2023: We Won’t Be Stampeded into Altering Timetable, Schedule of Activities, Says INEC
Chuks Okocha in Abuja
Against the backdrop of calls, especially by the Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC) and the Abuja School of Politics and Social Thoughts, for time extension in the electoral timetable, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, said political parties could not rush it into altering the schedule of activities it released since February 26 on account of their own poor preparations.
INEC further said it did not receive any complaints relating to the timetable till about April.
Speaking with THISDAY, INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said the 18 registered political parties had been busy conducting their primary elections and never complained about the timetable.
According to Okoye, “The 18 registered political parties are busy with their congresses and primaries and have written to the commission, stressing and affirming their readiness for their primaries.
“Some of the political parties have secured, paid for and forwarded the venue of their presidential primaries to the commission. Some of the political parties have concluded and nominated their candidates for state and National Assembly elections.
“There is no cogent and verifiable reason for any extension and the chairman of the commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has made it clear that the timeliness is fixed and firm.
“Altering the timelines at this point in time may throw the entire timetable and schedule of activities out of gear. The ppolitical parties must brace up to the challenges of the time and make the necessary sacrifices consistent with this period.”
He said INEC had already deployed hundreds of its directing and senior management staff as well as other staff to different parts of the country to monitor the congresses and primaries of the political parties.
Okoye stated, “It is too late in the day to demobilise them, as the commission has so many other activities needing their attention. We have the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections in a few weeks. We have to complete the on-going CVR and print the voter’s cards of millions of Nigerians.
“We have to get our burnt, damaged and challenged offices ready. We have procurements to carry out.”
He added that the “challenges are enormous. We expect all the ppolitical parties interested in fielding candidates to conclude their primaries on the 3rd day of June 2022.”
In like manner, Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekalmi, said, “The timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general election was released as far back as February this year – one full year ahead of the election. The conduct of primaries was fixed for 4th April – 3rd June 2022 (two months).
“The extant laws, indeed, give INEC the power, as a regulator of political parties, to determine when party primaries should take place, contrary to the gentleman’s view.
“The INEC chairman had on at least three occasions urged the political parties to conduct their primaries within the stipulated timeline, as no extension will be entertained.
“The extension being sought, if granted, would disrupt the planning template for the 2023 general election, with dire consequences.
“Why is it that the parties cannot conduct their primaries within two months (April and May)? Interestingly, none of them complained about the timeline for party primaries when the timetable was released in February. Why now?”