Stakeholders knock APC over unlawful substitution of straw poll winners
• ‘It’s Unethical To List Lawan’
• I Am A Victim, Says Onuigbo
• Blame Any Action On Me, Says APC Chair
• You Cannot Circumvent Process, Oguche To Adamu
At a time Nigerians thought the idea of wrongful substitution of candidates was limited to the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), reports about the inclusion of Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, as the All Progressives Congress’s (APC) candidate for Yobe North Senatorial District shook the nation.
Senator Lawan had participated in the APC Presidential primary, which took place at the Eagle Square from June 6 to 8, 2022 and lost to the former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Surprisingly, at the threshold of the June 17 deadline for the submission of successful candidates by political parties to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Lawan, who came fourth at the presidential primary, had his name uploaded by the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) as the winner of the Senatorial primary.
The purported authentic winner of the senatorial primary for Yobe North, Mallam Bashir Machina, who had earlier written a public letter denying that he had stepped down, cried foul, insisting that he was the bonafide candidate for Yobe North Senatorial District of APC.
Reacting to the complaints against unlawful substitution of winners of primaries with strange names on the INEC portal, the commission’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, said: “The list of candidates submitted by political parties are still being downloaded and the law obligates the commission to publish the list within the period of seven days of the submission of the personal particulars of the candidates.
“Right now, we have moved past section 29 (1) of the Electoral Act, which says every political party shall, not later than 180 days before the date appointed for a general election under this Act, submit to the Commission, in the prescribed Forms, the list of the candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections, who must have emerged from valid primaries conducted by the political party.
“In same vein, we have also moved pass sub section 2, which opines that the ‘list or information submitted by each candidate shall be accompanied by an affidavit sworn to by the candidate at the Federal High Court, High Court of a State, or Federal Capital Territory, indicating that he or she has fulfilled all the constitutional requirements for election into that office.”
Okoye disclosed that a look at section 29, sub section 3 of the same Electoral Act, show that the commission shall, within seven days of the receipt of the personal particulars of candidate, publish same in the constituency, where the candidate intends to contest the election.
While pointing out that INEC was at the stage of publishing the names, the National Commissioner declared: “It is when we finish downloading and then we publish, that is when people will know the names of candidates that have been submitted by the different political parties.
“So, people are simply relying on what the political parties told them and not what the commission said, because we are yet to release the list of candidates submitted by parties.
Speaking on his experience, the chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Climate Change, Hon. Sam Onuigbo, said he was surprised to see that his name was substituted with that of Atuma, who never participated in the APC Senatorial primary for Abia Central.
He declared that only nine aspirants were cleared by the APC national headquarters as those who bought forms, completed the forms, returned the forms, invited for screening and were screened and cleared by the party to stand for Senatorial Primary Election in Abia State.
“They include Ijeaku Gift Emaba; Enyinnaya Michael Kasarachi; Samuel Ifeanyi Onuigbo; Henry Ikechukwu Ikoh; Kelvin Chima Ugboaja; Okonkwo Fabian; Sen Nkechi Justina Nwaogu; Sen. Orji Uzo Kalu and Nwagba Blessing Oluchi.
“Out of this nine, four of us came from Abia Central, these are myself, Chief Samuel Onuigbo, Chief Henry Ikechukwu Ikoh, Senator Nkechi Justina Nwaogu and Chief Kelvin Chima Ugboaja. A few days to the election, Senator Nkechi Justina Nwaogu wrote and withdrew from the election. Then, Chief Kelvin Chima Ugboaja did not make it to the election. He was not seen because he didn’t come for the election,
“So it was just Chief Henry Ikoh and myself that stood for the election and at the end of the day, I defeated Chief Henry Ikoh, by 157 to his 152 votes.”
He expressed alarm that Atuma’s name was submitted to INEC, stressing, “It is therefore so strange that someone, who did not buy nomination forms for the Senate, never participated in the preliminary processes, will drop from the sky and had his name listed to substitute my own name. It is one of the strangest things I have ever seen.”
Citing sections 29 and 84(1) (13) of the Electoral Act, Onuigbo declared that the law was explicit that parties must conduct primaries to be monitored by INEC, adding, “It is therefore so strange to us that someone who did not buy nomination forms for the Senate, never participated in the preliminary processes- that is, completing your form, submitting, participating in screening and being cleared by the party- from nowhere had his name listed to substitute my own name. It is one of the strangest things I have ever seen.
“If you go to section 84(1), it also states that any political party seeking to nominate candidate to stand for election, such a party shall conduct primaries for the aspirants for any elective position and that such primary election shall be monitored by the commission, in this case, INEC.”
On claims by INEC that the constitution did not empower the commission to reject names uploaded by political parties, Onuigbo, who was part of the NASS Joint Technical Committee on the Electoral Act 2022, said the Ninth National Assembly introduced those checks “so that we do not again have a situation, where people engage in political gangsterism and then they come and hijack positions just like they are trying to do.”
Meanwhile, the APC national chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, said blames for any action taken by the party ever since he mounted the saddle should be put on him, even as he warned party faithful to be careful in their utterances.
“As far as I am concerned as chairman, my party did not violate any law,” he stated, adding that there was no law that one cannot contest for a position after contesting for another one, adding that Senator Lawan participated in the APC Senatorial primary since no law prohibits him from doing so after contesting for the presidential ticket.
Speaking in an interview with the Hausa Service of BBC monitored in Abuja, the APC chairman noted that issues in APC surrounding the party’s primaries are not unusual, even as he assured that they will all be resolved.
But, a Port Harcourt-based lawyer, Chief Festus Oguche, said the issues surrounding the submission of names of the Senate President and former Minister Godswill Akpabio are straightforward.
He contended that it was not possible for one to be in two places at the same time, stressing: “These elective positions are designated under the constitution, they constitute different platforms of aspiration. You are either contesting for the presidency or you are contesting for the senatorial position.
“If you fail at the contest for the presidency, you cannot revert to any position or come back to contest for another position. Also, it is not the political party’s responsibility to even determine who the candidate is. It is determined by the primaries.
“The only function a political party has to perform is to inform the electoral body that these are the candidates that won in these primaries and if you are not a contestant for the senatorial election, there is nothing like substitution, because before you talk about substitution, you must seek the mandate of the delegates that elected that particular candidate.
“So, it is not that a candidate can even transfer his or mandate to any other person. The talks about a candidate giving his approval to another candidate to take over his position is unconstitutional, unlawful and noil and void.”
Oguche maintained that once a candidate has been elected during the primary election, he remains the candidate until any other thing like death or infirmity happens to him or he withdraws finally.
“If he withdraws,” Oguche argued, “there must be fresh primary elections. Under the old act, the mandate can go to the second runner up, but in this new process, it requires a fresh primary election to get a new candidate and it cannot revert automatically.”
On the position of the APC chairman that the controversial candidates participated in the primaries, the lawyer described such a statement as criminal, stressing that the chairman lacked the power to simply wish away the process by making pronouncement.
“Does the chairman of a political party constitute the delegate that made that election? Before making such pronouncement, he must revert to the delegates, and the delegates cannot even at that stage, make up their minds, except that the candidate that was properly elected come out to say that he wants to withdraw. But if that is not done, the party chairman cannot sit in his office and take a decision that is over and above the candidate elected by the delegates.
“He cannot circumvent the electoral process that make up a democratic process”, Oguche held.
Also, condemning the plot to impose strange candidates on the party, National Coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, said it’s unethical for APC Yobe to replace Bashir Machina, with that of the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, as the senatorial candidate.
While emphasising that the security and life of the real winner should be safeguarded since he is battling against the movers and shakers of a government, Onwubiko stated: “The attempt to substitute the winner of that primary by hook or crook as contemplated by APC is illegal and criminal.
“APC must never behave like a rogue cartel, but must go by the rule of law. Substituting the winner and supplanted Ahmed Lawan as the nominee of the party is like robbing Peter to pay Paul. It’s unethical, unconstitutional and criminal.”
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