Candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara and Rivers states are not on the final list released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the governorship and House of Assembly elections
The commission’s National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said the commission had met and approved the final list of candidates for the governorship, state assembly and FCT Area Council elections.
“On the whole, there are 1, 066 candidates for the governorship elections, 14, 583 for the state assembly elections and 806 for the FCT Area Council elections broken down into 105 chairmanship candidates and 701 councillorship candidates,” Okoye said.
On the controversy surrounding the Zamfara APC primaries, Okoye said the commission noted that there were two court judgements on the matter – one from a State High Court in Gusau and the other from a Federal High Court in Abuja.
“The former judgement (Zamfara High Court) clearly said that the APC conducted primaries in Zamfara State, contrary to the position of the commission. On the other hand, the Federal High Court in Abuja ruled that the party did not conduct valid primaries and therefore is ineligible to field candidates for the elections.
“The commission would like to reaffirm its commitment to obeying all court judgments, even when it disagrees with them. However, these are clearly two contradictory judgments delivered by two courts of coordinate jurisdiction on the same day.
“Consequently, the commission has decided to maintain its original position that the party in question did not conduct primaries and therefore, in line with Section 87 of the Electoral Act 20l0 (as amended), is not eligible to field candidates for the National Assembly, Governorship and State Assembly elections in Zamfara State,” he said.
On Rivers, a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt had nullified the direct and indirect primaries conducted by the two factions of the APC in the state.
The names of APC candidates were missing from the list pasted by the electoral body.
The court presided over by Justice Kolawole Omotosho said both primaries were not conducted according to the law and went ahead to restrain INEC from recognising Tonye Cole and Magnus Abe as APC governorship candidates in the general elections.
Senator Abe was declared the winner of a direct governorship primary conducted by a faction of the party in 2018 after polling 144, 929 votes.
But Cole emerged the winner of an indirect primary held by another faction with 3,329 votes.
Following the rulings, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Rivers, Obo Effanga, insisted that the electoral umpire would always obey court injunctions.
APC has however promised to use all legal means to ensure that it fields candidates for the coming elections in Zamfara and Rivers State.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said this while fielding questions from journalists yesterday in Abuja following the release of INEC’s list.
“The issue of Zamfara, we heard that INEC is relying on the fact that courts of equal jurisdiction have given conflicting judgements. We can understand that. What it thus means is that it is not over and then we will continue to take steps. We are very certain we did the right thing.
“The primaries held, INEC was not satisfied with that but it is our right to field candidates and we would follow up all the legal means to ensure that our candidates stand for elections in this 2019 general elections in Zamfara. Same situation for Rivers.
“It also shows for people who are discerning to ask that question, this supposed to be the APC that INEC is or ought to be working for? And this is what we are going through in the hands of INEC that PDP has repeatedly claimed is put in place to rig elections for APC. May I remind all of us, that we had primaries in Zamfara which was affected by conflicts but the process allows for three different options. You could go for indirect which is an electoral college, you could go with direct that allows every card-carrying member of the party to vote for their chosen candidates and then thirdly, you go by consensus. We have the right under the constitution to exhaust these options. We did so,” he said.
“But let me add that in Kano State, PDP did not do primaries. PDP did not take any of these options and yet today, INEC is not saying anything regarding PDP and all the candidates submitted for PDP in Kano were accepted. This is a fact that nobody can deny but we will not go to town to start pillorying INEC, this is a very critical institution to the success of any election,” he said.
Also, Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari told journalists in Gusau that from the information they received, INEC has accepted the list of APC candidates from the state.
Yari said INEC had complied with the Zamfara State High Court order asking it to accept APC’s candidates and barring the national secretariat from substituting the names of the candidates that won the primaries conducted on October 7, 2018.
“As of today (Thursday), from the information we received, the INEC has accepted our candidates as ordered by the court.
“It was really a serious legal battle, and I think it is over now, with the acceptance of our candidates. We are grateful to the party stalwarts for the fact that despite the crisis, no member of the party defected because they believe in the struggle and they have understood that it is the test of time,” he said.
On his part, Sen. Kabiru Garba Marafa said the APC still has good chances of fielding candidates for elective offices in Zamfara State in the forthcoming general elections,
He said despite the decision of INEC to stick to its earlier stand of rejecting APC candidates from the state, an ongoing appeal on the matter might give the party another opportunity.
Addressing a press conference at the National Assembly on Thursday, Marafa commended INEC for its insistence that there were no APC primary in the state.
*Photo: Adams Oshiomole, APC National Chairman