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Nigeria Labor Congress Urges Formation of New Parties Before 2003 Elections - 2001-10-22

The Nigeria Labor Congress, NLC, is urging the registration of new political parties before the elections in 2003. The Acting General Secretary of the Congress, John Odah, says in view of what he calls the unsatisfactory performance of the government and the three existing political parties, the government must allow the creation of new parties in order to give people better choices.

In recent times, several new political groups have been formed, cutting across ethnic lines. Political analysts attribute this trend to what people see as ineffective leadership on the part of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); and the two opposition parties - the All Peoples Party (APP) and the Alliance for Democracy (AD).

Most Nigerians complain that their states lack social amenities like good roads, schools and health care. On top of that, they say they're being politically marginalized.

The Acting General Secretary of NLC, John Odah, expressed this concern. "The present government - whether in APP or PDP at the center or the AD at the state level - have all not lived [up] to expectations of the Nigerian people. And you can measure this in so many instances. I think this is one of the reasons why there is so much disillusionment in the land," he said.

Mr. Odah said the expectation was that civilian politicians would consolidate their victory as a democracy. Unfortunately, Mr. Odah charged, they continue to behave as if Nigeria were still under military rule. "The level of accountability is almost at the level with the military men, and we think this is not good enough," he said.

Mr. Odah said as a result, the Nigerian Labor Congress has held dialogues with other civil society groups to form what it calls a credible alternative party for the people. Mr. Odah denied rumors that the NLC wants to transform itself into a political party. He said it is holding the dialogues only to ensure the emergence of an alternative political party that has the interest of the people at heart.

At the moment, several suggestions have emerged among those in favor of new parties. But some politicians who are members of the existing political parties say they're not too keen on the idea. One of the ruling governors, Adamu Aliero of Kebbi State, said, "I don't support the idea of new political parties. I believe the present three political parties are enough to accommodate the wishes of any politician who wishes to contest."

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is non-committal. The national commissioner in charge of Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara States, Alhaji Othman Ladan-Baki, says no new political party has applied for registration. "I can speak for the commission. As far as I know, no political party has applied to INEC for registration. It is up to the political parties to apply. All these are governed by the constitution," he said.

NLC officials, including Mr. Odah, say they're prepared for a showdown with government if the wishes of the people are not met. "We in the organized labor are very clear that there must be new political parties, and we would be in the forefront of those canvasing for new parties," said Mr. Okah, "and I assure you that we have a number of contingency plans we would unfold when the time comes".

Meanwhile, the waiting game is being played until the National Assembly decides whether to allow the formation of new political parties.