Unless the All Progressives Congress (APC) takes early steps to resolve the escalating crisis in its Bayelsa and Kogi States branches, it might be risking a repeat of the setbacks it suffered in Zamfara and River States in the last general election, THISDAY learnt at the weekend.
The party had lost out in the National Assembly, governorship and state assembly contests held earlier in the year in Zamfara and Rivers States due to intractable differences among its members, which ended up in multiple court litigations.
In the end, the Supreme Court annulled the party’s primaries in both states, resulting in victories for the candidates of their main contender, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
According to THISDAY sources, the crisis in the party’s branches in Bayelsa and Kogi has made it difficult to agree on a schedule of primaries for the governorship election in the two states already slated for November 16 by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC).
INEC had announced the date on May 16 with a request that all political parties intending to participate in the contest should file their schedule of activities.
According to the amended INEC timetable and schedule of activities for the governorship election, the primaries of the parties are expected to hold between August 18 and September 5, in accordance with section 30 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
In compliance with the INEC’s directive, the PDP in a letter dated May 21, gave notice to INEC of its timetable.
The party said it would conduct its ward congresses in the two states on August 22, the local government congresses on August 26 and the nomination of their candidates on September 3.
According to an INEC source, “the PDP is organised and ready but the ruling party (APC) members are busy fighting among themselves. We have not heard anything from the party but we are watching. Any name submitted without undergoing credible primaries will end up with the Zamfara scenario for which they are abusing INEC.”
Commission to Test Seizure of Okorocha’s Certificate of Return up to S’Court
The source also said the commission would not give former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, his certificate of return as a senator-elect unless compelled by court to do so. He gave a notice that INEC was ready to pursue the matter up to the Supreme Court.
Okorocha had approached the court for relief following INEC’s refusal to release his certificate of return on the ground that his declaration as winner of the senatorial election was done under duress.
The source said the commission would use the Okorocha case to test the law because this was not the first time it would happen and that it needed to stop so it would not become the norm.
The official said there was a similar case in Bayelsa in 2015 in the election to the state House of Assembly when a candidate forced a returning officer to declare him winner by pointing a gun at his head.
The then INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, he said, refused to give the person a certificate of return.
The aggrieved candidate eventually won his case at the appeal tribunal after Jega had left, forcing the incumbent INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, to give him his certificate of return.
“We want to test this case up to the Supreme Court to know the position of the law on this matter. The idea that anybody can force an electoral officer to declare result under duress is unacceptable. We must put an end to such rascality,” the source stated.