The Independent National Electoral Commission and the All Progressives Congress on Wednesday clashed over the primaries of the APC in Zamfara State.
INEC had, in a letter, said that it would not allow the APC to field candidates in any election in Zamfara State except for the presidential poll.
But the APC, in a letter to the electoral commission, insisted that it would field candidates in all elections in Zamfara State.
INEC, in the letter, which was signed by its acting Secretary, Okechukwu Ndeche, and addressed to the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, explained that its decision was hinged on the fact that the APC failed to conduct primaries for National Assembly, governorship and state assembly, adding that the October 7, 2018 deadline had lapsed.
further noted that its stance to declare APC ineligible to field candidates was premised on the provisions of sections 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 stressing that “the commission does not expect that your party will submit names of any candidates from Zamfara State.”
But the APC, in Oshiomhole’s reply to the letter by INEC’s letter, faulted the electoral commission.
Oshiomhole said the grounds upon which INEC based its conclusion was faulty and as such could not be relied upon to deny the APC the opportunity to present candidates.
He said the party held primary elections for the said positions and that the APC electoral committee sent to the state to conduct the exercise had submitted a comprehensive report.
He said, “The summary of the report, as you will find, is that following the high level of friction, disagreements and threatened violence by various political camps before the primaries, all the aspirants met at City King Hotel, Gusau, to find a truce.
“After hours of intense horse-trading, a consensus was reached within the spirit and context of the Electoral Act and the constitution of our party on the basis of which a list was produced which was confirmed/affirmed by all delegates present. This was done in strict compliance with Section 87 (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as Amended).
“Therefore, the claim in your letter under reference that ‘no primaries were conducted by your party in the state, notwithstanding that our officials were fully mobilised and deployed’ could only be referring to their observation that actual voting did not take place, which is not the only mode prescribed for producing candidates in the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).”
The APC said it was perplexed that INEC did not wait for it to submit the names of its candidates in Zamfara State “considering that the time within which such submission should take place has not elapsed” before raising its observation in the letter under reference.
The APC noted that the Peoples Democratic Party did not also hold primaries in Kano, but no such letter was written to the PDP in relation to Kano State.
The Zamfara APC had been engulfed in a serious crisis in recent time as parallel primaries had been held by factions of the party, none of which was monitored by INEC.
The two persons at the centre of the crisis are Governor Abdulaziz Yari, who is also a senatorial aspirant, and Senator Kabiru Marafa, who is a governorship aspirant.
While Yari wanted his Commissioner for Finance, Mukhtar Idris, to succeed him, Marafa insisted that there must be a level playing field. This led to the conduct of parallel primaries across the state which produced different candidates.
The National Working Committee led by Oshiomhole subsequently suspended the state executive of the party to allow for a rancour-free exercise, a decision which did not go down well with Yari.
However, the electoral panel sent to the state by the party’s national leadership announced that it was unable to organise primaries in the state.
The PDP and civil rights groups supported INEC on its stand on the Zamfara State governorship and legislative primaries.
The PDP called on the electoral commission not to allow the APC to intimidate it over its position.
It called on the commission not to bend the rules in favour of the APC, warning that doing so would amount to an illegality.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, gave the party’s position at a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday.
He said, “Our position has not changed. You remember that after our national convention, we alerted the nation that the closing date for primaries and congresses was October 7, and as of that day, the Zamfara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress had not held a singular congress to elect candidates into various positions that will be contested in 2019 general elections.
“We warn INEC because we are aware of underhand measures and moves by the leadership of the APC who summoned the INEC chairman and the Governor of Zamfara State to a meeting.
“As such, we are warning that INEC must not allow itself to be subdued by the APC.”
The Director, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, said, “It does not matter whether it is the ruling party or any political party that is found wanting in meeting the deadline of the electoral commission. The party has to produce evidence that INEC was aware and represented in the primaries.”
The President, Campaign for Democracy, Usman Abdul, said, “The rule of law must be enforced. There is no APC executive that can say that there was a peaceful and conclusive primary in Zamfara. No, that did not happen. INEC should stick to the rules and avoid being partisan.”
Also, a northern elder statesman and Second Republic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Muhammed, said, “My opinion on the Zamfara issue is one, the APC has not behaved responsibly in Zamfara. But while what the APC did was bad and irresponsible, the electoral umpire cannot simply use some technical language to somewhat disenfranchise the people of Zamfara.”
Ex-INEC commissioner asks commission to stand firm
A former INEC National Commissioner, Prof. Lai Olurode, called on INEC to be assertive and not allow itself to be cowed by the ruling party.
The former INEC commissioner said, “This is the time to stop the excesses of political actors in this country. The INEC timetable said primaries must be conducted between August 18 and October 7. The Zamfara chapter of the APC has been fictionalised to the extent that there are parallel camps.”
Also speaking, the National Publicity Secretary of the Social Democratic Party, Alfa Mohammed, said, “The rule of law must be obeyed. If the APC has not met the deadline as stipulated by INEC, allowing them to submit names through the backdoor will amount to impunity which should not be allowed.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the African Democratic Congress, Mrs Yemi Kolapo, insisted that the APC must not be given any concessions by INEC having conducted the worst primaries in the country in the last two weeks.
The ADC spokesperson said, “Everyone knows that what happened in the Osun rerun was not an election but it was like some gangsters hijacked the process and declared a winner. And that is what they are now doing amongst themselves at their primaries.”
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