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Veteran journalist calls for reduction of political parties

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A veteran journalist, Mr Mahmud Jega has called for national consensus to reduce number of political parties in Nigeria before the 2023 general election.

Jega made the call while delivering a paper at “Media Coverage of the 2019 General Election”, organised by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in collaboration with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Wednesday in Abuja.

He said something has to be done about the high number of political parties.

“It is not true that we need 91 political parties in order to liberalise the political space,” he said.

He said during the second republic there were just five parties and there was no choice that could not be found within the number.

“Some of the registered parties now are just briefcase parties,’’ he said.

He said the high number is responsible for confusion of electorate, resulting in large number of invalid votes recorded during 2019 elections.

“All kind of problems are created and really there should be a kind of national consensus before the next general elections to reduce the number of political parties.

“Simply by strengthening the registration rules. We are not saying that INEC is responsible for all these things,’’ he said.

Jega also stressed the need to cut the cost of conducting elections in Nigeria, saying the real cost of 2019 poll was more than the N185 billion spent by INEC as other stakeholders

such as security agencies, media and Civil Society Organisations also had their expenses.

“There is no doubt that something has to be done about the cost of elections in Nigeria.

“It is outrageous to spend N185 billion when Nigeria has the highest number of people living in extreme poverty, we want light, our roads are not secured and our trained now have

to be guided by helicopters.

“Is the best thing to do now to spend so much money on elections? Unfortunately, we don’t even get value for money,” he said.

Jega also said that the partisanship of the security agencies is very alarming. “Honestly if we don’t find a solution to that we will always fall short of having credible elections in

Nigeria.’’

He also said the most notorious case that came in the 2019 general elections is the issue inconclusive elections majorly caused by INEC.

Jega said that though there was provision for inconclusive elections in the Electoral Act, but then in Nigeria when “you try to solve one problem, you cause another one.

“Many of the inconclusive election that we had in 2019 were orchestrated by politicians often in collaboration with election officers.’’

He, however, said he is yet to understand the situation in Kano governorship elections where the first election was declared inconclusive due to violence, but the result was declared

even when there were violence during the supplementary poll.

Mr Amos Dunia, Executive Director, Frontline Magazine, said that media independence was seriously compromised during the 2019 general elections.

Dunia said that events before, during and after the elections showed how many media organisations openly displayed bias in their reportage, with the practitioners becoming involved and active participants.

He said that while state owned media did not give opposition parties level playing field, the level of fake witnessed in the 2019 elections was unprecedented.

Dunia added that some security agencies and CSOs could not be exonerated of complexity in most of the unwholesome activities witnessed during the elections across the country.

“In spite of all, I strongly believe that journalists being agents of change owe this nation a duty to be an active part in providing the way forward.

“In doing so, our noble union should take the lead in galvanizing practitioners to adhere to building of the Nigeria of our dream,’’ he said.

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