INEC: 2019 Election Primaries, Most Rancorous in Nigeria’s History

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  •  396 court cases pending

By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that the primaries conducted by various political parties ahead of the 2019 general elections, were the most rancorous in the history of Nigeria.

The electoral body lamented that internal party democracy is still a source of concern in the country’s electoral progress.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, stated this Friday in Abuja at a-two day capacity building workshop for journalists covering the commission’s activities.

He noted that across the world, the media is a powerful tool for protecting the right of citizens to information, giving voice to the people, providing platforms for diverse opinions and creating conditions for tolerance and understanding.

However, in strict compliance with the electoral timetable, the INEC Chairman said that campaigns for Governorship and State Assembly elections will begin today, December 1, 2018.

He restated the commission’s commitment to free, fair and credible elections.

Yakubu stated: “Unfortunately, we have also witnessed some of the most acrimonious party primaries in our recent history. Internal party democracy is still a source of concern to our electoral progress.

“So far, the Commission has been joined in 396 pending actions in various courts across the country arising from the conduct of party primaries and nomination of candidates by political parties.

“We have similarly received 302 requests for Certified True Copies (CTC) of documents, mainly our monitoring reports of party primaries and copies of personal particulars of candidates. These requests are obviously a prelude to more court actions.

“In addition, we have also received 52 petitions and protests from aggrieved party aspirants. The implication of these challenges is that as we prepare for the general elections, we are also going to grapple with pre-election litigations.

He added: “Parties that fail to respect the democratic process in selecting candidates during primary elections lose the moral right to complain about secondary elections. I wish to reassure the nation that we shall continue to maintain our neutrality as the umpire, registrar and regulator of political parties.”

Yakubu said that in the next 76 days, Nigerians would go to the polls to elect their representatives in government, adding that INEC had so far implemented seven, out of the 14 activities strictly on schedule, including the conduct of party primaries for all elections and the processes of nomination of candidates.

“We did not, and will never, tolerate any breach of the strict timelines provided for in the timetable for the elections,” Yakubu declared.

He explained that at the end of the period for the substitution and withdrawal of candidates for the presidential election, 73 political parties have filed their nominations.

Yakubu revealed that few parties have nominated candidates below the mandatory age of 35 years as Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates.

According to him, the commission had drawn the attention of the parties concerned to the breach of the constitutional requirement ahead of the publication of the full list of presidential and vice presidential candidates for the 2019 General Elections.

The chairman noted that for National Assembly elections, a total of 1,848 candidates, including 1,615 males and 233 females are vying for 109 Senatorial seats; while 4,635 candidates, comprising 4,066 males and 569 females are competing for the 360 seats in the House of Representatives.

He said the full list of candidates and their political parties would be published for public information in line with the Commission’s timetable and schedule of activities.

“As for state elections, a total of 1,068 candidates (980 male and 88 female) are contesting for 29 governorship positions with 805 male and 263 female deputy governorship candidates.

 “The Commission is working on the list of candidates nominated by political parties for the 991 State Assembly constituencies as well as the 68 Area Council Chairmen and Councillors for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The full details will also be published for public information in line with our timetable and schedule of activities,” he said.

Earlier, the Project Coordinator, European Centre for Electoral Support for Electoral Support (ECES), Rudolf Elbling, said that the workshop was one of several activities ECES had supported INEC to organise in the lead up to the general elections in 2019.

He expressed hope that the interactions at the workshop would help its set objectives and be useful in the forthcoming elections and participants would be in position to provide the general public and critical stakeholders with more objective and fact-based information about the commission’s actions, polices, processes and procedures.