by Nana Nwachukwu
With 2015 fast approaching, the drama is heightening.
Recently, the intended merger between the big opposition parties in Nigeria has been all the rage. It’s been interesting to observe the noise that has been made both on the social and traditional media about this merger.
A lot of people have hailed it as a good move while some denounced it. Personally, I am of the opinion that it will be a great idea to have a party that will give the PDP a run for its money. This mega party, All Progressive Congress (APC) proposes to do this. So, good move.
The most recent buzz in the media has been of a certain African Peoples Congress, which bears the same acronym ‘APC’ as the All Progressive Congress.
This supposed party has gone ahead to apply to INEC for the registration of their own party. I am not going to give the sarcastic opinion I would have loved to give on this but I would take a trip to the angle of the process of registration of parties as a matter of fact and the credibility of the process of the purported INEC registration of African Peoples Congress. Note that this is not a judicial opinion.
How do parties get registered?
The registration of political parties is the exclusive preserve of the Independent National Electoral Commission (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Commission’) as accorded it by the Electoral Act. Section 78 of the Electoral Act made it clear that a party with an intention to be registered can approach the Commission by way of an application (supported by necessary documents) submitted at least 6 months prior to a general election. The Commission would acknowledge receipt of the application in a letter. If all conditions have been fulfilled by the party, the Commission will register the party within 30 days. If the conditions have not been met, the Commission would notify the party of this within 30 days. Where the Commission fails to notify the party, the party would be deemed to have been registered at the expiration of the 30 days from the date of the application.
Conditions to be fulfilled by the party
It is not a smooth ride or welcome party for the intending political parties. There are conditions to be met before it is registered. The Commission published guidelines in 2002. Guideline number 2 states as follows:
“2. The application for registration as a political party shall be made on the Commission’s Form PA1 in 20 copies and shall be accompanied by documents showing the following:
(a) the name of the proposed party;
(b) the names, signatures and residential addresses of the chairman and secretary of the Association filling the application;
(c) evidence of payment of the prescribed fee of N100,000.00 (One Hundred Thousand Naira) in bank draft; and
(d) Twenty copies of the Association’s Constitution and Manifesto.”
These guidelines were confirmed by the Supreme Court as not being in conflict with the Constitution in Independent National Electoral Commission and Another v Musa and Others (2003) AHRLR 192 (SC) just in case you are wondering or pondering.
The law permits the merger of political parties. However, there are guidelines and one does not simply seat in meetings, discuss, agree and become a merged party.
Section 84 of the Electoral Act has this to say;
“(1) Any two or more registered political parties may merge on approval of merger of political parties by the Commission following a formal request presented to the Commission by the political parties for that purpose. (The key word is a formal request to INEC and not a media request)
(2) Political parties intending to merge shall each give to the Commission 90 days’ notice of their intention to do so before a general election (Is there still not sufficient time for this and do we wonder why the proposed merging party is throwing tantrums at a name?).
(3) The written request for merger shall be sent to the Chairman of the Commission and shall be signed jointly by the National Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer for the time being of the different political parties proposing the merger (was this done by the proposed merging APC?) and shall be accompanied by –
(a) a special resolution passed by the national convention of each of the political parties proposing to merge, approving the merger . (We have read dissents from different factions of the parties in the proposed merger in the papers. Did the several parties get to this consensus?)
(b) the proposed full name and acronym, constitution, manifesto, symbol or logo of the party together with the addresses of the national office of the party resulting from the merger; and
(c) evidence of payment of administrative costs of N1OO,OOO or as may be fixed from time to time by an Act of the National Assembly.
(4) On receipt of the request for merger of political parties, the Commission shall consider the request and, if the parties have fulfilled the requirements of the Constitution and this Act, approve the proposed merger and communicate its decision to the parties concerned before the expiration of 30 days from the date of the receipt of the formal request–
PROVIDED that if the Commission fails to communicate its decision within 30 days the merger shall be deemed to be effective….”
Does the acronym of a name matter?
The acronym of an organization is more often than not used as its logo, symbol or design. However, when it boils down to facts and actions, it does not really count so much (this is debatable).
Section 82 (1) of the Electoral Act insists that the symbol of a party must be distinct from one already registered. Note the use of the word symbol and not acronym. This means that a party can fashion out something distinct and as long as it is not offensive according to Section 82(4) of the Electoral Act, then it can be used as a symbol.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that the registration of political party is on a first come, first serve basis. There is no space for reservation of a name per se but if the merging party was properly advised, it would have gone ahead to make a formal request of intent to the Commission. You do not get battle ready without due consultation and advice from various quarters.
Can the African Peoples Congress be registered?
Why not? African Peoples Congress, All Progressive Congress as well as Amend Party Congress can all be registered by the Commission as long as the conditions are fulfilled.
‘He who reaches out to the media first’ has no legal advantage in registration according to the Electoral Act except when the advantage is in a contest for popularity and media presence. But if the Commission denies the merging party registration based on an acronym, then it is high time they head to court.