· We’ll submit our list, counters APC
· Be firm on Zakari, PDP urges commission
Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Adedayo Akinwalein Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) insisted yesterday that the All Progressives Congress (APC) would not field candidates for the 2019 general elections in Zamfara State.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, stated this on the sideline of the opening of a two-day validation workshop titled, “Study on the cost of elections in ECOWAS Region” yesterday in Abuja.
According to him, ‘’We have issued a statement on Zamfara and nothing has changed. We stand by the statement that we issued,” re-emphasising that the deadline for submission of party candidates’ name to the commission is October 18.
He promised to give a full report on that after November 18.
But the APC countered INEC in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Lanre Isa-Onilu, last night, saying it would submit the list of its candidate for the state.
INEC had informed the ruling APC in a leaked memo that it would not be allowed to field candidates for elective positions in Zamfara State in the 2019 general elections.
The commission’s acting Secretary, Mr. Okechukwe Ndeche, in a letter to the APC had said that the party was barred from fielding candidates for governorship, National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly elections for failing to comply with Sections 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act of 2010.
Parties, according to the act, were expected to comply with the timetable and schedule of INEC, which says that the conduct of primaries must be held between August 18 and October 7.
INEC said it received reports from its Zamfara office, indicating that no primaries were conducted in the state “notwithstanding that our officials were fully mobilised and deployed.”
The APC National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, later responded to INEC in a statement, saying that the party had already arrived at a consensus before the deadline.
Oshiomhole said that following the high level of friction, disagreements and threats of 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,” he said, adding, “This was done in strict compliance with Section 87 (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).”
He said the claim by INEC that no primaries were conducted could only be referring to its officials’ observation that actual voting did not take place.
The APC chairman said conduct of primaries was not the only mode prescribed for producing candidates in the electoral act, 2010 (as amended).
Last night, the party restated its position, insisting that it would field candidates for all position in Zamfara state in the 2019 general elections.
Isa-Onilu told THISDAY that the party would meet all requirements for submission of candidates for the state.
When his attention was drawn to the fact that the party seemed not to have officially approved candidates in the state yet, the spokesman said, “INEC cannot say that we don’t have candidates for election until the deadline has expired.
“We have options of consensus, direct and indirect primaries and we are going to apply like we have done in other states, our energies, time and concerns to pick our candidates.
“I can assure you that before the October 18 deadline, we are going to meet all INEC requirements and we are going to submit names of all the candidates for not only Zamfara State but all the 36 states and the FCT.”
The party spokesman also dismissed the suggestion that APC might sue INEC, saying, “It is not yet something for the party to take legal action, nothing calls for that. We would not be reacting to what INEC said in the public.”
He explained that after the party got a letter from the INEC, it replied it but was yet to receive a reply from the commission.
He said, “We are on the side of the law, we had a primary in Zamfara State. We are operating within the guidelines of INEC and the constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria.
“We believe that INEC does not have the correct information on what happened in Zamfara and this we have stated in our letter to the commission.
“They haven’t replied our letter so we take it that the matter remained as it is. We also ask INEC that if they need more information from us, that we will be ready to offer it.”
He said that APC regarded INEC as an umpire and it was only other parties in coming elections that needed to complain about how its candidates emerged.
“As an umpire you don’t give the result of a game that is ongoing. We still have up till October 18th to submit list of candidates for the election,” he said.
Be Firm on Zakari, PDP Urges Commission
Meanwhile, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has charged INEC not to change its statute-backed stand on the exclusion of Zamfara State chapter of APC from presenting candidates in the 2019 general elections, following its failure to conduct congresses.
The PDP also cautioned the commission that Nigerians were already aware of the pressure from the Muhammadu Buhari presidency to return Amina Zakari, ‘’a blood relation’’ of the president, as head of operations, so that it could use her to manipulate the electoral processes and rig the election for the president in 2019.
“While the PDP notes the redeployment of Amina Zakari to another directorate, the party nevertheless, reaffirms its position that her continuous stay in the commission constitutes a threat to free, fair and credible 2019 general elections, given her relationship with President Buhari, who is a major contender in the election”, the PDP stated in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan.
It added, “Amina Zakari’s removal as Director of Operations has been hailed by majority of Nigerians, a fact, which shows that voters had already lost confidence in her integrity to hold such a sensitive position, for which they prefer her outright removal from the commission.
“The cases of Amina Zakari and Zamfara APC constitute another direct integrity test for Prof. Yakubu on his capacity, integrity and readiness for free, fair and credible general elections in 2019.”
Ologbondiyan said Nigerians were also already abreast of the provisions of the law leading to the exclusion of Zamfara State APC chapter from presenting candidates for the elections and cautioned INEC against any contemplations to change the rules for the APC.
The PDP, therefore, charged Yakubu to ensure that he remains on the side of the people and take urgent steps to weed the commission of compromised officials, as Nigerians will accept nothing short of a transparent process in their quest for a replacement for the reckless, vindictive, incompetent and anti-people Buhari-led APC administration.
PDP Asks CJN to Protect Judiciary over EO6
In a related development, the PDP called on the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, to immediately protect the judiciary from the ‘’unconstitutional, repressive and fascist’’ policies being allegedly foisted on the system by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led presidency.
Ologbondiyan, in another statement yesterday in Abuja said that Executive Order 6, as well as the travel ban and trailing of citizens, were devised to directly interfere in judicial processes and stifle accused persons of resources, under the guise of speedy trial, saying it has left no one in doubt that the nation is fast sliding into fascism.
The opposition party added that the Buhari presidency had commenced an attack on the independence of the judiciary, using the instrument of blackmail and casting of aspersion on its integrity and capacity to effectively and timeously dispense justice.
The PDP stressed that the travel ban, trailing of citizens and attempt to regulate the processes of the court were, therefore, an attempt to short-circuit the constitutional powers of the judiciary and foist a fascist regime, where the presidency becomes the investigator, prosecutor and the judge in determination of trumped-up charges against innocent Nigerians.
Ologbondiyan stated, “In trying to use his Executive Order 6 to determine the process, procedures and progression of cases in court, the Buhari Presidency directly seeks to usurp, commandeer and appropriate the constitutional powers of the judiciary and then arm-twist the courts and use them as slaughterhouses for opposition members and perceived political opponents.’’
The PDP called on Nigerians to note that the action of the Buhari Presidency was a direct attempt to suspend sections 6 (6)(b), 36 (5), (6)(d) and 37 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Ologbondiyan noted that while section 6 (6)(b) provides that judicial powers of the court shall ‘extend to all matters between persons, or between government or authority and to any person in Nigeria, and to all actions and proceedings relating thereto, for the determination of any question as to the civil rights and obligations of that person.”
He added that Section 36 (6) (d) provides that, “every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be entitled to be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence.’’
The PDP stated categorically that it rejects any attempt by this administration to return our country to pre-1984 military dictatorship, where siege mentality and suppression of rights of citizens was the rule rather than the exception.
The party urged the judiciary, as the last hope of the common man, to immediately insulate itself from the evil machination of the APC, which it said is now trying to turn the judiciary into an instrument of oppression against Nigerians.