Nigeria’s opposition parties have resolved to resume their campaigns for the postponed 2019 general elections despite the ban on all electioneering by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Citing the provisions of the Electoral Act, which regulates the conduct of polls by INEC and the activities of political parties, the umbrella body of the country’s opposition parties, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) said yesterday that the electoral commission’s ban on campaigns for the Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections, was not binding on its members.
CUPP argued that in view of the provisions of the Section 99 of the Electoral Act, its 51-member would commence campaigns today.
Also, the dominant opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), toed CUPP’s line yesterday when it announced the reopening of its campaigns for the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections.
The PDP said that it reached the decision after due consideration of the provisions of the Electoral Act, adding that its action was further prompted by the postponement of the elections by INEC.
Earlier yesterday, the CUPP through its spokesperson, Mr. Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, directed all its members to return to the campaign field and end their activities by midnight of Thursday, 21st February, 2019 as required by law.
He said: “Section 99(1) of the Electoral Act provides that public campaigns shall end 24 hours prior to the day of polling. It is therefore wrong to expect that political parties will stop campaigns on 14th February for polls that will open on 23rd February.”
According to him, it is unlawful and wrong for INEC to curtail the clear intendment of the section of the Electoral Act which is clear and unambiguous.
Ugochinyere said that “campaigning until 24 hours prior to the day of polling is a statutory right of parties and cannot be taken away, curtailed or abridged by any executive fiat. INEC cannot on its own accord limit the period of campaigns as it is regulated by law.
“Member parties are hereby directed to continue campaigns from tomorrow (today) and focus on voter remobilisation and ensure that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is elected and declared winner of the presidential election,” he stated.
INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had ruled out the resumption of campaigns or collection of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) during the commission’s meeting with stakeholders after the postponement of the general elections scheduled to hold last Saturday.
Yakubu had declined the proposal of a former minister of Aviation and PDP chieftain, Osita Chidoka, that campaigns begin in the light of the poll shift.
To justify its decision to defy INEC’s directive, the PDP said that INEC breached the law by embarking on a “wrongful administrative prohibition of open campaigns”, arguing that such “administrative pronouncement was erroneous, directly in conflict with the provision of the Electoral Act and is not backed by any other law in the country.”
While insisting that its campaign would end 24 hours prior to the day of election as provided by the law, the PDP directed its members to await further directives ahead of its reopening of campaigns.
The party’s national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement said: “Our position is predicated on the clear provision of Section 99 (1) of the Electoral Act which stipulates that ‘for the purposes of this Act, the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day.
“The clear import of this provision, in the current situation, is that given the postponement of the election to February 23, 2019, the 24 hours requirement for closure of all public campaigning falls at midnight of February 21.
“The PDP reminds INEC that whenever its administrative pronouncement conflicts with the Electoral Act, such administrative pronouncement must bow before the law. The party charges INEC to be appropriately guided while directing its members to await further directives ahead of its reopening of campaigns,” Ologbondiyan said.
INEC To Take Final Decision On Ban Today
Meanwhile, INEC will today take a decision on whether or not to lift the ban on presidential and the National Assembly polls’ campaigns.
In the wake of the cancellation of the election on Saturday, Yakubu (INEC chairman) had announced that campaigns for the shifted elections ended on Thursday last week.
Yakubu said that since the elections had been postponed by one week, “the ban is still in force.”
“No political actors are silent,” Yakubu had said when he responded to a question by Chidoka on whether they should not campaign this week.
“Elections must not be conducted in silence but campaigns are not allowed. The person who asked the question is a politician and knows that: ‘No political actors are silent,” Yakubu said.
Asked yesterday whether or not INEC would lift the ban on campaigns, the chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said that the commission would meet today on the matter.
“The commission will meet tomorrow (today) and take a decision,” Oyekanmi said.
APC’s Sabotage Caused Election Postponement – PDP
Also yesterday, the PDP alleged that the sabotage by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) led to the postponement of the 2019 general elections last Saturday.
Ologbondiyan, in a statement he issued, said that the ruling party sabotaged the process because it was determined to have a staggered election where it can use security agencies to subvert the will of the people at the polls.
He said that APC elements in INEC engineered actions that affected the distribution and delivery of sensitive materials to designated locations, thereby frustrating the electoral process.
The PDP specifically alleged that a team of data hackers were hired to corrupt the voters register, with a view to causing mass confusion and voters suppression on the election day.
Ologbondiyan said: “Contrary to simulated stance by the Buhari Presidency and the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, fresh facts have confirmed that elements of the federal government and the APC have been sabotaging the INEC in a well-orchestrated plot to engineer a staggered presidential election.
“Nigerians will recall that the PDP had vehemently protested the continued retention of President Muhammadu Buhari’s relation, Mrs. Amina Zakari, in INEC. We have been reliably informed that the same Amina Zakari and another high-ranking INEC commissioner played a pivotal role in assisting the APC and Buhari Presidency in sabotaging the operations of INEC and scuttling the February 16 elections.
“The reason for this is that President Buhari is determined to have a staggered election where he can use security agencies to subvert the will of the people at the polls.
“These APC elements in INEC engineered actions that affected the distribution and delivery of INEC sensitive materials to designated locations, thereby frustrating the electoral process.
“We also have details of how a hired team of data hackers corrupted the voters register, with a view to causing mass confusion and voters suppression on the election day.
“Nigerians would have been shocked that many registered voters in possession of their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) would have arrived at their polling centres on election day, only to discover to their amazement that their names have disappeared from the register in their units.
“Intelligence available to us further details how agents of the Buhari Presidency infiltrated the distribution system and ensured that sensitive election materials do not arrive at the designated locations, with a view to stalling elections in several states and paving the way for a staggered election.
“This is in addition to deliberate swapping of sensitive election materials between different states and local governments so as to muddle up the process and stall election in affected areas. In some of states like Edo, sensitive election materials did not arrive at their designated points on APC interruption,” he alleged.
The PDP however urged Nigerians to continue to be on the alert in resisting the alleged plots by APC and the Buhari Presidency to sabotage the elections.
The party promised to continue to stand with the people in exposing APC’s rigging plots and stopping them from creating more havoc and destruction of the democratic process.
“We therefore call on President Buhari to save himself from further embarrassment… by ensuring that his cabal and their ilk in APC cease forthwith from tampering with our electoral process,” the PDP said.