Amid the raging crisis rocking the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress over the mode of primary to be used in the conduct of its June 22 governorship primary, the Independent National Electoral Commission has said it will only honour the mode of primary submitted to it by the national chairman of the party.
The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, told Sunday PUNCH in Abuja that the commission’s rules, regulations and laws allowed it to only relate with the national chairman and national secretary of political parties.
He stressed that regardless of what was happening in state branches of parties, the commission would only recognise the date, venue and mode of primary submitted to it by the two national officers.
The two factions of APC in the state had been at each other’s throat over the mode of primary to be adopted to pick the party’s candidate for the September 19 governorship election.
The National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, said to be in the same camp with the factional chairman of the party in the state, David Imuse, had insisted that the party would use direct primary to select its candidate.
Oshiomhole, believed to be opposed to the reelection of Governor Godwin Obaseki, had also gone ahead to write INEC via a letter dated May 19, 2020, stating that the party had chosen direct primary for the selection of its candidate for the election.
But the state chairman of the party, Anselm Ojezua, said to be supporting Obaseki, had said the party’s State Working Committee chose indirect primary. He explained that the National Executive Council of the party had said each state was at liberty to adopt any method of preference. Ojezua accused the NWC, headed by Oshiomhole, of imposing the direct primary on the state as a means to oust Obaseki from the race.
Meanwhile, to counter the letter written by Oshiomhole to INEC that the party would do direct primary, the governor, in a gazette signed on May 28 and published on Friday, banned political gatherings that could make direct primary possible in the state. Obaseki insisted that by virtue of the gazette, only direct primary could be held in the state and in only one location.
However, following the altercation and rising tension over which mode of primary INEC would recognise for the APC in the state, Okoye said that the law only allowed the commission to relate with the national chairman and national secretary when it pertained to party primaries.
He said, “INEC does not deal with state branches of political parties in matters relating to or connected with the conduct of party primaries. Section 85(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) makes it mandatory for political parties intending to nominate candidates for elective offices to give the commission 21 days’ notice of its intention to conduct party primaries.
“In our rules and regulations, the letter to this effect is signed by the National Chairman and National Secretary of political parties indicating the date, time and venue for the conduct of party primaries and the mode of the primaries.
“The mode of primaries to be adopted by political parties is a function of their constitution, the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and the regulations and guidelines issued by INEC.
“So, we don’t have business with state branches of political parties because our rules, regulations and laws say we should relate with the national chairman and the national secretary in terms of fixing party primaries, whether direct or indirect.
“The commission will not dictate to political parties the mode of primaries to adopt as it is a purely legal and party affair. What is certain is that the commission will monitor the primaries and provide protective equipment for its staff that will be involved in the process.”
Out of the 18 political parties in the country, Okoye said 15 parties had indicated their intention to conduct primaries, out of which 14 opted for indirect primary while only the APC opted for direct primary.
He said, “Fifteen political parties have indicated their intention to conduct primary and out of that, 14 said they would conduct indirect primary, while the APC said it would conduct direct primary. It’s the business of political parties what mode of primary they want to adopt, so long as they follow their own constitution.”
Asked if the outcome of any of the court cases over the APC’s mode of primary changed anything about the forthcoming primary, Okoye said, “We don’t speculate; we obey judgements of courts of competent jurisdiction.”
Already, INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, on Friday during the first virtual consultative meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security, expressed fears about looming acrimony in the primaries of the political parties in Edo and Ondo states. Ondo governorship election is scheduled to hold on October 10 2020.
Yakubu had said, “The primaries for the nomination of candidates for the Edo governorship election have commenced. As you are aware, the conduct of primaries by political parties tends to be very acrimonious. The acrimony is carried forward into the electioneering campaigns and Election Day activities. Already, there are warning signals.”