*October 18 deadline remains sacrosanct, Prof. Yakubu says
*It’s a lie, we chose candidates by consensus – Oshiomhole
By Ezeocha Nzeh
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday insisted that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will not sponsor any candidate for elective offices in Zamfara State during the 2019 general elections.
Last week, INEC forwarded a correspondence to the APC informing it that following its inability to conduct party primaries to pick candidates for the 2019 polls as at the October 7 deadline, the ruling party had missed the opportunity to field candidates for next year’s election.
But, APC countered INEC insisting that it would field candidates for all available portfolios in Zamfara state despite the stand of the electoral body on the matter.
The party reacting to Prof. Yakubu said nothing will stop it from submitting the list of its candidates for the elections in the state The APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Onilu maintained that the party is confident it will meet all the requirements to stand for election in Zamfara state.
He explained that it was unable to conduct primary in Zamfara state because the party had settled for consensus as contained in its constitution. But the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said on Monday that the commission has foreclosed the case of APC in the state, adding that the electoral body had not changed its position on the matter.
Yakubu told journalists after declaring open a three-day validation workshop on the study on the cost of elections in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region, which was organised by the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions in Abuja, that “on Zamfara, nothing has changed.
“We have said it and we have issued a statement on the position of things and that still remains our position. We stand by the statement”.
The INEC boss re-emphasised that the deadline for submission of names of party candidates to the commission was October 18, adding that it would give a full report on that after November 18.
INEC’s Acting Secretary, Okechukwe Ndeche, in a letter to the APC said that the party had been barred from fielding candidates for governorship, national assembly and state assembly elections.
The commission said this was because APC failed to comply with Sections 87 and 31 of the 2010 Electoral Act.
Political parties, according to the Act, were expected to comply with the timetable and NEC schedule, which says that the conduct of primaries must be held between Aug. 18 and Oct. 7.
INEC said it received reports from its Zamfara state office, indicating that no primaries were conducted in the state “notwithstanding that our officials were fully mobilised and deployed.”
The APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, on his part said the APC had already decided on picking consensus candidates before the deadline.
Oshiomhole said that following the high level of friction, disagreements and threats of violence by various political camps in APC before the primaries, all the aspirants met at the 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.
“This was done in strict compliance with Section 87 (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended),” he said. He said that the claim by INEC that no primaries were conducted could only be referring to its officials’ observating actual voting which did not take place.
The APC chairman said that conduct of primaries were not the only mode prescribed for producing candidates in the Electoral Act.
Onilu maintained that: “INEC cannot say that we don’t have candidates for election until the deadline has expired.
We have options of consensus, direct and indirect primaries and we are going to apply like we have done in other states, our energies, time and concerns to pick our candidates.
“I can assure you that before the October 18 deadline, we are going to meet all INEC requirements and we are going to submit names of all the candidates for not only for Zamfara state, but all the 36 states and the FCT”.
The party spokesman also dismissed the suggestion that APC might sue INEC, saying: “It is not yet something for the party to take legal action, nothing calls for that. We would not be reacting to what INEC said in the public”.
He explained that after the party got a letter from the INEC, it replied it but was yet to receive a reply from the commission.
“We are on the side of the law, we had a primary in Zamfara state. We are operating within the guidelines of INEC and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
We believe that INEC does not the correct information on what happened in Zamfara and this we have stated in our letter to the commission.
“They haven’t replied our letter so we take that the matter remained as it is. We also ask INEC that if they need more information from us, we will be ready to offer it”.