Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were on collision course yesterday as the ruling party rejected the electoral body and rejected its disqualification from participation in the 2019 general elections in Zamfara State.
The INEC had disqualified the APC from presenting candidates for the impending general elections following the failure of the party to conduct primaries within stipulated time. By INEC guidelines all primaries were to have been held by last Sunday and lists of candidates submitted to it by October 18, 2018.
But the APC countered in a letter by its National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, to INEC that its primaries were conducted within time and that the party would be filling the list of its candidates with the electoral body by the deadline.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), however, warned yesterday that the electoral body would be preparing the ground for anarchy if it reversed itself and allow APC to field candidates in the state.
The position of INEC was contained in a leaked letter to Oshiomhole on Tuesday.
However, the party replied INEC wednesday claiming that primary elections actually took place in Zamfara State.
In the letter dated October 10, 2018 and signed by Oshiomhole, the party said that INEC did not capture the true situation of the APC primaries in the state.
Titled, “Failure to Conduct Party Primaries in Zamfara State within the Stipulated Time-Frame”, the commission said that APC failed to conduct its primary elections in Zamfara within the stipulated time-frame.
In its submissions to INEC, APC said, “The contents of your letter seem to conclude that no primaries were conducted by the APC in Zamfara State. We wish to state emphatically that nothing can be farther from the actual situation in Zamfara State.
“Kindly find attached a comprehensive report from the Zamfara Electoral Committee of the APC and signed by all the members on the conduct of primary elections for the Zamfara State held between October 6th and 7th, 2018″.
Explaining what happened, APC said following the high level of friction, disagreements and threatened violence by various political camps before the primaries, all the aspirants met at City King Hotel, Gusau, to find a truce.
It said that after hours of intense horse-trading, a consensus was reached within the spirit and within the context of the Electoral Act and the constitution of the party on the basis of which a list was produced which was confirmed/affirmed by all delegates present.
According to APC the consensus arrangement was done in strict compliance with section 87 (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as Amended).
Oshiomhole stated, “Therefore, the claim in your letter under reference that “no primaries were conducted by your party In the state, notwithstanding that our officials were fully mobilized and deployed could only be referring to their observation that actual voting did not take place, which is not the only mode prescribed for producing candidates in the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).
“We, therefore, affirm that indeed primaries took place in Zamfara State. Please also refer to the lNEC’s Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2019 General Elections.”
He accused INEC of not giving it a fair hearing before taking a position on the Zamfara State primaries.
He further said that by INEC’s timetable, all political parties were 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.
He said that APC was in the process of exhausting its internal procedures before forwarding the names of its candidates to INEC.
He added, “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.”
The party also said that INEC did not try to ascertain from it the true state of affairs in Zamfara State, in the spirit of fair hearing, before making haste to write its letter, adding that the PDP did not also hold primaries in Kano, but no such similar letter was written to it in relation to Kano State.
“It is our contention, in the circumstance, that your letter is not only pre-emptive, but your position seems to negate the spirit of any fair hearing and is devoid of legal basis.
“Be informed, (emphasis by the party) that in the spirit of due compliance with the law, we affirm that we shall indeed be presenting candidates for Governorship, National Assembly and State Assembly Elections in Zamfara State for the 2019 General elections before the deadline for submission of such names which has been fixed by your Commission on the 18th of October, 2018 and in line with section 87 (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).”
The INEC had confirmed a letter written to the APC notifying the party that it was ineligible to field candidates for all elective positions in Zamfara State in the 2019 general elections.
An online medium, PREMIUM TIMES, had reported that INEC had told Oshiomhole, in a letter signed by the Acting Secretary of the commission, Mr. Okechukwu Ndeche that it was not expecting any list of candidates from the party for Zamfara State.
The commission referred Oshiomhole to the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2019 general elections released by the commission on January 9, 2018.
It stated, “You would note from the timetable that the conduct of party primaries is scheduled to take place between 18th August and 7th October 2018.
“Kindly also refer to the last schedule communicated by your party to the commission on the dates of party primaries nationwide, including Zamfara vide your letter Ref. APC/NHDQ/ INEC/19/18/51 dated 3rd Oct. 2018.
“However, report received from our office in Zamfara State shows that no primaries were conducted by your party in the state, notwithstanding that our officials were fully mobilized and deployed.”
“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.
“For clarity, our position is that the All Progressives Congress (APC), will not be fielding candidates for the governorship, National Assembly and State Assembly Elections in Zamfara State for the 2019 general elections.”
Confirming the development, the Chief Press Secretary to the chairman of the commission, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said that though the letter was leaked to the press, it was authentic.
According to him, “The letter is authentic. But it was a correspondence between the commission and the APC. It leaked, obviously.”
There had been crisis in the Zamfara State chapter of the APC with the governor, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, and a senator and governorship aspirant, Senator Kabiru Marafa, holding two different primaries.
As part of the firefighting measures, some governors of the party, led by their chairman, Chief Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, had met with President Muhammadu Buhari, and said after the meeting that the party would present candidates for Zamfara State contrary to INEC’s position.
Okorocha said, “You see, we are still having the challenges of internal democracy. The Zamfara State issue is what we are considering. There was primary elections in Zamfara State, no doubt about that, what we are considering is the outcome.
“It is wrong to say that there was no election but I think there were elections as bad as it was and that is what our NWC will be looking at to see how we can find a solution.”
When asked whether the party will accept its fate of not fielding a candidate, Okorocha said, “definitely we will field candidates in Zamfara State”.
Governors that attended the meeting include that of Niger, Kogi, Bauchi and Kano.
PDP Warns INEC Not to Bend Rules for Ruling Party
Meanwhile, the PDP has cautioned INEC against allowing itself to be subdued by APC, following the inability of the party to conduct congresses in Zamfara State, saying doing that will be a recipe for anarchy.
The party in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said, “Our position has not changed. You remembered that after our national convention we alerted the nation that the closing date for primary and congresses was October 7th and as at that day, the Zamfara State chapter of the APC had not held a singular congress to elect candidate into various positions that will be contested in 2019 general election.
“We warned INEC because we are aware of under arm measures and moves by the leadership of the APC who summoned the INEC chairman and the governor of Zamfara State to a meeting. We raised the alarm and raised it because we are a democratic party, and we have respect for the 1999 constitution as amended. And all the electoral law guiding our elections.
“As such, we warned that INEC must not allow itself to be subdued by the All Progressives Congress. For once they must not allow any form of collusion with the APC. Because since Zamfara State APC did not meet the October 7 deadline, then it means that they have no candidate for 2019 general elections.”
It said the party was aware that INEC had notified APC that it had no candidate in 2019 elections, warning INEC not to allow itself to be subdued by the APC and its leadership, whether in the government or in the party.