The procedure for the merger of political parties in Nigeria
In Nigeria, we are so use to political parties attempting to forge alliances for the purpose of electoral contest; so much so that a lot of people in the country do not know or are confused about the differences between political parties forming alliances or merging. The present effort by some opposition political parties to merge into a mega and broad
base national political party in the country has been greeted with doubts and scepticism from Nigerians and supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party alike regarding the chances of the success of the effort. The argument of opponents of merger of political parties is that from past experience in the country no effort by political parties to ally has ever succeeded.
So in this regard merger of political parties is a novelty in Nigeria political lexicology. In the First Republic we had the alliance between Action Group; NCNC; United Middle Belt Congress and Northern Elements Progressive Union known United Grand Progressive Alliance on one hand. On the Other hand, there was the alliance between the Northern People’s Congress and the Nigerian National Democratic Party known as the Nigerian National Alliance. The 1964 general election was largely a fight between these two political alliances. The crisis generated by the election was one of the reasons the military decided to take over the reins of governance on the 15th January, 1966.The military handed over power to the civilians in 1979.
In the general election held in 1979 to usher in democratic civil rule, the National Party of Nigeria, won the presidential election but failed to win majority of the seats in the National Assembly. This development led the National Party of Nigeria to owever the winning of enter into a political accord (alliance) with the Nigeria Peoples Party. As a result several members of the Nigeria Peoples Party were appointed into the NPN controlled Federal Government.
The political accord between National Party of Nigeria and Nigeria Peoples Party saw the election in the House of Representatives of a member of the Nigeria Peoples’ Party in the House late Chief Edwin Ume Ezeoke as Speaker of the House of Representatives, despite the fact that his Party had fewer seats than the Unity Party of Nigeria. In the Senate a member of the Nigeria Peoples Party, Senator John Wash Pam was elected the Deputy Senate President.
In 1982 the accord between National Party of Nigeria and the Nigeria Peoples Party collapsed due to doctrinal differences and Nigeria Peoples Party members withdrew from the government of President Shehu Shagari.
In 1983, the Nigeria Peoples Party and a faction of the Peoples Redemption Party and the Great Nigeria Peoples Party entered into an alliance for the purpose of contesting the general election. The Alliance was known as the Peoples Progressive Alliance. Despite the Alliance the National Party Nigeria won a landslide victory in the general election.
In 1998, the Alliance for Democracy, AD and the All Peoples Party, APP entered into a political alliance which saw Chief Olu Falae of AD running together with Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi in the presidential election. However the alliance collapsed after the election as some elements in the APP accepted appointment in the Federal Government controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party.
In 2011, there was a spirited attempt by the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC and the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN to forge an alliance for the purpose of fighting the presidential election but which did not work.
It follows that alliance between political parties in Nigeria has a chequered history. However, there was no time in the constitutional development of Nigeria, where two or more political parties have collapsed their structures to merge to form a single political party. This is precisely what the opposition parties are trying to do now. There is a clear and absolute distinction between “alliance” and “merger”. According to the Encarta Dictionary of English Language, the word “Alliance” means the following:
i. Association of groups with common aim
ii. Forming of alliance
iii. Members of alliance
iv. Close relationship
On the other hand, the Encarta Dictionary of English Language defines the word “merger” thus:
i. Combining of companies
The concept of political parties forming alliance is unknown to the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended). However “merger” of political parties is provided by Section 84 of the Electoral Act, 2010.
Before the merging opposition parties formed the proposed All Progressive Congress supporters of the PDP have shouted themselves hoarse that the effort by the opposition political parties to merge would not work. They contend that and cite failure in the past of political alliances in the country to buttress their position. Apparently the opponents of failure of merger do not understand the purport of a merger or are ignorant of the fact that there is a world of differences between alliance and merger.
Undoubtedly, merger of political parties does not tantamount to formation of alliance under any stretch of imagination. It is clear that parties in alliance maintain their separate identities and structures and never collapse their structures; political parties in merger must collapse their structures and lose their identities. Merger is contextually, legally and literally different from alliance. Merger contemplates a marriage or a union. Where two or more political parties merged they become one. The merging parties lose their registration, identities and structures. They collapsed into one.
Section 84 of the Electoral Act, has laid down the procedure for merger of political parties. Section 84 (1) of the Electoral Act provides that any two or more registered political parties may merge on approval by the Independent National Electoral Commission following a formal request presented to the Commission by the political parties for that purpose. After this formal request, the Political parties intending to merge shall each give to the Independent National Electoral Commission 90 days notice of their intention to do so before a general election. Thereafter a 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 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;
(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 or payment of administrative costs of N100, 000.00 or as may be fixed from time to time by an Act of the National Assembly.
On receipt or the request for merger of political parties, the Independent National Electoral Commission shall consider the request and, if the parties have fulfilled the requirements of the Constitution and the Electoral Act shall approve the proposed merger and communicate its decision the parties concerned before the expiration of 30 days from the date or the receipt of the formal request.
However, if Independent National Electoral Commission fails to communicate its decision within 30 days the merger shall he deemed to be effective. Where the request for the proposed merger is approved, the Independent National Electoral Commission shall withdraw and cancel the certificates of registration of all the political parties opting for the merger and substitute a single certificate or registration in the name or the party resulting from the merger. The only restriction placed on merger of political parties is by the provisions of Section 84 (6) of the Electoral Act is that no merger or political parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission received less than 90 days before any general election in the country shall not be considered by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The fear of some legislators that they will lose their membership of the various legislative houses as a result of the merger is unfounded. This is because the proviso to Section 68 (1) G) of the Constitution, 1999 has taken care of the status of a legislator where there is a merger of the political party that sponsor his election into the National Assembly. The position is that such a legislator cannot lose his membership of the National Assembly as a result of such merger. The situation is also the same for legislators in the various State Houses of Assembly. This is stipulated in Section 109 (1) (g) of the Constitution.
However, the Constitution is silent of what become of the President or Governor when the political party that sponsors him into office merged with another political party.