Amidst uncertainty in Edo APC: INEC directs parties to conclude primaries in 10 days - SALIENT TIMES ONLINE

Amidst uncertainty in Edo APC: INEC directs parties to conclude primaries in 10 days

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By Olubiyi Obasa

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said all the 15 political parties fielding candidates in the Edo governorship election must ensure  their  primaries for the nomination of candidates  were concluded in the next ten (10) days. 

The commission also warned that there would be no extension of time for parties that failed to submit the names and other details of the candidates that emerged from their primaries by 6:00pm Monday 29th June 2020 deadline, using its dedicated portal created for the purpose.

INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu said this Wednesday at the 2nd virtual meeting of the inter-agency consultative committee on election security in Abuja.

The directive came amidst confusion within the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo state, which until Tuesday was the ruling party in the state, following  the resignation of the state governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki from the party, as well as the leadership crisis rocking it at the  national level.  

The Court of Appeal Tuesday affirmed the lower court’s ruling which upheld the suspension of the APC national chairman, Mr. Aliyu Adams Oshiomhole.

The vacuum created by the development has become a serious challenge within the party’s National Working Committee (NWC).

INEC on deadline

Notwithstanding the confusion within the APC, the INEC boss said:  “Turning to the Edo Governorship election, all political parties interested in fielding candidates for the election are reminded that they must conclude their primaries for the nomination of candidates in the next ten (10) days. 

 “The deadline is Saturday 27th June 2020. I must stress that the date is firm and fixed. There will be no extension of the deadline. While the conduct of primaries and nomination of candidates will be the sole responsibility of political parties, our officials will monitor the primaries as required by law. Already, the Commission has published the date and mode of primaries for each of the fifteen (15) political parties that indicated their intention to participate in the election.

 “Similarly, there will be no extension of time for political parties that fail to submit the names and other details of the candidates that emerge from their primaries using the dedicated portal created by the Commission. For emphasis, the deadline is 6:00pm on Monday 29th June 2020.” 

 He also reminded the parties and their candidates on the criteria for nomination of candidates.

 “Arising from our experience in managing the nomination of candidates for the last two Governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states, it is important to draw the attention of political parties to the four mandatory requirements for eligibility of candidates for Governorship elections enshrined in Section 177 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). 

“A candidate nominated by a political party must be a Nigerian citizen by birth; must have attained the age of thirty-five (35) years; must be a member of, and sponsored by, a political party; and must be educated up to at least School Certificate level or equivalent.

“Adherence to these clear constitutional provisions is compulsory in order to avoid the unnecessary litigation that follows the nomination of candidates, some of which are still pending before the Courts. In fact, one of such cases involving the attempt to substitute an ineligible candidate by one of the political parties was determined only yesterday by the Supreme Court in favour of INEC,” he said.

 The INEC chairman also said the commission and security agencies would play a critical role in the Edo and Ondo states’ governorship elections, adding that such a task required them to be proactive. 

 “As we approach the governorship elections, the commission and security agencies will play a critical role. We should remain proactive during the party primaries, electioneering campaigns, voting and eventual declaration of results. We must safeguard the process and protect all those involved as voters, INEC officials, observers, the media and even some of the unarmed security personnel deployed to the polling units. 

 “Doing so requires our professionalism and neutrality. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should also ensure compliance with the protective measures contained in the recently published Commission’s policy as well as the advisory by health authorities. In the context of the current global health emergency, we have the additional responsibility to ensure the conduct of free, fair, credible and safe elections,” Yakubu said.

 APC crisis worsens

Meanwhile, the crisis rocking the ruling APC took a turn for the worse Wednesday as two groups now lay claim to the party leadership at the national level.

One of the claimants, Mr. Victor Giadom who is the party’s deputy national secretary insisted that with the Court of Appeal order affirming the March 16, 2020 ruling of the Federal High Court Abuja upholding the suspension of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, he (Giadom) should step in as acting national chairman.
Giadom enjoys the support of the national vice chairman of the party in the North-east, Comrade Salihu Mustapha, and deputy national organising secretary, Mr. Muhammed Sani Ibrahim.
The other 16-man group, believed to be loyal to the suspended national chairman, is being led by the national vice chairman, South-south, Prince Hilliard Etta in the in the absence of ailing former governor of Oyo state, Senator Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi, currently recuperating in a Lagos Hospital from a  COVID-19 related ailment.

The former governor is the party’s deputy national chairman (South).    

APC National Publicity Secretary Lanre Issa-Onilu, had in a statement Tuesday said the NWC settled for Ajimobi as the new acting national chairman following the court judgement on Oshiomhole.

‘It’s Ajimobi
Speaking to journalists Wednesday in Abuja, the Etta-led group said  Giadom ceased to be a member of the NWC since leaving to contest as the deputy governorship candidate of the party in the 2019 general election in Rivers state.

They said, with his exit, his position as the deputy national secretary became vacant and yet to be filled by the South-south stakeholders in line with the party’s constitution.
Etta said:  “We are aware of the appeal court order yesterday, and on the strength of that, the NWC resulted in the constitution of the party which makes provision for dealing with matters of vacancies.
“In the absence of a leader, the constitution invested rights on replacements and in the light of this, NWC affirms His Excellency Chief Abiola Ajimobi, national deputy chairman south as the acting national chairman of the party.”
The 16-man NWC also constituted a seven-man election panel for the Edo state governorship primaries slated for June 22nd.
The committee is headed by Imo state Governor Hope Uzodimma, while Senator Ajibola Bashiru will serve as secretary.
It can’t stand –Gaidom
But also addressing newsmen Wednesday in Abuja, Mr.  Giadom declared Ajimobi’s appointment cannot stand, describing it as illegal and unconstitutional.
Giadom also said a fresh screening for all the party’s governorship aspirants in Edo and Ondo would be conducted.
He backed up his claim to the chairmanship seat with a ‘subsisting’ court order issued on the 16th of March 2020 by Justice S.U Bature in suit no FCT /HC/M/6447/2020.

The APC chieftain argued thus: “That order could not be immediately affected at that time because of the temporary reprieve Adams Oshiomhole got from the court of appeal on the same day.
“However, having removed the temporary reprieve yesterday (Tuesday) by the court of appeal and considering the fact that we cannot allow for a vacuum, I most humbly inform you that I have assumed office as acting national chairman of our great party in compliance with the order of the court.”
He thereby directed the Edo governorship aspirants of the party to report to the national secretariat in Abuja between today (Wednesday) and tomorrow(Thursday) for a fresh screening exercise in line with the party’s constitution.
Giadom, who claimed the decision was in tandem with the wishes of the APC NWC members, declared that Mr Emmanuel Ibediro also ceased to be the national organising secretary of the party in line with an Abuja court order FHC/ABJ/CS/733//2018.

I’ve taken over – Ajimobi
Meanwhile,  Senator Abiola Ajimobi has declared that he had taken over as the party’s acting national chairman.

He made this known Tuesday night in Ibadan through his special adviser communication and strategy, Mr. Bolaji Tunji.
Ajimobi took over the leadership of the party in line with Section 14 subsection 3 of the APC constitution that states that, “the Deputy National Chairman shall act as the National Chairman in the absence of the National Chairman from his zone.”
He said a meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) would be called soon to resolve all contentious issues.
“We should therefore let peace continue to reign until we call the NEC meeting and take a position on the way forward”, he said.

APC flag pulled down

And as a further demonstration that he was done with the APC, Governor Obaseki reportedly ordered the removal of the APC flags from Edo State Government House less than 24 hours after he announced his resignation from the party. 

 Though yet to announce his new political destination, it is believed that he would be joining the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the next few days, where he planned to seek re-election. 

Similarly, in a video that trended on the social media platforms late Tuesday,  the state deputy governor, Hon. Phillip Shuaibu was seen removing the APC flag hoisted at his office amidst cheers from his aides.

Shaibu had in a letter dated June 15, 2020 and addressed to Ward II chairman of APC in the Etsako local government area of the state, announced his resignation from the party with immediate effect. 

 Ize-Iyamu on A‘Court ruling

Also, the campaign organisation of Osagie Ize-Iyamu has said there was “no cause for alarm” over the Court of Appeal ruling.

“It is a legal issue and the party is already making moves to address it,” campaign spokesperson, Mr. John Mayaki, said in a statement issued Wednesday in Benin City.

“The court made the decision based on a purported suspension of the National Chairman at his ward in Edo State.

“But the leadership of the ward has already clarified to all that it never made the decision. They have a signed document passing a vote of confidence on the National Chairman. I strongly believe that when all of these are presented to the court, the case will eventually be ruled in favor of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole,” Mayaki said.

He further said Ize-Iyamu’s chances of winning the Edo APC primary “remain very bright.”

“Across the state, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s campaign is recording daily endorsements by influential leaders and members of the party.

 “Even today, Wednesday June 17, one of the three aspirants cleared by the Screening Committee to participate, Hon. Osaro Obaze, stepped down his ambition and declared support for Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s aspiration. All his followers will now be joining forces with ours across the state,” he said.  

Additional reports from Blueprint