By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Omeiza Ajayi, & Davies Ihemnachor
•As INEC rules party can’t field candidates for governorship, Senatorial, Reps, House of Assembly in Zamfara
•Party in dilemma over Rivers as court axes Tonye Cole, party exco
•You’re unfair, too quick to judgment, counters Oshiomhole
LAGOS — The All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, were yesterday locked in an exchange after the ruling party was barred from fielding candidates for all elections in Zamfara State.
APC was also under pressure after its Rivers State governorship candidate, Tonye Cole, and all other candidates recently produced by the Rotimi Amaechi-led faction of the party were disqualified from participation after a high court voided the congresses that brought forth the ward, local government and state executives who presided over the party primaries.
In Zamfara State, the party was barred from partaking in the elections, following its failure to hold party primaries before last Sunday’s deadline fixed by the commission.
The developments in the two states were challenged by the party.
National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, in a stiff reaction, debunked the claim that the party did not conduct primaries, saying though party members bickered over the conduct of the primaries, they nevertheless agreed on a consensus list before the end of the deadline last Sunday.
How problems started
The problems for the APC started early yesterday when INEC issued a letter to the party, alerting it to the fact that it failed to meet its Sunday deadline of holding primaries for elections in Zamfara State.
In the letter signed by the Commission’s acting scribe, Okechukwu Ndeche, INEC said its decision was based on the provisions of Sections 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
INEC’s memo to APC
The memo titled, ‘Failure to Conduct Party Primaries in Zamfara State within the stipulated time frame”, which was obtained by Vanguard, read: “Please refer to the Time-table and Schedule of Activities for the 2019 General Elections released by the Commission on 9th January 2018. You would note from the timetable that the conduct of party primaries is scheduled to take place between 18th August and 7th October 2018.
“Kindly also refer to the last schedule communicated by your party to the Commission on the dates of party primaries nationwide, including Zamfara, vide your letter Ref. PC/NHDQ/lNEC/19/18/51 dated 3rd October 2018. However, report received from our office in Zamfara State shows that no primaries were conducted by your party in the state, notwithstanding that our officials were fully mobilized and deployed.
“Consequently, based on the provisions of Sections 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), the Commission does not expect that your party will submit names of any candidate from Zamfara State. For clarity, our position, therefore, is that the All Progressives Congress, APC, will not be fielding candidates for the Governorship, National Assembly and State Assembly elections in Zamfara State for the 2019 General Election.
“Please accept the assurances of the Commission’s highest regards.”
APC replies INEC
Responding swiftly yesterday, the APC in a letter by its national chairman to INEC dated October 10, 2018, vowed to field candidates, saying the party arrived at a consensus before the deadline. The APC also accused INEC of looking away from similar issues that affected the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Kano State.
In the letter dated October 10 and signed by the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the APC said following the high level of friction, disagreements and threats of 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 mobilized 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). We, therefore, affirm that indeed, primaries took place in Zamfara State,” the party said.
The APC said PDP also had similar issues in Kano State and wondered why INEC did not bar the opposition party from fielding candidates.
Oshiomhole said: “The contents of your said letter seem to conclude that no primaries were conducted by the APC in Zamfara State. We wish to state emphatically that nothing can be farther from the actual situation in Zamfara State.
“Kindly find attached a comprehensive report from the Zamfara Electoral Committee of the All Progressives Congress and signed by all the members on the conduct of primary elections for Zamfara State held between 6th & 7th October 2018.
“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.
“Please also refer to the lNEC’s Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2019 General Elections released by the Commission on the 9th January 2018. By that timetable, all political parties are expected to submit a list of their candidates on or before 18th of October, 2018, after exhausting all internal procedures for Appeals arising out of the congresses.
“As a party, we are in the process of exhausting those internal procedures before forwarding the names of our candidates to you. We are perplexed that you did not wait for us to submit the names of our candidates in Zamfara State (considering that the time within which such submission should take place has not elapsed) before raising your observation in your letter under reference.
“This is more so when we received no correspondence from the Commission at least to inquire from our party the true state of affairs in Zamfara State, in the spirit of a fair hearing, before making haste to write your letter. We, however, note that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did not also hold primaries in Kano, but no such similar letter was written to the PDP in relation to Kano State.
“It is our contention, in the circumstance, that your letter is not only pre-emptive, but your position seems to negate the spirit of any fair hearing and is devoid of legal basis.
“BE INFORMED, (emphasis by the party) that in the spirit of due compliance with the law, we affirm that we shall indeed be presenting candidates for Governorship, National Assembly and State Assembly Elections in Zamfara State for the 2019 General elections before the deadline for submission of such names which has been fixed by your Commission on the 18th of October, 2018 and in line with Section 87 (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).”
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has welcomed the travails of the ruling party, saying it was just recompense for laxity.
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan stated this yesterday while addressing newsmen at the party’s headquarters in Abuja.
The publicity scribe said: “Our position has not changed. Since Zamfara State APC did not meet the October 7 deadline, then it means that they have no candidate for 2019 general elections.
“You remembered after our national convention; we alerted the nation that the closing date for primary and congresses was October 7 and since that day, the Zamfara State chapter of the APC has not held a singular congress to elect candidates into various positions that will be contested in 2019 general elections.
“We warned INEC because we were aware of underarm measures and moves by the leadership of the APC who summoned the INEC chairman and the governor of Zamfara State to a meeting.
A member of the House of Representatives from the state who is also a member of the APC lamented the development yesterday.
Rep Lawali Hassan Anna representing Anka/Talata Mafara federal constituency said: “Everything has time. You know they put time for primaries. The governor’s camp of which I am part conducted the primaries. But the other opposition didn’t agree. They were not part of the primaries.
“I don’t know how things are going to play out. It is beyond my powers. INEC has written, and I have seen the letter. I really don’t know what to say on that.
Court axes Tonye Cole, Rivers APC exco
In a related development, a Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt yesterday annulled the primary election of Tonye Cole as the governorship candidate of the APC, in the state for the 2019 election.
The court, in the same manner, voided the outcome of all the indirect primary elections conducted in the state by the current executive of the party.
This came as the court also sacked the Ojukaye Flag-Amachree-led executive of the party, describing its emergence as unlawful.
The trial judge, Justice Chiwendu Nwogu, while delivering the judgement declared that all the congresses of the APC in the state that brought Ojukaye and the others and the indirect primary elections conducted by the executive are null and void.
Nwogu in the suit: PHC/78/2018 filed by 23 aggrieved members of APC who approached the court to declare the congresses conducted in May, noted the congresses of May 19, 20 and 21 were in total flagrant disobedience of court orders and party constitution.
He noted that the motion on notice filed by the respondent was misconceived and intended to arrest the judgement of the Court, adding that the outcome of the primaries conducted by the annulled executives cannot stand.
Abe hails judgement
Meanwhile, Senator Magnus Abe has hailed the judgment as justice for the oppressed, calling on the national leadership of the party to obey the ruling of the court.
Abe, who emerged as the governorship candidate of the party in a parallel direct primary conducted in the state by the Peter Odike-led APC, spoke at a rally organised by his faction in Port Harcourt.
Abe said: “In Abuja, every day people are protesting because of confusion. We did not follow the guideline of conducting primaries.
“Court has removed Ojukaye again. He will be removed again. Where people work and plan together mistakes cannot come in.
“We stand on the direct primaries conducted in the state. I appeal to the National Working Committee to stand on the will of the people. I appeal to the party to abide by the decision of the court.
“If they fail to reorganise the direct primaries, it will be difficult to convince the Rivers people that the choice of one man is the choice of Rivers people.”
Senator Wilson Ake on his part added: “If APC is ready to win the state then the mandate to fly the flag of the party in the state should be given to Abe.”
No surprise, Abe working with Wike — Amaechi’s faction
The Amaechi-led faction of the party responding through the publicity secretary, Mr. Chris Finebone said the judgment as given by the Rivers State court was well expected as it was allegedly a part of the script by Senator Abe working with Governor Nyesom Wike to destabilise the state chapter of the APC.
“We state that today’s ruling did not come to us, as a party, by surprise. However, it brings to an end the collaboration between Senator Magnus Abe and Governor Nyesom Wike to destabilise the APC in Rivers State.
“We recall the many overt and covert partnerships between Governor Wike and Senator Magnus Abe using the Rivers State Judiciary on this matter to scuttle the electoral fortunes of the APC in 2019. Today’s ruling is a culmination of such an evil collaboration.
“We further note that the grand rally staged today by Senator Magnus Abe was carefully planned and scheduled by both the Senator and Governor Nyesom Wike to coincide with the Rivers State High Court judgement, details of which they were already privy to. It was therefore not surprising when Senator Abe gleefully announced the exact ruling of the court on the rally rostrum just about when the judge was still reading his judgement in court.
“We wish to inform APC members and sympathisers of our great party in Rivers State and across Nigeria to remain calm as we are well prepared in anticipation of today’s ruling and have therefore done the needful.
“Despite aspects of the matter which are already before the Court of Appeal and the Nigerian Supreme Court, the lower court went ahead to decide on a matter that is being challenged at higher courts of the land. Indeed, our legal team is already finalising the paperwork to file an appeal on today’s judgment and stay of execution. There is absolutely no cause for alarm.”
He said that the Ojukaye-led State Executive Committee (EXCO) had been further protected against any action from above by the Perpetual Injunction granted by Abuja High Court 14 presided over by Hon. Justice A. O. Musa on Tuesday, September 4, 2018 in which it granted an Order of Perpetual Injunction restraining the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the National Chairman, His Excellency (Comrade) Adams Oshiomhole (1st and 2nd Defendants) from ‘tampering with the mandates of the elected Officials/Delegates elected at the 1st Defendant’s Ward, Local Government and State Congresses in Rivers State on May 19, 20 and 21, 2018 respectively, either by nullifying, removing or in any way refusing to give effect to the outcome of the said congresses or by purporting to conduct another congress in respect of Rivers State.”
He further said that if the aim was to annul the emergence of candidates for the party for the General Election that it had failed since the primaries were conducted by the national leadership of the party.
No losing sleep —Princewill
Mr. Tonye Princewill, a chieftain of the APC in the state spoke in the same vein yesterday saying:
“Our supporters will not lose any sleep. First, an appeal has since been entered and a stay of execution granted. Second, we already have a judgment that precedes this making it academic. The efforts at the courts today are the furtherance of the collaboration between Magnus Abe and the Rivers State Government. As they failed before, so they will continue to fail as we are too many steps ahead of them.”
APC has no candidates for 2019 — Wike
Governor Wike was quick to assert his opinion on the developments yesterday saying that it meant that the APC has no candidate for elections in the state.
In a statement issued on his behalf by Simeon Nwakaudu, Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media, he said: “Following the judgment, the APC no longer has a candidate for the governorship, Senate, House of Representatives, House of Assembly Elections in the forthcoming 2019 General Elections.
“The APC also has no State Working Committee, Local Government Working Committees, and Ward Executives.”