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2019: Dilemma As INEC, APC Clash Over Candidates



Just when observers had concluded that the crisis which  bedevilled the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) in the build up to its national convention in June had been addressed,  indications  have emerged that the party still experiences hardships managing their affairs.

To some on lookers, the ruling APC is sliding towards a doom zone and at the end of its tether and to others it is in an intensive care unit.

Pundits have noted that while some perceived  party big wigs have seized the party by the scruff of the neck,  others who  have the interest of the party are battling to rescue it from the brink.

The future survival of the APC as a party in control of power is also not certain. Its internal power squabbles are also raising concern.  This is considering its current battle with the electoral body, INEC over fielding candidates  for elective positions  in Zamfara state during the much awaited 2019 polls.

It appears to be a fact that from Kano, Kaduna, Zamfara, Bayelsa , Rivers,  Cross River and other  states to mention but a few, the party is grappling with a series of crises.

Most of these state chapters have been split into factions as members disagree on the mode of running the affairs of the party. And, of course, some of these divisions are partly attributable to the scheming for the 2019 as well as power among different political cleavages that coagulated to form the APC.

Recall that the outcome of the congresses conducted both at the ward, local government and state levels  by the party earlier this year  facilitated hugely to the exit of major key members, which subsequently sparked the gale of defections that almost brought the party to its knees.

But thanks to the timely intervention of the new NWC who dangled  juicy offers across board, a costly price the party had to pay to save it from imminent collapse.

While still nursing bruises it sustained following the wave of massive defection of some of its gladiators, one can say that the APC chances to return to power might be  slim as the mode of primaries adopted by its national leadership in some states already has adverse effects.

Analysts have said, the APC has mountains to climb going to the 2019 general with the major opposition party that looks more prepared and stable going by the outcome of its just concluded presidential primary.

Clearly, the ruling party seems to have its hands full and if not addressed, this may likely cost it a huge political fortune due to what analysts have described as greed on the part of its political class in some states and on the other hand, the uneven nature of the National Chairman of the party.

INEC, APC locking Horns

INEC had, in a letter, said that it would not allow the APC to field candidates in any election in Zamfara State except for the presidential poll. But the APC, in a letter to the electoral commission, insisted that it would field candidates in all elections in Zamfara State.

INEC, in the letter, which was signed by its acting Secretary, Okechukwu Ndeche, and addressed to the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, explained that its decision was hinged on the fact that the APC failed to conduct primaries for National Assembly, governorship and state assembly, adding that the October 7, 2018 deadline had lapsed.

The electoral body had further explained that its stance to declare APC ineligible to field candidates was premised on the provisions of sections 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 stressing that “the commission does not expect that your party will submit names of any candidates from Zamfara State.”

APC Reacts

But the APC, in Oshiomhole’s reply to the letter by INEC’s letter, faulted the electoral commission.

Oshiomhole said the grounds upon which INEC based its conclusion was faulty and as such could not be relied upon to deny the APC the opportunity to present candidates.

He said the party held primary elections for the said positions and that the APC electoral committee sent to the state to conduct the exercise had submitted a comprehensive report.

He said, “The summary of the report, as you will find, is that 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.

“After hours of intense horse-trading, a consensus was reached within the spirit and context of the Electoral Act and the constitution of our party on the basis of which a list was produced which was confirmed/affirmed by all delegates present. This was done in strict compliance with Section 87 (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as Amended).

“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 mobilised 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).”

The APC said it was perplexed that INEC did not wait for it to submit the names of its candidates in Zamfara State “considering that the time within which such submission should take place has not elapsed” before raising its observation in the letter under reference.

The APC noted that the PDP did not also hold primaries in Kano, but no such letter was written to the PDP in relation to Kano State.

The Zamfara APC had been engulfed in a serious crisis in recent time as parallel primaries had been held by factions of the party, none of which was monitored by INEC.

The two persons at the centre of the crisis are Governor Abdulaziz Yari, who is also a senatorial aspirant, and Senator Kabiru Marafa, who is a governorship aspirant.

While Yari wanted his Commissioner for Finance, Mukhtar Idris, to succeed him, Marafa insisted that there must be a level playing field. This led to the conduct of parallel primaries across the state which produced different candidates.

The National Working Committee led by Oshiomhole subsequently suspended the state executive of the party to allow for a rancour-free exercise, a decision which did not go down well with Yari.

However, the electoral panel sent to the state by the party’s national leadership announced that it was unable to organise primaries in the state.

ZAMFARA APC and Matters Arising

LEADERSHIP SUNDAY writes that governor Yari had anointed his commissioner of finance as the sole candidate of the APC in the state against eight other aspirants, including his deputy, Ibrahim Wakala, who appears to be a member of the group locally known as the G8, which also include former governor of the state, Aliyu Shinkafi, Senator Kabiru Mafara and Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali.

Others are: Aminu Sani Jaji, Alhaji Dauda Lawai, Alhaji Abu Mahaji and Sagir Hamidu.

Yari’s decision to install his commissioner of finance is clearly seen as the drop of poison that contaminated the party in the state. The party has been unable to conduct a hitch free primary election on different occasions.

The NWC had cancelled the party’s governorship primary held in the state  and fixed a date for a fresh one due to what the chairman of the election panel had described as harassment and intimidation of voters and snatching of election materials by thugs and sponsored politicians.

In the same vein, the NWC had dissolved the APC executive in the state and redirected the same committee to state to conduct a fresh primary.

The party had after dissolving the state exco, warned Yari not to interfere in the primaries but the governor dismissed the NWC’s action, and accused the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, of working against the interest of the state.

The NWC had also expressed confidence that the APC in the state would beat INEC’s deadline of October 7.

In reaction to the allegation made, governor Yari dismissed claims by the committee as false and warned that they will stop at nothing to force the national leadership of the party to do the right thing.

Yari said they have lost confidence in the committee and warned that they don’t step their foot in the state for another election, saying he and his followers would resist them.

Despite Yari’s threat, the panel visited the state on Sunday, but supporters of the governor and Sen. Kabir Garba Mafara, clashed and this prevented elections from holding.

Meanwhile to beat INEC’s deadline, in less than five hours to 12 midnight deadline for completion of party primaries by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), gov. Abdul’aziz Yari Zamfara State, on Sunday, ordered his loyalists in the All Progressives Congress (APC) chapter of the state to vote in legislative primaries; to avoid disqualification of aspirants.

INEC’s deadline for completion of party primaries into elective offices for the 2019 general election ended, on Sunday, October.

Thereafter, Finance Commissioner, Mukhtar Idris, was announced as winner of the primary which held at the APC secretariat in Gusau, the state capital.

Failing to conduct a primary, as at Sunday, Zamfara APC did not have governorship, state and National Assembly candidates for 2019 as the APC NWC panel could not conduct any election in the state.

In the wake of these developments, Sen. Kabir Garba Mafara, had described Yari’s directive, on Sunday evening, as an invitation to anarchy.

“It is unfortunate that the governor, after deliberately frustrating the conduct of the exercise, will ask the people to conduct the exercise themselves. This is an invitation to anarchy and we will never be part of any illegality, aimed at pushing the state into anarchy’’, he said.

PDP Warns

Meanwhile the opposition Peoples Democratic Party has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission not to allow itself to be subdued by the ruling party and must do everything within the ambit of the law and electoral act to protect the sanctity of the institution.

The party had in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbodinyan, said it has earlier raised the alarm over the development in Zamfara and suspected a foul play, therefore maintains that it must stand that the APC in Zamfara has been disqualified for contesting elective positions in the state in 2019.

‘’Our position has not changed, you remembered after our national convention we alerted the nation that closing date for primary and Congresses was October 7th and as that day the Zamfara state chapter of the All Progressive Congress (APC) has not held a singular congress to elect candidate into various position that will be contested in 2019 general election.

‘’We warn 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 meeting. We raised the alarm 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 warn 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.

‘’Our party is aware that INEC has notified the APC that it has no candidate in 2019 election. Our appeal to INEC Is that it must not allow itself to be subdued by the APC and its leadership, whether in the government or in the party. To do that, it will be a recipe for anarchy in Zamfara state’’, Ologbondiyan warned.

Nevertheless, there are indications that the APC may still find an alternative if INEC still insists on its current position. This may come with a huge price.

Firstly, the APC in Zamfara will have to shop for candidates from other political parties and negotiate with them for the substitution of names.

What this means is that if possible, candidates of the APC will be contesting under the platform of other political parties and maybe later collapse back to its original APC root.

But how realistic is this?

‘’You envisage a situation where APC aspirants will swallow up for instance APGA candidates in Zamfara? How will they zero in on candidates? It is going to be a tall order. APC will perhaps pay in billions’’

‘’I hope some over-zealous and grandstand will not create some legal conundrum in the run up to 2019? I am being mindful of the case of Sylvanus Eruaga v. Gowon Jery Yakubu in Edo State House of Assembly election in 2015. I seriously hope we don’t end up in the ditch,” Kamin Asunogie, an Abuja based legal practitioner  said.