SATURDAY ESSAY: Some Quick Thoughts on Multi-Partyism & Electoral Reform in Nigeria (by Bolaji Aluko)

2 Comments » December 22nd, 2007 posted by // Categories: Electoral Reform Project



SATURDAY ESSAY:  Some Quick Thoughts on Multi-Partyism & Electoral Reform in Nigeria


Mobolaji E. Aluko, PhD
Burtonsville, MD,  USA

December 21, 2007



Should there be re-imposed a two-party system a la Babangida of the SDP/NRC “a little to the left, a little to the right” fame – as recently being canvassed again by the man himself (see attached) –  rather than the present apparently unwieldy 50-party system a la Obasanjo/Iwu?

Absolutely not!
Rather, what we need is room for a multi-party system where as many parties as possible flourish – with room for both national and sub-national (state) spread, but with strict provisions for grass-root membership and vote attainment as prerequisites for federal and state financial support and display on future election ballots.  We also need some electoral reform about INEC and the conduct of elections.

Let me explain.


A political party without grassroot membership that financially supports it is an opportunistic political club of moneybags.  This is what we currently have in Nigeria, where no party can boast of 100,000 dues-paying members, not to talk of 1 million such members.  Thus you have one, two or no more than twenty people putting down hundreds of millions or even billions  of naira each – and canvassing money from some non-political businessmen with an eye for contracts in the future – money that is then used to fund all the activities of the party.

That is a recipe for godfatherism and the ignoring of the citizenry when the political party gets into power.

To avoid such anti-democratic tendencies, an electoral reform process must encourage grass-root membership of parties by mandating political parties to demonstrate SUBSTANTIAL support by such members, and DISCOURAGE an inordinate amount of party funding by any small-size set of individuals.

For example, suppose there are 60 million Nigerians in our voting population, and we start out by assuming that there will be six strong political parties, each on average with 10 million party members.  Then each member paying no more than N1,000 each as annual membership fee would give each party N10 billion to run its affairs every year. 

That is a lot of money.

But let us be more realistic and assume that no party will be able to garner 10 million paying members.  However, the law can state that:

1.  each party shall stipulate a membership fee of no more than N1,000 each (or whatever is consistent with average wage or economic conditions in Nigeria);

2.  the total non-dues DONATIONS to the party shall not exceed what is received from the membership fee stipulated.  The number of persons who make such donations shall be no less than 1% of the registered membership of the party.

3.  law shall require federal (and/or state) matching of 10 times of whatever each party has collected as membership fees and donations by March of each year.

I shall refer to the above as  RULES SET A.

Thus, if a party has only 500,000 paying members (at N1,000 each), and somehow manage to get internal matching donations of N500,000,00 by no less than 5,000 of its members, then the federal (or state) matches 10 times what is total collected sum, that is the party will have N11 billion in its kitty.


Political parties primarily exist to offer alternative visions and then attract voters to themselves in order to capture power either  nationally or locally.  The capture of such power cannot be expected to be quick or immediate for all parties.  However, one expects that from election to election, political parties with favorable platforms will capture increasingly the imagination of more of the voters, and hence increasingly their votes.

Such parties should be rewarded with state financial support, which should not however be automatic.

Hence let us suggest some stipulations with respect to FINANCIAL SUPPORT and APPEARING ON THE BALLOT.

1.    Rules Set A above kicks in for ALL POLITICAL PARTIES at the very start of the new rules.

2.    We must assume and INSIST on free and fair elections thereafter; this is crucial.

3.    Only EXISTING political parties which participated at all in the previous election would be eligible for support based on Rules Set A and be featured on the ballot in the new election. There should be NO ROOM for political parties to receive state funding and yet stay completely on the sidelines of canvassing for votes.

4..  For those parties that participated to be eligible for funding based on Rules Set A above AND to be featured on the ballot in the new elections, they must have won some seats in state and national elections in the immediate previous general elections.  We may have to specify the minimum number of seats required – say 1% of seats contested for. 


5.  For those parties that participated to be eligible for funding based on Rules Set A above AND to be featured on the ballot in the new elections, they must have won a certain percentage of votes in a general election such as the Presidential or Gubernatorial elections in their state. We may have to specify the minimum number of votes required – say 1% of those cast.

6.  Only those parties should be given state financial support, and be shown on the ballot in the next round of general elections, but voters will be allowed to WRITE-IN whatever party they want, obviously including those NOT shown on the ballot.  That way, new or existing parties might still win enough seats and qualify in the next set of elections.

If these rules had been applied in the 2007 elections based on the 2003 elections, we would have had only about 7 political parties, which are not too many for a country with 140 million people.

The rules should certainly be applied in 2011.


There should be NO requirement for parties to have NATIONAL SPREAD – that is in terms of membership and offices.  Free association promotes democracy.  However, obviously, based on the rules above, regional or locally-restricted political parties will NOT get FEDERAL financial support, but may actually get STATE financial support based on their membership contributions and voter strength in the state.


Independent candidacy should be allowed, but an authenticated list of (say) 1% of the registered voters in 2/3rd of the electorate districts – which are states for the presidential, local governments for the gubernatorial and relevant number of wards for other positions –  must be required before such independent candidates are listed.  It should not just be ANYBODY who gets up and wants to be an Independent candidate that should be listed on a ballot paper.


For INEC and SIECs to be truly independent:

1.  they should be placed under the Judiciary and certainly not under the Executive;
2.  their chairpersons should be sitting or retired Judges, who should have tenure for ten years unless removed for cause;
3.  their funding must be first charge line-item
4.  their membership must have nominations from the Executive, the Legislature, from some of the Political Parties and from Civil Society.
5.  INEC should run ONLY national elections (Presidency, Senate and House of Representatives) while the SIECs should run all state-level elections (Gubernatorial, State Assemblies, Local Government).

Otherwise, we should drop the pretense of independence.


The set of offices that we refer to here are Presidential, Gubernatorial, Legislative (National and State), and Local Government.

1.  Presidential term should be one five-year term, with possibility of succession only once, but without possibility of self-succession. Thus a president must leave after one term, but can come back only once more, but not immediately.
2.  Gubernatorial should be four-year term, with possibility of succession only once, including self-succession.
3.  Senate should be four year term; House; State Assembly and Local Government should be three year terms without term limits, except for Local Government Chairman, which shall have possibility of succession only once, including self-succession.
4.  Related to the different terms – and somewhat as an outcome – elections should be deliberately STAGGERED,  both WITHIN each set of positions and ACROSS time so that there is no more than half of ALL members of a legislative house can be changed all at once, and no more than half of the states are having gubernatorial elections at any given time.

The above should start in 2011.


I am pressed to identify the key steps in any set of elections:

-Identify issues/positions to vote on
-Identify Voters/Eligibility
-Identify Candidates/Eligibility

-Register Voters
-Specify When to Register
-Specify How to Register
-Specify Where to Register

-Register Candidates

-Specify When to Vote
-Specify How to Vote
-Specify Where to vote

-Vote on Election Day
-Count on Election Day
-Announce Results Preliminarily on Election

-Announce Results Conclusively As Soon As Possible after Election Day

-Specify When to Complain about Elections
-Specify How to Complain about Elections
-Specify Where to Complain about Elections

-Dispose of Election Complaints As Soon As Possible (Petitions + Appeals)

-Install Winners after all Complaints are Exhausted

The above election process should NEVER be greater than twelve months: nine months from whistle-blow to announcing the results conclusively, and three months to attend to complaints before installing winners. If the steps above are rigorously adhered to without a “mago-mago” INEC (as we saw in April 2007), twelve months will be ample.


I rest my case.  Your comments are welcome.


PDP is the problem of Nigeria -IBBBy STEVE NWOSU
Saturday, December 22, 2007

•Ibrahim Babangida
Photo: Sun News Publishing


Former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida has passed a damning verdict on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), saying the ruling party is at the root of all the problems in the polity today.

The former president who was responding to an exclusive questionnaire from Saturday Sun described the PDP as one that cannot sustain the nation’s democracy if it continues in its practice of throwing due process to the winds in the name of seeking political relevance.

Babangida, himself a member of the PDP decried the absence of internal democracy within the party, describing the current situation as “a virus that has to be confronted head-on if Nigerians must continue to enjoy politics of ideas, well grounded ideology and issue based campaigns all of which are the inherent ingredients of representative democracy.” In an exclusive response to Saturday Sun, the former President observed that much of the problems of the country are direct consequences of the lack of discipline in the ruling party, absence of internal cohesion, prevalence of sharp practices, substitution of candidates. He even picked holes in the acclaimed grassroots appeal of the PDP. Excerpts:

On Justice Uwais and the Electoral reforms panel


I do not quarrel with the calibre of Nigerians that make up the Panel. In fact we cannot ask for a better panel of distinguished Nigerians than what Mr. President has put in place. What the Panel is empowered to do will make more meaning if they are able to come up with objective, honest and patriotic recommendations to address the obvious problems confronting our young democracy. What we tried to do during our time was to critically analyse and examine all our problems from independence through the eighties to know where we went wrong and what needed to be done. That was the spirit, or do you call it motivation, behind the setting up of the Political Bureau which at the end did a marvellous job that gave birth to the two-party system. Some Nigerians have almost forgotten that our regime conducted four credible elections using the recommendations of that Bureau. It is something to ponder about. This is my honest view.




His membership of PDP and what the party represents.
What the PDP requires at this very moment is complete overhaul or if you like, restructuring. We can play proper party democracy if the PDP realises the need to purge itself of the excesses that have undermined it and, through that process, bring back those genuine, committed, credible and patriotic Nigerians who founded the Party but were hounded out by no ordinary design of their own. As it is now, the PDP has no discipline, no orientation, there is no grassroots linkage, some kind of disconnect between the party and the people. This culture of substitution of candidates at all levels of elections undermined the level playing field which any electoral process should boast of. The kind of malpractices within the party has created political enmity, internal divisions, cleavages and bad blood among the members and leaders of the party. The political infrastructure are weak, people of proven integrity have been shown the way out. The way to recover the party from this self-imposed affliction is to seek genuine reconciliation of all aggrieved persons, irrespective of status, to properly reposition the party. As it stands today, the PDP is the problem of Nigeria.
There is need for attitudinal change, proper re-orientation and restructuring. There are many credible people out there who wish to return to the PDP fold but the present reality is not motivating them to do so. We have to continue to preach internal democracy so that we can enhance the process for credible elections. Imposition of candidates, discriminate substitution of candidates and the culture of impunity are some of the problems of the PDP and that has extended to the larger public. We would have been saved all the precious time that people take to seek legal redress if the right things were done the proper way.

Back to two-party system
If you ask my honest opinion, 50 political parties appear too unwieldy to manage if we are really talking about national integration. Given our experience and history, what we desire to see is a combination of factors that bring us closer as a united country. That was what informed our two-party system of the 90s. When we took that decision, some Nigerians gave a different interpretation to our patriotic intention, but as it appears today, we can’t run away from such option.
We can streamline the present political parties to five, among which two will be stronger than the remaining three, and perhaps introduce independent candidacy from the local government level through the states to Federal elections. In order to prevent abuse of such option, we can set stringent rules for any independent candidate to meet, just like the registration of political parties. Many people who are genuinely interested in becoming local government chairmen for example, would have opportunity to participate once they meet the criteria set out for them. And the process will run through to the state and the Federal levels.
Of course we will need Constitutional amendment to accommodate such proposition but talking seriously, I think we are ripe for independent candidacy to complement the two-party option. Nigerians should be preaching tolerance and peaceful co-existence because of our multiplicities.


If we have two party system for example, this culture of cross-carpeting will reduce and no matter where you come from, you will be compelled to find accommodation in X or Y party. That way, robust debate and issue-based dialogue will prevail over and above an individual’s selfish desire. We will then use that process to learn new ways of living together and solving our problems. Nigeria is a peculiar country; hence we need to improvise peculiar ways and methods to address our peculiar problems




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2 Responses to “SATURDAY ESSAY: Some Quick Thoughts on Multi-Partyism & Electoral Reform in Nigeria (by Bolaji Aluko)”

  1. Dominic says:

    Why is IBB also entitled to an opinion on a matter like this? Shouldn’t there be some limit on freedom of expression? A few issues:

    1. SIECs: This is a great idea, and it is ultimately where we are headed. But not today. If the federal level is incapable of organising elections, the Fayoses, Adedibus, Iboris and Andy Ubas would make SIECs an even more unworkable idea. At this point, Siecs are an invitation to more electoral anarchy, assuming such a thing were possible. What we need, off the gate, is not a multiplication of IWUs and OBJs, but a strong, independent, no-nonsense electoral body that can take the fight to domineering local chieftains if need be.

    2. Presidential Terms: succession, with no self-succession. That’s just complicated, and I can’t see any advantage. Do you?

    Also, how might a man like IBB or Obasanjo game that system? Impeach the next president? Plan a coup intermittently? Play a you-hold-office-for-me-I-hold-office-for-you process?

    Five years is way too long, anyway. We should have two terms of three years each, for a total of six. If you do well in three years, you can get another three. If you don’t, early riddance to bad rubish.

    National Spread: For parties wishing to contest federal elections, I believe the national requirement needs to be enforced strictly. It is a fragile nation, and we can’t encourage political parties with regional visions and agendas. A man like Awolowo was great for Odua land, but the smallness of his scope and ideology was ultimately inimical to the national interest. That kind of political party thing can easily graduate into an HUTU vs TUTSI system. Our system should impose a national vision on political organisations, so I think the national spread required needs to be enforced, not eliminated.

  2. A. A. says:

    I am surprised Nigerian news media has nothing better to do. IBB’s opinion on electoral reform should be no more important than that of a truck pusher in Tejuosho market. It is not newsworthy and should not be reported.

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