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Press Statement: INEC Should Register Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN)

INEC Chairman Pro. Attahiru Jega

The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR), Osun State Chapter hereby decries the denial of registration of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), despite meeting all the necessary constitutional requirements for registration. The SPN submitted the application for registration to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on June 12, 2014 but did not get any response from INEC within 30 days stipulated by law. The INEC however wrote the party on August 12 saying that its “registration is terminated”.

This INEC has further betrayed it as a tool of the moneybag politicians to prevent emergence of a working people’s political alternative.

INEC Chairman Pro. Attahiru Jega

INEC Chairman Pro. Attahiru Jega

We welcome the decision of the party to challenge this undemocratic action of the INEC at the Federal High Court. We call on labour, human rights and youth organisations as well as individuals to openly and actively support the democratic rights of SPN and its struggle for registration.

SPN was founded by socialists, activists, trade unionists, workers and youths as a platform to serve as the voice of the oppressed and the poor masses of Nigeria, against the monetized mainstream political setups in the country. It was meant to serve as an alternative party with genuine socialist programme as against the bankrupt neo-liberal anti-poor pro-rich policies of the mainstream and ruling political parties across the country.

However, since 2012, when the formation of the SPN was publicly announced with the intervention at May Day rallies across the country the INEC has been doing everything to undermine the formal registration of the party. The INEC, in conjunction with some existing political parties, through a kangaroo consensus meeting, jerked up registration fee from N100, 000 to N1 million. This is strange in all ramifications. Firstly, how can INEC increase registration fee through a meeting with existing political parties that have no stake in any registration. Moreover, it is unethical and immoral for the political parties that paid N100, 000 for registration to play a role in increasing registration fee for incoming political parties. This is like shifting the goalpost to favour existing parties.

Secondly, in a country where more than seventy percent (70%) of the population live in poverty, it is undemocratic for INEC to jerk up registration fees by 900 percent. This is tantamount to denying the working and poor people the right for independent political representation. It is a trite fact that all the major existing and ruling political parties in Nigeria are controlled by big time moneybags and big business people, who use their control of political lever to tailor state policies and public resources towards their private ends. Therefore, the hike in registration fee for a new political party is meant to condemn working people to the whim of the rich few in the society. It is funny that the same INEC that failed to perform its statutory function of stopping monetization of political process, is itself involved in monetizing electoral process. In spite of its lean purse, SPN was able to raise the N1million non-refundable fee from members and supporters across the country and paid up the exorbitant amount to INEC. The party also met all other onerous conditions prescribed by the Constitution and INEC. Yet, INEC denied the association registration!

However, the undemocratic political process that denies the working people the right to voluntary political orientation is not only limited to INEC’s policies but the deliberate interests of the capitalist ruling class to deny working people independent political voice. For instance, the constitution prescribes that a political party must have its members of National Executive Committee (NEC) from at least 24 states plus Abuja while the party’s headquarters must be situated in Abuja. This is ostensibly aimed to have national parties that reflect the “federal character” and “unity” of Nigeria. Of course, through determination of its members, the SPN met these criteria; but these conditions are absolutely undemocratic and retrogressive.

Political parties are not necessary meant to contest national elections. All over the world, choices are given to political association to choose their level of operation. For instance, aside community parties that participate at local and regional elections, single-issue parties and independent candidacy are allowed to exist in serious democratic environments. This is meant to liberalize the political process and allow all layers of the society to participate in politics. More than this, political process is made affordable for political parties.

For instance, in South Africa, where multi-racial and real multi-party democracy was restored just two decades ago, and with around a quarter of Nigeria’s population, just five hundred rand, about four thousand naira is required for registration of a political party. Moreover, such a political party must have 50 registered members in areas where it wants to exist. In addition, a political party may transform from local, community and regional party to a national party if it meets the basic requirement for a national party. While this may not have stopped moneybag-controlled political parties from holding sway, it gives hope and opportunity for working people to aspire to defeat and oust moneybag politics. In many other third world and developing economies, not to mention advanced democracies, the political processes are far more liberal than what obtains in Nigeria.

Even, Nigeria, there were times in the 1950s and 1960s when political process was liberalized with the existence of community parties and independent candidacy. Nigeria did not collapse as a result of this. In fact, it is the rotten politics of few mainstream political parties and gladiators in the early 1960s that led to the political crisis of the period, and not liberalization of political process.As against the excuse that existence of local and regional parties will undermine the so-called Nigeria’s federal existence, the over-centralization of political process has actually accentuated ethno-religious cleavages. For instance, the issue of zoning of elective offices and religious consideration are rapidly becoming a dangerous trend in political parties, with INEC unable to stem the tide. As against the excuse that liberalization of political process will lead to proliferation of political parties, the undemocratic policies of INEC has not stopped this, as currently there are over 60 (sixty) political parties. Worse still, majority of these parties are portfolio parties setup by moneybags and fat-cats, for their political projects.In fact, it is undemocratic and retrogressive to legislate by fiat how a political party orientates.

The reality is that what INEC is doing in the service of the capitalist ruling class is to entrench the current rotten political arrangement, which ensure the continued rule of the moneybags. This is why INEC and the ruling class will insist that a political party should have its headquarters in Abuja, knowing the cost involved in such. The ruling class knows fully well that if the political process is liberalized with existence of local, regional and single-issue parties, the working people will be empowered to build political structures to confront and defeat the ruling elites. This will destroy the myth that political process is the sole right of moneybags and fat-cats.

In the United States, for the first time in almost 100 years, a socialist with Trotskyist orientation, Kshama Sawant won a council seat in Seattle, Washington State. Her party, Socialist Alternative Party, a small party of less than 200 members, won against the mainstream parties of the Republicans and the Democrats. She won on the basis of her involvement in the struggles and issues affecting the city and because of her socialist programmes. She currently serves as the pole of attraction for those seeking alternative to the mainstream capitalist parties. Through her, $15/hour minimum wage has been won, which has spread the struggle for better wages to other cities.

Also, in Ireland, the Socialist Party won fourteen (14) local council seats in Dublin, in the May 2014 elections. In fact, the party just few weeks ago got its third member of national parliament, Paul Murphy, elected in the Dublin Southwest by-election. This is a small party of few hundred members. The party does not have moneybag politicians like Sein Fein, Labour, etc., but relied on its programmes and the track record of its elected politicians like Joe Higgins, who consistently defended the working people, youth and the poor.These are just few example of how working people across the world are breaking through the artificial barriers erected by the capitalist ruling class to prevent emergence of revolutionary platform of the oppressed.

The effort of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) is therefore in the right direction. This is vital as the deafening call on labour movement, on the basis of its social and numerical stature, to build a political platform of the working and poor people, has received no response from labour leaders. On the contrary, they handed over the Labour Party to moneybag politicians, while many of them continue to romance capitalist political parties and politicians. It is the contention of the CDWR that if working people, genuine pro-democracy, pro-labour activists, trade unionists and the youth, mobilize support for the SPN, it will not only defeat the INEC and its undemocratic policies, but also set a striking example for the working people in defeating the capitalist politicians.

For us in the CDWR Osun state chapter, we wholeheartedly support the initiative of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and its struggles for registration. We shall provide all necessary support in our capacity, as the SPN, based on its left-wing and socialist programmes and ideology, will provide a fresh air needed in this stinking political atmosphere saturated with mess of capitalist politics.

Kola Ibrahim, State Secretary

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