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INEC’s role in Labour Party ‘crisis’ poses a threat to 2019 elections

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National Chairman, Labour Party, Dr. Mike Omotosho

As the 2019 election season approaches, political intrigues and manoeuvrings are taking another dimension as all players in the arena devise strategies to outwit one another. For students of political science and stakeholders in nation-building however, 2019 is much more than an election year for Nigeria. 2019 marks two decades of uninterrupted democratic rule in Nigeria, and as such there exists a threshold of maturity and growth expected of the political process including but not limited to the political parties and relevant institutions, especially the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The successful conduct of free, fair and credible elections in 2019 has its foundations in the strength and ability of institutions like INEC to perform its oversight functions on the political process without prejudice or bias. Unfortunately, that is currently not the case with the way INEC has handled attempts by some vested interests to create a leadership crisis in and eventually hijack the Labour Party (LP).

On October 3, 2017, the LP in accordance with the provisions of the party constitution held a special national convention in Abuja. Having been duly informed of the convention by the party’s leadership, INEC sent a monitoring team that included Mr. Shehu Wahab (DD), Mr. Oni Jerome Omowaye (AD) and Barrister Umar Akeje  (PLO) to monitor the convention and submit a report on it.

At that convention, Dr. Mike Omotosho, was elected as the new National Chairman of the LP. This election followed the decision of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party to remove former chairman Alhaji Abdulkadir Abdulsalam over a myriad of allegations. Prior to his removal, he had refused to appear before a disciplinary committee set up by the NWC to investigate the alleged fraud and embezzlement of over N1.3 billion party funds.

It is baffling, therefore, that seven months after the change in leadership of the LP, INEC has refused to update its records and website with the name of the new national chairman. By virtue of Article 13(B) of the LP’s constitution, the national convention is the highest decision-making organ of the party. The refusal of INEC to ratify an election held by the party’s national convention and in the presence of INEC’s representatives constitutes an illegality.

This unfortunate course of action taken by INEC has given Alhaji Abdulsalam a leeway to continue to parade himself as the national chairman, despite his removal and the election of an authentic one. Just last month, the LP’s Forum of State Chairmen met in Abuja to demand that INEC should henceforth recognize and only relate with Dr. Omotosho as the duly elected national chairman. The forum in a communiqué expressed dismay that INEC, as regulator of party activities, failed to fully comply and impartially implement the overwhelming decision of the convention, being the highest LP organ with regard to Abdulsalam’s removal.

The group further alleged that a former governor has been fingered in a plot to destabilize and hijack the LP for his own personal gains in the 2019 election cycle. It appears that he has not given up on his political machinations however and now plans to deliver the LP into the hands of the PDP ahead of the 2019 elections.

The unfolding drama also calls into question the integrity of INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu and raises more doubt over whether he is the right man for the job.

Under an administration that has fight against corruption as one of its core mandates, INEC’s refusal to follow the rule of law and update its records to reflect the change of leadership at Labour Party is tantamount to corruption. This does not bode well for our democracy, and all well-meaning Nigerians must rise up and join members of the Labour Party in denouncing this illegality until INEC acts right.

•Dagana (ashtongana@gmail.com), a quantity surveyor, writes from Port Harcourt.


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