APC can’t field candidates in Zamfara in 2019 – INEC

APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole

APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has barred the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara State from fielding candidates for any position during the 2019 general elections.

The Zamfara APC was sharply divided between the camp of Governor Abdulaziz Yari and the group of eight aspirants, which included Deputy Governor Ibrahim Wakkala, Senator Kabiru Marafa, Defence Minister Mannir Dan-Ali and others.

The division made it impossible to complete primaries to pick the party’s governorship, state and national assembly candidates before the October 7 deadline for the conclusion of primaries as contained in INEC’s timetable.

INEC made its position known in a letter to Oshiomhole titled “Failure to

Conduct Party Primaries in Zamfara State within the Stipulated Time Frame.”

The letter which was signed by the Acting Secretary of the commission, Okechukwu Ndeche, made reference to the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2019 general elections released by the commission on January 9, 2018.

It said “Based on the provisions of Section 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), the commission does not expect that your party will submit names of any candidates from Zamfara State.”

Oshiomhole: Your position on Zamfara hasty

Reacting to the INEC’s decision, Oshiomhole said INEC was in haste to conclude that his party could not field candidates for 2019 general elections in Zamfara State.

Oshiomhole, in a letter addressed to INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said the commission ought to have inquired from the APC leadership the true situation of things in Zamfara State before taking a position that was devoid of legal basis.

Oshiomhole said by INEC’s Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2019 General Elections released on the 9th January, 2018, “all political parties are expected to submit a list of their candidates on or before 18th of October, 2018, after exhausting all internal procedures for appeals arising out of the congresses.

“As a party, we are in the process of exhausting those internal procedures before forwarding the names of our candidates to you. We are perplexed that you did not wait for us to submit the names of our candidates in Zamfara State (considering that the time within which such submission should take place has not elapsed) before raising your observation in your letter under reference,” he added.

Oshiomhole also said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did not also hold primaries in Kano, “but no such similar letter was written to the PDP in relation to Kano State.”

The bone of contention

Findings by the Daily Trust revealed that while Oshiomhole was told that consensus was reached during the meeting at the City King Hotel, in Gusau, among all contending parties, INEC and members of the G8 have different views.

A source at INEC told our correspondent that what Governor Yari presented figures which he said were the votes cast by APC members during direct primaries.

“Unfortunately for the governor, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of INEC in Zamfara refused to sign the papers on the grounds that the direct primary election was not concluded before the APC headquarters in Abuja halted the process and sacked the state exco,” the official said.

According to him, “Even the claim by Oshiomhole that consensus was reached is unfounded, you cannot resolve a contentious issue when warring factions are not around; none of the G8 members agreed on the consensus list,” he said.

It was gathered that the document which Governor Yari wanted INEC officials to sign was dominated by names of those he wanted, including himself as senatorial candidate for Zamfara West; Alhaji Mukhtar Shehu Idris who is Finance commissioner as governor; Alhaji Aliyu Ikra Bilbis as senator for Zamfara Central and  Alhaji Tijjani Yahaya Kaura for Zamfara North.

The list also had many commissioners and the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Alhaji Sanusi Garba Rikiji as candidates for House of Reps.

The list also included the name of Alhaji Sani Ahmad Sani Yarima, the son of Senator Ahmad Sani Yarima as member of the state House of Assembly.

What lawyers say

Reacting to the development, Ahmed Raji (SAN), said in the event INEC fails to revisit its decision, the only option left for the APC in Zamfara State is to approach the court seeking for an extension of time to do their primary.

For his part, Dayo Akinlaja (SAN) said due to the unprecedented nature of the matter, the APC should explore the option of the court to determine the matter.

“Provided they are able to marshal compelling and cogent reasons as to what had brought about their failure to follow the timetable provided,” he said.

Also, speaking, Abeny Mohammed (SAN) said since the decision was made by INEC pursuant to its powers under the Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the only option available to the APC is to go to court to see if it can salvage the situation.

However, Emeka Ngige (SAN) said the position of Oshiomhole outlining the procedures that the party can use in nominating its candidates could be useful in resolving the deadlock.

On concerns over the time-frame within which the courts can determine the issue of candidates before the general elections, the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court, Emmanuel Gakko said apart from the legal provision for expeditious determination of post-election cases, there is no time frame to determine cases on political party candidates.

“Except the judges abandon other cases with the cooperation of the lawyers, the judge cannot do otherwise. The Chief Judge cannot make a circular on that,” he said.

Aspirants weigh options

Daily Trust reports that some APC aspirants have already started thinking of going to other political parties to actualize their dream of vying for elective positions.

An aspirant to the National Assembly on APC platform said, “Go and check the INEC Guidelines, you will find out that INEC has given aspirants and political parties up to 17th November to withdraw from the race or substitute their candidates; so we have a window, I would personally join any of the smaller parties.

“I would wait and see how the problem would be resolved but if nothing concrete comes up, I would simply switch to another party, after all I am popular,” he said.

Other parties speak

The National Rescue Movement (NRM) has said it would accommodate APC members willing to defect to the party after their party’s failure to nominate candidates for elective positions in Zamfara State for the 2019 general elections.

The National Chairman of the party, Senator Saidu Dansadau, told Daily Trust, in an exclusive interview yesterday that the PDP was never a threat and would have come third behind the APC, which is also going to come second after the NRM in the state.

He said the party met the INEC deadline on submission of candidates for elective positions including himself as the governorship candidate in Zamfara, 13 other governorship candidates across the country, Usman Ibrahim Alhaji as their presidential candidate and national and state assemblies candidates.

On his part, the chairman of PDP in Zamfara, Senator Hassan Nasiha, said it was nemesis that caught up with APC in the state.

On whether they would accept the members of the APC, Senator Nasiha said it would not be his sole decision.

“First you will have to take into cognizance, the pros and cons of an issue; and if at all we decided to go that way, it should be an alliance or something like that. Even the alliance will not be 100 per cent, there must be conditions to be met,” he said.

Court sacks Rivers APC

Meanwhile, a Port Harcourt High Court presided over by Justice Chiwendu Nwogu has sacked the Flag Ojukaye Amachree-led executive of the All Progressives Congress and nullified the governorship primary that produced Mr Tonye Cole as the party’s candidate in Rivers State.

The court ruled that the primary election was a function of illegality and unconstitutional acts.

But the Rivers State Chapter of All Progressives Congress, APC, said it is not surprised that a High Court of Rivers State presided over by Justice Chiwendu Worgu yesterday set aside ward, local government and state congresses of the APC held in May, 2018.

The party in a press statement issued in Port Harcourt yesterday its Publicity Secretary Chris Finebone stated that the ruling did not come to them, as a party, by surprise.

He said the ruling brings to an end the alleged collaboration between Senator Magnus Abe and Governor Nyesom Wike to destabilise the APC in Rivers State.

The statement urged APC members and sympathisers in Rivers State and across Nigeria to remain calm saying that the party is well prepared in anticipation of yesterday’s ruling and have therefore done the needful.

Daily trust

Hassan Usman Author

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