Thursday, 8th June 2023

INEC bows to pressure, extends deadline for party primaries

By Gregory-Page Nwakunor (Lagos), Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Collins Olayinka (Abuja) and Sodiq Omolaoye (Abuja)
28 May 2022   |   3:58 am
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, bowed to pressure and extended the deadline for political parties to conduct their primaries for the 2023 general election...

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, bowed to pressure and extended the deadline for political parties to conduct their primaries for the 2023 general election.

The development came on a day the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was neck-deep in the final preparations for its national convention, which would hold in today Abuja to elect its presidential candidate.

This was even as the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa has ruled that former President Goodluck Jonathan is eligible to contest the 2023 presidential election.

The presiding Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Isa Hamma Dashen, who declared Jonathan’s eligibility to contest the 2023 general election, held that Jonathan’s right to vie for the office of president again could not be stopped by any retroactive law.

Meanwhile, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, described one of the presidential aspirants on the platform of the PDP, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, as someone who has the knowledge and dedication to turn Nigeria around despite its complexity.

INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said the Commission took the decision to extend the deadline for the conduct of primaries after a meeting with the 18 registered political parties under the aegis of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) yesterday in Abuja.

IPAC had earlier sought a two-month extension from the June 3 deadline, a demand that was vehemently rejected by the Commission.

Okoye, in a statement, said the extension was to give parties time to compile the list and personal particulars of their nominated candidates before uploading the same to the INEC portal.

He, however, noted that “this request is granted in respect of outstanding primaries only without prejudice to those already concluded by political parties, adding that Commission would not monitor already concluded primaries.”

The statement added: “INEC met with the leadership of political parties today, Friday, May 27, 2022. Once again, the political parties requested the Commission to review the timelines for political party primaries provided in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the conduct of the 2023 General Election released on Saturday, February 26, 2022.

“Earlier, the political parties had requested for 37 – 60 days extension of the timeline for primaries and the nomination of candidates.

“The Commission was emphatic that this request could not be granted, because it would disrupt other scheduled activities on the Timetable. This position of the Commission has not changed.

“However, based on the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election, the parties have now pleaded with the Commission to use the six-day period between June 4 and 9, 2022, to conclude outstanding primaries and prepare to upload the list of candidates and their affidavits on the INEC Candidates Nomination Portal.

“The Commission did not schedule any specific activity during this period. The idea is to simply give parties time to compile the list and personal particulars of their nominated candidates before uploading the same to the INEC Candidates Nomination Portal from June 10 to June 17, 2022.

“The Commission has decided to allow the request of the political parties since the six-day period does not conflict with the next scheduled activity, which is the submission of the list of nominated candidates or any of the subsequent timelines which remain sacrosanct.

“However, this request is granted in respect of outstanding primaries only without prejudice to those already concluded by political parties. The Commission will not monitor already concluded primaries.”

According to Okoye, “after the conduct of primaries, the next critical activity for political parties would be the online submission of the list of the candidates the party proposes to sponsor, which shall be accompanied by an affidavit sworn to by the candidates indicating that they fulfilled all the constitutional requirements for election into the various offices via the INEC Candidates Nomination Portal.

He added: “In addition, the Commission, based on past experience, has decided to train the political party officials to make efficient and effective use of the portal. The Commission will train four officials from each of the 18 political parties, making a total of 72 in all.

“Unfortunately, some of the political parties are still yet to submit their nominees for the training. The Commission hereby reminds such parties to do so immediately. The Commission wishes to reiterate that only electronically submitted nominations will be processed.”

He advised parties to ensure that their primaries would be free of rancor to meet the timelines for the remaining activities embodied in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election.

Towards a hitch-free presidential primary today, the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Convention Organising Committee (NCOC), Senator David Mark, has asked members of the committee with political interests for any presidential aspirants to quit immediately. He assured me that arrangements have been made for a hitch-free exercise today.

Addressing members of the Convention Organising Committee in Abuja ahead of the programme, Mark assured them that the exercise would be smooth and transparent.

He told members of the committee to brace up to the challenges to ensure a credible exercise, saying: “You must be absolutely transparent. If you have any interest or bias for any of the aspirants, you can excuse yourself from this assignment.”

Mark maintained that the stage was set for a hitch-free programme as all logistics; materials and security had been sorted out.

He added: “We are prepared for the exercise, virtually all our delegates have arrived Abuja.”

He said the PDP has a track record of conducting peaceful congresses and conventions over the years, assuring that the outcome of the convention would make the party stronger.

According to Mark, “the PDP has an array of eminently qualified persons to rule Nigeria. We carried out due diligence during our screening. I am confident that whoever emerges from the convention will reflect the wishes of our party.”

Mark and his committee members also inspected the facilities at the Velodrome, Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja, venue of the convention.

Meanwhile, as the contest for the presidential flag of the party intensified among the party14 aspirants, indications emerged yesterday that the party is making moves to reduce the number of aspirants.

To that effect, the leadership of the party scheduled an emergency meeting with all 14 its presidential aspirants yesterday.

The Iyorchia Ayu-led National Working Committee (NWC), which convened the meeting, however, could not turn up for the meeting due to another meeting with the INEC.

A presidential aspirant, who spoke with The Guardian said: “We have an emergency meeting with the NWC. We won’t take long. I think they just want us to know some things.”

It was gathered that leaders of the party across the country had been expressing concerns during party meetings about the high number of presidential aspirants.

On how the number could be reduced, a source close to the party leadership said: “We are looking at the possibility of talking to the aspirants to talk to one another. You know that among the aspirants, there are some who may easily agree with the other. We are exploiting this idea to arrive at a very small number or even get a consensus.”

Also, as the aspirants enter very critical moments of horse-trading, intrigues and political maneuvers, fears have heightened that some of the aspirants might play dirty to win more delegates’ votes.

Even though the Mark-led National Planning Committee has insisted on the strict application of relevant rules to ensure transparent, credible, free and fair primaries, it was gathered yesterday that some influential party leaders have transported delegates loyal to their interests to certain quarters in Abuja with serious restrictions on movement.

Meanwhile, some delegates have perfected strategies to convert some natural disadvantages into political advantages, particularly with respect to the distribution of delegates across the six geo-political zones.

The North West, which has a total of 193 delegates, has the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, as the only aspirant from that zone.

The Southwest has 143 delegates with former Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose as the aspirant from the zone.

The North Central with 130 delegates has former Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki, while the South South with 129 delegates has the Governors of Rivers and Akwa-Ibom states, Nyesom Wike, Udom Emmanuel, respectively, as well as Dele Momodu and Tari Oba as aspirants.

The North East, which has 116 delegates, has former vice president Atiku Abubakar, Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed and Mohammed Hayatu-Deen as aspirants, while the South East, which has the least number with 100 delegates has four presidential aspirants, including former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim, Sam Ohuabunwa, Charles Ugwu and Diana Oliva.

Former president Obasanjo, who spoke when Hayatu-Deen and his team paid a courtesy visit to the former leader at his Hill-top mansion in Otta, Ogun State, said contrary to the claim in some quarters, Nigeria is not a difficult country to manage.

He said the sky was not even the limit to which Nigeria could be taken if the right things were done, adding that Hayatu-deen has shown that he could make a contribution.

The former president who added that Hayatu-Deen has also shown that he could be a team leader and someone that could reach out both internally and externally added: “I believe you have the knowledge; from what you have said you have the dedication also. You told me you have the innovation but let me add that Nigeria is a complex country and we need to understand the complexity of Nigeria and that complexity if we take care of it.

“Nigeria is not a difficult country to hold and to manage but we must all be ready to satisfy our conscience; know that whatever we do we are responsible to God and that the complexity will be addressed and if these are taken care of, the sky is the limit to which we can take Nigeria. I believe we have no choice but to get there and you have shown that you can make a contribution; you have shown that you can be a team leader, you have shown that you can reach out both internally and externally.”

In his remarks, Hayatu-deen said he had seen better days in the country, adding that he was determined to take the country to those better days if given the opportunity to serve at the highest level in the country. He said as a technocrat, he has what it takes to return the country to its glory days.

“I have seen better times in this country. I have undergone tutelage through very important statesmen in this country, like yourself and many other heads of state who think and act like you. There aren’t many technocrats who know what it takes to actually take this country back to its days of glory. So, with these few words, Mr. President I would like to, on behalf of my entire delegation, to thank you and to say that whatever happens I am hopeful that this race I intend to run and win,” he said.

Ahead of the presidential primaries of the PDP and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), The Guardian’s observations showed that not only party delegates would reap bountifully from the two events.

The delegates are expected to come into town with various ‘conference materials’ that would add colour to the events, far away from the magnificent Eagle Square in the three arms zone, which hosts the APC and the Moshood Abiola Stadium, where the sprawling ‘City Gate’ that welcomes visitors to Abuja majestically adores a sizeable space.

The ‘conference materials’, which the Yorubas succinctly describe as the ‘amuludun’, are usually brought into Abuja or internally sourced. The internally sourced materials have been getting ready for the great ‘invasion’ from the satellite towns such as Lugbe, Kubwa, Gwagwalada and Karu, among others.

Gardens, drinking joints and suya spots are also expectant of the boom. In all, the delegates’ conferences of the parties promise fun, confusion, excitement, money changing hands and a lot more.