms of the founders are formed for purposes of negotiating relevance in the known major political parties, or to cause confusion in the system, or to get another title of “Chairman, XYZ party”, or just as pastime, or any other reason apart winning election. If Chief Gani Fawehinmi was alive today, he would probably regret pursuing that case.
In Bayelsa State as at now, the governor cannot be at ease until this case is exhausted at the Supreme Court. If the governor is not settled, his focus, dedication and commitment to the assignment before him will be adversely affected, all because of ANDP! Should the worst happens and Supreme Court upholds the judgment of the Tribunal, all the millions (or billions) of naira expended in conducting the elections would be a waste, all because of ANDP!
Even if at the end of the litigations, the election of Gov. Diri is upheld, the cost of prosecuting the case, especially by the governor would have come from the State’s purse, either directly or indirectly, and one can imagine what positive effort such funds could have been directed if ANDP had not reared its ugly head.
Shall we continue in this confusion all in the name of democracy? God forbid! God forbid that we should allow our ballot paper to become as long as roll of tissue paper! God forbid that it should take 10 minutes or more for a voter to go through a ballot paper while looking for the logo and name of the party to vote for! God forbid that it will get to a point where INEC would have to provide a seat inside the polling booth because of length of time it would take to go through the ballot paper!
God forbid that the cost of printing our ballot paper will keep rising astronomically all because every Tom, Dick and Harry in the name of political parties should be accommodated! God forbid that the number of political parties with their logos will get a voter totally confused and prefer to just walk away! “God forbid bad thing”, as we usually say it in this part of the world.
It’s high time the National Assembly took a second look at the provisions of the constitution that address political party formation and registration. While I’m not advocating blanket embargo on formation and registration of new political parties, there should however be very stringent conditions such that any application that will scale through will produce a party that is strong enough to contend for positions, at least at the state level.This shenanigan must stop.God bless Nigeria.