The questionable nomination of the president of the Senate and the former Senate minority leader is unlawful, writes Bolaji Adebiyi
A few days ago, Abdullahi Adamu, the national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, met with his party’s caucus in the National Assembly and expressed worries about the haemorrhaging in the federal legislature. His worries were real.
Since the conclusion of the primaries earlier in the month, many of the APC legislators, including Yahaya Abdullahi, its leader of the Senate, have crossed the carpet in protest of what they called unfair treatment by the party hierarchy. While some of the legislators failed in their bid for return tickets, others lost their aspirations to pick up the ticket for the governorship.
The problem was not just that they lost out, many of them complained about the manipulation of the nomination process by the party hierarchy, which they claimed tilted victory in favour of their opponents. It would be easy to accuse them of an entitlement mentality. But in fairness to the complainants, ample evidence of underhand dealings abounds, and Adamu’s fingers were seen everywhere.
For instance, in his effort to impose a presidential candidate of his choice, he first deterred the primaries’ processes, refusing to name the convention sub-committees till three days before the event. Even when the balance of forces forced him to so do, he made a last-minute gambit of announcing Ahmad Lawan, the president of the Senate, as the consensus candidate of the party to the National Working Committee, none of which over 20 other members he had consulted.
Adamu, a lawyer, made the move in spite of the clear provision of Section 84 (9) of the Electoral Act 2022 which requires the written consent of all cleared contestants to support a consensus candidate. Perhaps, if other contestants, including Bola Tinubu, the eventual winner, did not have the capacity to resist, Adamu would have had his way.
The fact of the matter though is that Tinubu might have successfully resisted the attempt to bully him, others in the lower rungs were not that well-resourced to challenge the leadership hence the exodus. Meanwhile, Adamu’s fire-fighting efforts are bound to be in vain not because it is coming late but because he has persisted in his manipulative tendencies.
When he submitted the list of the party’s candidates at the close of nominations by the Independent National Electoral Commission, two names instantly became controversial. The first was Lawan, his favourite presidential aspirant. The other was Godswill Akpabio, the ubiquitous and voluble former minister of Niger Delta Affairs, who had also participated in the presidential nomination run. None of them participated in the senatorial primaries that were conducted before the presidential nomination convention.
Again, Adamu in including the names of non-participants in the senatorial primaries on the list of candidates offended the electoral law. Section 84(1) of the electoral law makes the holding of primaries for the purpose of nominating candidates for elective offices compulsory. The effect of this section is that only persons nominated at validly convened primaries can be listed as a candidate of the party.
At the time the senatorial primaries for Yobe North Senatorial District of the APC were held on 28th May 2022 Lawan was vigorously pursuing his presidential ambition in Abuja, leaving the field for one Bashir Machina to clinch the ticket. Akpabio did the same thing and Ekpo Udom, a retired deputy inspector-general of police, picked up his Akwa Ibom North-west Senatorial district ticket.
Faced with stout resistance from the lawful holders of the party’s mandates, the APC hierarchy attempted a manipulative remedial measure, at least in the case of Akwa Ibom North-west Senatorial district. It, in a notice, dated 7th June 2022 and addressed to the state chairman of the party, by Iyiola Omisore, the national secretary, scheduled repeat primaries for 9th June 2022. That was the last date for all nomination primaries as set by INEC. The claim now is that Akpabio won that contest.
If the party hierarchy thought it was being smart, it was dead wrong as it failed to take cognisance of the requirement of Sections 82 (1) of the law, which mandates parties to give a 21-day notice of a congress for the purpose of nominating a candidate for an elective office to INEC. And Section 84 (1) makes it mandatory for INEC to monitor such a congress. So, Omisore’s notice is defective on two counts, neither was it addressed to INEC nor was it in compliance with the 21 days requirement. These defects, according to Section 82 (5) made congress a nullity.
Although the party leadership pretended to be complying with the law in the case of Akpabio, it was, however, blatant in the matter of Lawan, telling no one at which congress he was nominated.
While INEC had been clear that Akpabio would not be admitted into the senatorial race because of the obvious non-compliance with the law, it has yet to make a pronouncement on Lawan’s bid. The closest was a WhatsApp group commentary by Mohammed Haruna, a national commissioner of INEC, who argued that parties were entitled to nominate their candidates within a specific period of time, and could make changes so long as they complied with the submission threshold. That, at best, was his personal opinion.
Even at that, not a few commentators, particularly senior lawyers have dismissed his intervention as lacking clarity about the law. Under the law, substitution can only occur if a validly nominated candidate voluntarily withdraws in writing. If that happens, parties are to conduct fresh primaries to fill the vacancy so created. This did not happen in instant cases. Rather, the two original candidates are resisting their unlawful substitution.
The days ahead would be interesting as INEC would be expected to make a categorical statement on the matter. Whichever way INEC goes, its persistent calls on political parties to obey rules, particularly in the conduct of their internal affairs cannot be overstated as Lawan and Akpabio engage in the impossibility of eating their cake and still having it.
Adebiyi, the managing editor of THISDAY Newspapers, writes from email@example.com