The plaintiffs had asked the court to direct APC and INEC to recognise the results of the primaries conducted by Zamfara APC from the October 3 to 7, 2018.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the controversies that trailed the All Progressives Congress (APC) primary elections across the country has portrayed the ruling party in bad light. More than that, the controversy seems to be also dragging the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) into another bout of integrity crisis.
A clear case in point is the case of Zamfara State where crisis rocked the governorship primary elections of the APC. This is despite the fact that an election was conducted for the governorship seat and supervised and endorsed by INEC officials in the state as required by law.
About 24 hours ago, hundred governorship candidates have begun their campaign in accordance with Section 99(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended). The act stipulates 90 days for campaigns before polling day.
While 782 candidates of over 80 political parties started the electioneering, the reverse is the case for Zamfara APC because of the pending court case instituted in Gusau, the state capital. On October 16, 2018, the High Court IV in Gusau, presided over by Justice Mukhtar Yusha’u, had granted an interim order restraining all parties involved in Zamfara APC primaries crisis to stay action.
The court order implied that the national headquarters of the APC, INEC, the national vice chairman of the party in the North West and their agents could not take any further action.
The suit was filed by three executive members of the APC in the state – the Chairman of the party in Gusau Local Government Area, Babangida Abdullahi; his counterpart in Tsafe Local Government Area, Kabiru Chafe, and Sanusi Dan-Alhaji. The plaintiffs had asked the court to direct APC and INEC to recognise the results of the primaries conducted by Zamfara APC from the October 3 to 7, 2018.
Justice Mukhtar issued an order of interim injunction ordering the APC, the party’s North-West zonal chairman and INEC to “maintain the status quo as at the time the plaintiffs filed the suit on October 8, 2018,” which was not objected by their counsel. The judge, thereafter, adjourned the matter till October 23 for hearing to enable the defendants to file their responses to the motion on notice before the court.
When contacted over the matter, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the court did not ask INEC to accept the list of candidates from Zamfara State. He said the court asked all parties to “maintain the status quo,” which he said implied that INEC’s decision stood.
“We have seen the court order and it doesn’t change anything. The court said we should maintain the status quo and what is the status quo? The status quo is that as far as INEC is concerned, the deadline for the conduct of primaries elapsed and Zamfara has no list. That is the status quo.
“So, when the hearing begins, they can begin to argue why we should accept any list or not but the status quo is that the deadline elapsed and the APC did not conduct any primaries because submitting a list is different from conducting primaries.
“You cannot generate a list without conducting primaries. The status quo is that INEC had said there was no conduct of primaries in Zamfara State within the stipulated time frame so the APC cannot submit a list to the INEC. That is the status quo as long as INEC is concerned.”
The court decision came just about 24 hours after INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, reiterated an earlier decision that the APC will not nominate any candidate for elective offices in Zamfara State for the 2019 general elections. He was speaking at the sidelines of the ongoing three-day ‘Validation workshop study on the cost of elections in the ECOWAS region,’ held in Abuja.
“On Zamfara, nothing has changed. We have said it and we had earlier issued a statement on the position of things and that still remains our position,” the INEC chief said.
After all these and the pending court case, it is worrying to hear that the INEC is under intense pressure from some elements in the Presidency to accept candidates from the APC national secretariat. If this development is true, then it will be the last stalk that will break the INEC’s back, thereby eroding its modicum of integrity in the eyes of Nigerians and the international community.
If Prof Yakubu succumbs to this presidential pressure and violates the court order, then he will successfully vindicate what the opposition ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said about him and the electoral umpire.
Only four days ago, the PDP national chairman, Uche Secondus, called on the INEC chairman to resign over his alleged inability to conduct free, fair and credible election. The PDP chairman accused the IGP of working for the All Progressives Congress (APC) to “arrest and intimidate its opponents.”
He also alleged that the INEC chairman lacked the will and capacity to deliver free and fair elections.
“We want to do this advance warning that we are lovers of democracy and peace,” Secondus said.
“We want the peace of our nation; so, let them note all they have done, even in the case of Kwara and Bauchi, where we warned clearly that they announced different results.
“That will no longer be acceptable. We therefore call on the INEC leadership headed by Professor Yakubu to quietly resign because he does not have strong will and courage to conduct free and fair election.”
I am worried that the INEC chairman will not give fresh air to the PDP allegations by acting according to the dictates of the law, not the whims and caprices of some Abuja power brokers.
Gusau, a public affairs analyst, wrote in from Abuja