The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday approved the direct primary mode for the All Progressives Congress (APC) primary for the Edo State governorship election, scheduled for 19th September 2020.
There have been verbal exchanges between the camp of the National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and that of Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki over the mode to be used for the governorship primary slated for June 22 this year.
While the National Working Committee of the APC under the leadership of Oshiomhole proposed direct mode, Obaseki and his supporters have vehemently faulted it, insisting that indirect mode be used.
To counter the letter written by Oshiomhole to INEC that the party would do direct primary, the governor, in a gazette signed on May 28 and published on Friday, banned political gatherings that could make direct primary possible in the state.
The Deputy Governor of Edo State, Philip Shaibu yesterday said all political parties in the state must obey the regulations spelt out in its gazette aimed at curtailing the spread of COVID-19 in the conduct of primary elections.
He said the political party that disobeyed the law would not hold its primary election in the state as the gazette must be respected. INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC) Festus Okoye disclosed the approval at the end of the INEC management meeting held virtually.
According to him, in accordance with sections 85 and 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), 15 out of the 18 registered political parties have notified the commission of their intention to conduct primaries for the purpose of nominating candidates for the Edo governorship election.
Daily Trust reports that INEC approved the direct primary only for the APC while the other 14 parties have the indirect primaries approved for their selection of candidates.
“By the timetable and schedule of activities issued by the commission on 6 February 2020, party primaries for the Edo governorship election will take place between 2 and 27 June 2020,” Okoye said.
Okoye however, reacting to the altercation and rising tension over the mode of primary INEC would recognise for the APC in the state, said that the law only allowed the commission to relate with the national chairman and national secretary when it pertained to party primaries.
“INEC does not deal with state branches of political parties in matters relating to or connected with the conduct of party primaries. Section 85(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) makes it mandatory for political parties intending to nominate candidates for elective offices to give the commission 21 days’ notice of its intention to conduct party primaries.
“In our rules and regulations, the letter to this effect is signed by the national chairman and national secretary of political parties indicating the date, time and venue for the conduct of party primaries and the mode of the primaries.
“The mode of primaries to be adopted by political parties is a function of their constitution, the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and the regulations and guidelines issued by INEC. So, we don’t have business with state branches of political parties because our rules, regulations and laws say we should relate with the national chairman and the national secretary in terms of fixing party primaries, whether direct or indirect,” Okoye had said.
While speaking on the outcome of the Tuesday’s management meeting, he added,
“As we prepare for the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, we appeal to political parties sponsoring candidates and participating in the Edo and Ondo (slated for 10th October 2020) governorship elections to eschew violence and conduct their activities in the best traditions of electoral democracy.”
Of the 18 registered parties, the Accord (A), Action Alliance (AA) and the Boot Party (BP) are the parties not listed by INEC to have indicated interest to organise party primaries to contest the Edo election.
While the APC has the direct primaries mode to select its candidate for the Edo election, the other 14 parties have endorsed the indirect primaries. They are the African Action Congress (AAC), African Democratic Congress (ADC), Action Democratic Party (ADP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Allied People’s Movement (APM), Action People’s Party (APP), Labour Party (LP) and New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). The rest are the National Rescue Movement (NRM), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Young Progressive Party (YPP) and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
The commission appeals to the various parties to conduct their primaries in full compliance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and Electoral Act 2010 (as amended); Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Political Party Primaries (2018) and the INEC Police COVID-19 Pandemic of 21st May 2020.
“Conducting Elections in the context of political parties must shun all acts capable of breaching the peace and unsettling the peace and order of the state and jeopardising the health and safety of party members, election officials and observers.”
Governor Obaseki through his media aide, Crusoe Osagie, said INEC only approved the mode of primary Oshiomhole requested for.
“Right now, there is a restraining order on APC, Oshiomhole and all the other agencies from carrying out any activity relating to the primary in the state pending the determination of the substantive suit before the Court,”
He said aside the Court order, there is a regulation monitoring the activities due to COVID-19 in Nigeria and Edo state, which prevents anybody to carry out activities that are similar to direct primary election in the state.
According to him, other parties have complied and it is expected that the APC should complied too, adding ‘there is an order on ground preventing people from gathering in all the local governments and 192 wards of the state for the purpose of direct primary.
Also speaking, the factional chairman of the Governor Obaseki’s faction, said there is a court order that restrains anybody from conducting primary in the state.
He noted that it is not INEC that conducts the primary election but the party.
On his part, the chairman of Oshiomhole’s faction David Imuse, said it is the party that has decided on direct primary election and that nobody can change that.