By Olalekan Awojodu
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria and foremost electoral litigation expert, Prince Lateef Fagbemi has canvassed for a new law that will out rightly prune political parties in the country to maximum of six.
The senior lawyer made this known in Abuja at the on-going National Workshop on Election Petition Review organized by the Court of Appeal in collaboration with 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.
While advancing his arguments, the learned silk said such move was necessary in order to ensure sanity in the body polity before the 2023 general elections
According to Fagbemi, the present 86 political parties is too wieldy for Nigerians especially INEC to cope with along with other challenges.
He disclosed further that the trend had led to series of confusion for the electoral body and the electorate especially exclusions that were not deliberate on the part of INEC.
“I know that my position will generate reactions but the truth and reality is that political parties must be scaled down from the present 86 to maximum of six parties to sanitize the party system.
“Having as much as 86 political parties is too wieldy leading to confusion and exclusion that may not be deliberate on the part of out 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 fall victim in their ambitions.
“Let nobody be taken off guard, our electoral system needs some drastic and very unpopular rejigging and amendments to the law. The sui-generis nature of 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.
He suggested that henceforth, the candidate that wins an election to be challenged in court or tribunals should be served with the petition through the party secretariat of such winners in view of limited number of days the petitions are now being decided.
Fagbemi claimed that experiences have shown elected governors after inauguration ordering that Government House be cordoned off by security operatives so as to frustrate being served with petitions and other processes as required by law.
To lessen the burden of service of petitions or court process, he canvassed that the winning candidates must be made to produce a certificate that he has no petitions against him or that he has joined issues with petitioners so as to qualify for inauguration.
Similarly, Fagbemi suggested that any winner whose election is being challenged should have his or her emoluments slashed by half pending the resolution of the petition adding that if such a winner has his or her election nullified, he should automatically lose the half emoluments.