The Independent National Electoral Commission has issued a report threatening to reject candidates presented by Peoples Democratic Party in elections because the bulk of its National Working Committee members were not properly elected, but how far can the electoral body go? Chucks Okocha tries to find out
The report published by the Independent National Electoral Commission on April 8 saying the manner of election of 12 members of Peoples Democratic Party’s 16-member National Working Committee was “unacceptable” came like a bolt from the blue. It said the process that led to the emergence of the 12 NWC members from the party’s national convention of March 24 last year contravened paragraph 6.5 (1) of the PDP guidelines for the conduct of the 2012 congresses and national convention, which prohibits the unopposed emergence of officers.
The report cleared only four members of the NWC, namely, the PDP National Chairman Bamanga Tukur, sacked National Secretary Olagunsoye Oyinlola and equally dismissed National Auditor Bode Mustapha, and National Financial Secretary Bolaji Anani.
The report by INEC has jolted the ruling party. But it has also raised a debate about the regulatory powers of the electoral umpire over political parties in the country.
INEC’s Regulatorty Powers
It is common knowledge that for every law, there must be enforcement. This is particularly true in the relationship between INEC and the political parties. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) gives INEC powers to register political parties. It went a step further to state in 223 (1) that the constitution and rules of a political party shall provide for the periodical election on a democratic basis of the principal officers and members of the executive committee or other governing body of the political party. The country’s constitution also say it is the duty of INEC to “monitor the organisation and operation of the political parties.”
Besides, section 85 (3) of the 2010 Electoral Act says, “The election of members of the executive committee or other governing body of a political party, including the election to fill a vacant position in any of the aforesaid bodies, shall be conducted in a democratic manner and allowing for all members of the party or duly elected delegates to vote in support of a candidate of their choice.”
Even recently, the court approved the decision of INEC to deregister political parties, thereby giving the commission rights over the existence of political parties. INEC has deregistered some political parties that it considered as “non- performing”. The National Conscience Party went to court to challenge the commission’s power in this regard and the decision of INEC was upheld by the court.
This implies that INEC has real powers to determine the existence and activities of political parties. PDP, as one of the registered political parties, falls within the parties that INEC shall monitor and supervise. It was for this reason that INEC monitored the national convention of PDP held on March 24 last year.
The INEC Report
INEC, in line with its regulatory powers, supervised the national convention of PDP that took place on March 24 last year and came up with a report faulting the election of some of the principal officers of the party. INEC stated that the mode of election of these officers and members of the NWC was not acceptable to it.
In the report titled, “Report of the 2012 National Convention of the PDP held on March 24 2012 at the Eagle Square, Abuja,” INEC faulted the election of some of those it described as “single candidates”.
The report was signed by the following INEC officials: Col. M.K. Hammanga (rtd), team leader to the PDP national convention, and Dame Gladys Nne Nwafor, both national commissioners in INEC; Regina Omo-Agege, Director Political Parties Monitoring and Liaison; Emmanuel Umenger, Director Public Affairs; Nnamdi Nwaeze, Chief Legal Officer; Babalola O.O, Deputy Director, Political Parties Monitoring and Liaison; Aminu K.Idris, Assistant Director, Political Parties Monitoring and Liaison; Pricilla Ezeigwe, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) in the Political Parties Monitoring and Liaison; Nkechinyere Abuh, PAO in the Political Parties Monitoring and Liaison; Sefiya PAO, Training; and Bulus D. Davou, CCO in the Political Parties Monitoring and Liaison.
INEC stated, “The mode of election adopted for single candidates was not in accordance with the mode of election stipulated in paragraph 6.5 (i) of the guidelines for the conduct of the year 2012 congresses and national convention and therefore not acceptable to the commission.”
The INEC report listed the election of the single candidates, whose elections by affirmation was not acceptable to it, to include the deputy national chairman, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja; National Organising Secretary, Abubakar Mustapha; National Youth Leader, Alhaji Garba Chiza; Deputy National Youth Leader, Dennis Alonge Niyi; Deputy National Auditor, Senator Umar Ibrahim; Deputy National Woman Leader, Hanatu Ulam; National Woman Leader, Kema Chikwe; Deputy National Organising Secretary, Okechukwu Nnadozie; Deputy National Treasurer, Claudus Inengas; National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwom; and Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Binta Goje.
The rejection was in spite of the fact that these officers of the PDP were duly nominated, the motions nominating them were seconded, and their affirmation questions were put and ratified by a majority voice vote.
In the Certified True Copy of the convention’s report signed by Acting Director of INEC’s Legal Department, Ibrahim K. Bawa, dated March 19, 2013, INEC had also said, “Open secret ballot system was adopted for the election into the offices of the National Chairman, Auditor, Financial Secretary, Secretary, Treasurer and Deputy Treasurer in accordance with paragraph 6.5 (i) of the guidelines for the conduct of the 2012 congresses and national convention. All other positions had single candidates and were affirmed by motion except for the position of the national chairman which was put to vote by open secret ballot despite only one candidate.”
The report listed the scores of ballot cast at the convention as follows: National Chairman – Bamanga Tukur- total votes cast 3248, votes scored – 3185; National Auditor, Bode Mustapha- total votes 3183, total votes scored – 3005; Financial Secretary, Bolaji Anani, total votes 3065, total votes scored- 2975; and National Secretary, Oyinlola Olagunsoye, total votes 3165, total votes scored - 3061.
Based on the seeming inconsistency in INEC’s assessment of the PDP national convention, the party raised the alarm over what it called an attempt to destabilise it.
PDP’s Alleges Destabilisation Plot
PDP responded to the INEC report rejecting some of its NWC members through its National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, claiming that some fifth columnists in INEC in conjunction with the judiciary want to destabilise the party. In a statement, the PDP spokesman said, “We wish to alert Nigerians to a destructive plot by certain reactionary forces who working hand in glove with collaborators in the INEC have manufactured a spurious report, specifically aimed at destroying the credibility of the party’s 2012 National Convention which brought in the current National Working Committee (NWC), using judicial officers of questionable integrity.”
Metuh explained that such a revisit of the 2012 national convention over a year after it was held was a sign of the desperation of some politicians to achieve selfish ambitions even at the risk of destroying their party.
Metuh said, “Till date, the PDP remains the only political party in the country that conducts transparent internal elections which start with the ward, local government and state congresses, culminating in the national convention. The 2012 exercise was not only unique in the level of participation of party members but in the rancour free, sports-like attitude which various contestants exhibited.”
According to the national publicity secretary of PDP, “The current NWC since inauguration has maintained a sound working rhythm with the members and critical stakeholders – the president, the National Assembly, which the party controls, and the PDP state governors whose newly formed forum which the party leadership engineered, is already sending cold shivers and causing coolly-wobbles in the opposition camp.”
The statement further said that with the recently concluded peace and reconciliation tour of the PDP NWC and the complementary peace initiatives by the chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, “The wheel of reconciliation and progress is gradually turning full circle.
“In whose interest therefore are these system vampires fighting? In whose interest and at whose behest are these merchants of infamy laying these mines which could blow our great party sky-high… It is no doubt in the service of selfish interest of this tiny clique of politicians of fortune, those whose ambition must be served or the party crumbles.”
Metuh warned that the leaders of the party will not fold their arms and watch those whose lack of self confidence in free and fair democratic process, which the PDP leadership has set for the 2015 electoral exercise, has driven into an unconscionable frenzy of either hijacking the party or destroying its hard earned democratic credibility.
A legal practitioner and human right activist, Olukayode Ajulo, said that the decision of INEC to reject some members of the PDP NWC is is constitutional. According to him, “Our electoral law empowers INEC with powers accordingly and the major effect of INEC’s pronouncement on the affected officials is that the PDP executive is not properly constituted as the required quorum is not met. This, therefore, renders nullity retroactively every single actions/decisions reached by the persons involved and the entire executive of PDP.
“The above includes the nomination of candidates for election and it provides a good basis for the opposition to question and set aside such nominations in our court. The cases of Edo and Ondo PDP candidates could have been a reference point had it been those candidates won the gubernatorial election. As it is, the candidature of the current president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and/or any other nominated candidate of PDP is in jeopardy going by INEC’s current position.
“And I dare submit without any fear or favour that if correction is not made in time, this pronouncement can bring the entire country to a political standstill and consequently a desperate and irrational illegality by the ruling party which may lead to collapse of the party and radical political revolution.”
Professor Itsay Sagay also agreed that INEC has the constitutional power to monitor affairs of political parties, including PDP. The professor law said, “INEC has to monitor any particular election organised by a political party. It also has the right to declare whether the election was regular or not. Elections conducted by the political parties have to be confirmed by INEC. It is in the Electoral Act.
“PDP has to organise another election and invite INEC and whatever irregularities that were observed should be corrected.”
Another lawyer, Yusuf Ali, a Senoir Advocate of Nigeria, stressed the need for INEC to help stabilise the polity by playing a more effective role in monitoring the political parties. He decried the absence of internal democracy in the political parties and said INEC should be able to call them to order.
Ali said PDP should consider INEC’s position on the election of the 12 NWC members, stressing, “An electoral body cannot just be a body that conducts elections.If you want to deepen democracy, there must be other powers other than registration. INEC should also set standards. It should be able to say that x and y are not qualified to stand for elective office.
“There are issues over the credibility of people who stand for election and those who conduct election in the parties. Part of the problem is that parties do not have internal democracy and they cannot be left to their own devices.”
Though, INEC has so far refused to be drawn into further discussions on the issue of its report rejecting the election of 12 members of PDP’s NWC, the report has widespread implications. Nullification of the ruling party’s NWC and, by implication, all decisions taken by it, is an action whose reverberation would be felt across the political spectrum. PDP is certainly in a sticky situation and it does seem succour for the ruling party lies only in the court.
in this matter, unofficial position of the commission is that the PDP NWC is not properly constituted. What this pose for the PDP is not known. But the general consensus is that the yet is yet to be heard from this. This is because for a every law, there must be enforcement. Lawyers have warned that PDP should not be allowed to get away with they called the impunity of the ruling party.