By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
A legal luminary, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), has canvassed for a new law that will outrightly prune political parties to a maximum of six, as a way of ensuring sanity in the body politics of the country before the 2023 general elections.
Fagbemi claimed that the present number of political parties is too many for Nigerians especially the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to cope with, along with other election challenges.
The senior lawyer spoke in Abuja at the ongoing National Workshop on Election Petition Review organized by the Court of Appeal, in collaboration with the International Foundation on Electoral System (IFES).
In his paper titled, “Reform of Election Litigation Process -The Constitution, Electoral Act and the Practice Directions,” Fagbemi argued that a situation where INEC and Nigerians will have to contend with over 86 political parties in an election cannot augur well for any electoral process.
He disclosed that the trend had led to confusion in the electoral body and among the electorates, especially exclusions that were not deliberate on the part of INEC.
“I know that my position will generate reactions but the truth and the reality is that political parties must be scaled down from the present 86 to a maximum of six parties to sanitize the party system.
“Having as much as 86 political parties is leading to confusion and exclusion that may not be deliberate on the part of our electoral body”, he said.
He pleaded that electoral reform must not be left alone for politicians because nothing good may come out of it, adding that in some cases, politicians are clever and will not enact laws they may affect their ambitions.
“Let nobody be taken off guard. Our electoral system needs some drastic rejigging and amendments to the law. The sui generis nature of the electoral laws also dictates that reforms to them cannot but be unprecedented if they are to be effective”.
Fagbemi further argued that it may be better for the nation to have bad laws to be administered by good people than the other way round and canvassed that credible experts must be given chance in the new efforts to reform the country’s electoral process.
“We cannot overemphasize the need to ensure that our electoral laws are designed in such a way to allow for the election of credible, competent and responsible leaders at all levels.
“The influence that leaders have on the generality of the populace is so grave that where a country fails to get its leadership right, it is almost certain that the followers too would suffer the same fate.
“Our current situation where elections are characterized by rigging and violence leaves very much to be desired on the quality of both the leadership and the followership.
“As a matter of fact, our history of electoral violence is linkable to the current security challenges that the country has been battling with for some years now.
“It is unfortunate that some of our leaders through their acts of irresponsibility have succeeded in corrupting the psyche of the people and made violence an endearing enterprise of kidnapping, cattle rustling and outright armed banditry as a way of life.
Besides, the senior lawyer canvassed for another reform in the service of election petitions and other processes on the winner of any election especially at the governorship and presidential levels.