By Chuks Okocha
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that 17 out of the 18 registered political parties had notified the commission of their intention to conduct their primary election ahead of the October 10 governorship election in Ondo State.
The 17 political parties that have notified INEC of their primary election have also subscribed to conduct an indirect primary election.
The APC will conduct its primary governorship election on July 20, while the PDP will conduct the primary governorship election between July 22 and 23.
According to a statement by INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of Voter Education and Information, Mr. Festus Okocha, the electoral body said, “a total of 17 of the 18 registered political parties notified the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of their intention to conduct party primaries for the Ondo State governorship election fixed for the October 10, 2020”.
The INEC National Commissioner further said that only the Boot Party that did not give any notification of its intention to conduct primary for the Ondo State governorship election.
Okoye said this is in compliance with Section 85 (1) of the Electoral Act, which makes it mandatory for registered political parties to give the commission at least 21 days’ notice of any congress or meeting convened for the purpose of nominating candidates for any of the elective offices specified in the Act.
He said that the details of the political parties and their calendar of congresses/primaries (including dates and modes of primaries) have been published on the commission’s website and social media platforms.
According to him, “by Section 87 (2) of the Electoral Act, political parties have the exclusive discretion to determine the procedure for the nomination of candidates which shall be by direct or indirect primaries and all the 17 political parties notified the commission of their intention to conduct indirect primaries for the nomination of their candidates”.
The INEC national commissioner said that the political parties are reminded that they are required to submit a comprehensive list of all the delegates eligible to participate in the primaries at least seven days before the scheduled date.
He said that the INEC portal for uploading nomination forms will open on July 21, and close at 6pm on July 28, 2020, adding, “We urge political parties not to wait till the last day before submitting the names of their nominated candidates.
According to Okoye, “political parties must observe all the health protocols and guidelines made available to them by the commission, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the state government. They must also enforce the policy of “No Mask, No Voting” in their primaries”
Okoye said that for Edo State governorship election, that only 14 political parties conducted primaries and nominated their candidates for the election holding on Saturday, September 19, 2020.
He said that going by the timetable and schedule of activities for the election, campaign by political parties in public commenced on June 21, 2020 and ends on September 17, 2020, that is, 24 hours before polling day as enshrined in Section 99 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as emended).
The INEC national commissioner reminded political parties that in canvassing for votes, they must comply with the commission’s policy on conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the regulations and guidelines governing same, insisting that political parties must also comply with the guidelines issued by health authorities.
“At the same time, parties are enjoined to conduct issue-based campaigns in accordance with the regulations and guidelines issued by the commission”, Okoye explained.
He said that the political parties should appeal to their supporters to shun inflammatory rhetoric and disruptive behaviours capable of breaching the peace, explaining that the election is an opportunity for the people of Edo State to choose among the 14 candidates in the contest.
Okoye said that the commission is concerned that as campaigns begin, campaign councils rather than candidates and party manifestoes are taking centre stage.
He stated that the election should be a contest of ideas and programmes for the people of Edo people to make informed decisions for the development of their state.
On the Nasarawa State by-election, INEC said that two political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have conducted their primaries and nominated candidates using the dedicated portal for the Nasarawa Central State Constituency by-election.
He also said that the personal particulars, including academic qualifications of the candidates have been pasted in the INEC Nasarawa Local Government Area (LGA) office in Nasarawa State and uploaded on the commission’s website.