2019: Any hope for APC in Zamfara?
Barely two weeks to the general election when political parties are crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s to cruise to victory in all states of the Federation, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) hope to win Zamfara State is almost dashed.
This is as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has maintained its firm stand on not accepting APC candidates for the state despite legal fireworks, hence no candidate has been featured there on the final lists released for National Assembly, Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections.
Recalled that INEC had rejected APC candidates from Zamfara on account of non-compliance with the October 7, 2018 deadline for the conduct of party primaries.
The Commission in a letter dated October 10, 2018 to APC titled: “Failure to Conduct Party Primaries in Zamfara State within the Stipulated Time Frame”, said it is not expecting any list of candidates from the party from Zamfara State.
The letter read, “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 via your letter Ref. APC/NHDQ/ INEC/19/18/51 dated 3rd Oct. 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. Based on the provisions of
Section 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), the commission does not expect that your party will submit names of any candidates from Zamfara State.
“For clarity, our position 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 for the general election”.
In a swift reaction, Adams Oshiomhole in a letter also dated October 10, 2018 disagreed with INEC that APC conducted primaries in Zamfara and prevailed on the Commission to capture party’s candidates for the 2019 for the 2019 polls.
Oshiomhole explained that, 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 mobilised 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, he said.
The Zamfara APC primaries were shrouded in controversies arising from face – off amobg Governor Abdulraziz Yari, Mansur Ali, Minister of Defence as well as Kabiru Marafa, Zamfara Central Senator factions and the Governor allegedly hijacked the primaries in which he secured Senatorial ticket and all his anointed candidates.
While APC was said to be surreptitiously making overtures to INEC to accept its candidates from Zamfara, the Commission true to its position, released first and final lists of National Assembly candidates without those from the State and the same thing applied in the first list for Governorship and
State Houses of Assembly candidates.
Unfortunately, however, as INEC was preparing to release the final list for Governorship and State Houses of Assembly candidates, two conflicting
judgments were passed by High Courts in Gusau and Federal Capital Territory, FCT on APC primaries in Zamfara.
A High Court sitting in Gusau, Zamfara State presided by Justice Muhammad Shinkafi ruled that APC actually conducted primaries in the state and should be allowed to present candidates for the electoral contest, and directed INEC to accept candidates from the party for Zamfara State in the
Forth coming elections.
But a Federal High Court in Abuja, presided by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu ruled otherwise that INEC acted within its powers by refusing to accept the list
of candidates from the Zamfara State chapter of the APC as it was not the fault of INEC that APC failed to conduct a valid primary within the period scheduled by the electoral body.
Consequently, Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education in a statement at the end of a management
meeting last Wednesday said the Commission, “maintained 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”.
According to the statement, “the Commission reviewed the situation concerning the All Progressives Congress (APC) fielding candidates for the Governorship and State Assembly elections in Zamfara State. Commission noted that there are 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 judgment 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”.
Be that as it may, APC is hopeful that there are available legal means it will exploit to ensure that the party’s candidates from Zamfara contest the soon to be held polls.
Lanrie-Issa Onilu, APC National Publicity Secretary maintained that, “we heard INEC is relying on the fact that courts of equal jurisdiction have
given conflicting judgments. We can understand that. What it thus means is that it is not over and 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.
“It also shows for people who are discerning to ask that question, is 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”.
Meanwhile, the two Boxers in the ring, Yari and Marafa differ on the ongoing imbroglio in Zamfara as the former hailed the judgment by Zamfara
High Court which favoured him and later condemned it but praised the one by the FCT High Court which serves his purpose.
Yari told journalists that, “thank God for answering our prayers of seeking for justice. You remember sometimes in October, we have been struggling
whether there were primaries or not in Zamfara state with INEC, even though we believed that we had undergone all the processes and today, God did it once again for us by giving us victory.
“The court accepted that Zamfara APC conducted its primaries and based on the witnesses presented in court. So, we Zamfara people are happy with the
outcome and we thank the department of justice and the judges who stood on their ground to ensure that justice is granted.
“It is not too late. Some of us that were given opportunity or encouraged by the president to go and seek for justice some of them are still in court. So, this victory for today is not late. I can tell you in the entire Nigeria, Zamfara is one of the states that APC is sure of 90 percent”.
“There are two judgments; one party has gone to court here in Abuja seeking that they should be given right to write names and submit to INEC and the judge said ‘what madness, what is the use of INEC?”, he stated.
Contrarily, Marafa, who argued that the verdict of the Federal High Court should be respected by INEC, described that of the Zamfara High Court as a black market judgment.
He threatened to approach the Appeal Court if INEC, which claimed to be studying the two judgments, decided to allow the APC to field candidates for the election.
According to him, “Even if it means APC loses in Zamfara State, I don’t give a damn. After all, the crisis that we are in today started with the APC itself.
“The governor (of Zamfara State) is going around whipping up sentiments that INEC should not accept the court judgment delivered in my favour because the APC would lose Zamfara if the party did not present candidates for the election”.
James Kwen, Abuja
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