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PDP kicks as INEC asks APC to replace Audu

ABUJA—The Independent National Electoral
Commission, INEC, yesterday, invited the All
Progressives Congress, APC, to forward a
replacement for Prince Abubakar Audu, its dead
candidate in the inconclusive Kogi State
governorship election, thereby throwing up fresh
legal and political firestorm in the state.
The INEC decision followed a pronouncement to
that effect by the Minister of Justice, Mallam
Abubakar Malami. While the APC welcomed the
decision, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party,
PDP demanded Malami’s resignation as it
described the decision as an affront to democracy
laced with mines to torpedo the democratic choice
of the people in Kogi State.
Meanwhile, APC, ahead of the December 5
supplementary polls to conclude the governorship
election, has proposed fresh primaries to throw up
a replacement for late Audu. At press time,
yesterday, the APC hierarchy in Abuja and Lokoja
were still undecided on the mode of the potential
primary contest.
There was also a cloud on whether it would be
restricted to only those who bought the initial
forms or opened up to new entrants, a possibility
that could draw in Audu’s running mate, Rep.
James Faleke and Alhaji Isah Jibrin Echocho who
recently defected from the PDP after a stormy
political battle with the incumbent governor,
Captain Idris Wada.
The seeming constitutional crisis in Kogi State was
opened after last Saturday’s governorship election
was declared inconclusive upon the fact that the
difference in votes between the late Audu and
Wada was smaller than the number of registered
voters in the 91 polling units where the votes were
cancelled. Audu died Sunday before the election
could be concluded, throwing up a legal storm on
the fate of the election.
Justice Minister on Kogi election
Malami, speaking at a seminar organised by the
Nigerian Law Reform Commission on the reform of
the National Environmental Standards and
Regulation Enforcement Agency (Establishment)
Act , said the Kogi gubernatorial election must be
concluded within the next 14 days.
Specifically, the AGF said his position on the matter
was fortified by a combined reading and
application of Section 221 of the 1999 Constitution
and Section 33 of the Electoral Act.
However, he failed to state whether or not the
deputy governorship candidate of the APC, Mr.
Abiodun Faleke, should be the proper person to
replace Audu for the purpose of the run-off poll.
He said: “The issue is very straightforward.
Fundamentally, Section 33 of the Electoral Act is
very clear that in case of death, the right for
substitution by a political party is sustained by the
provisions of Section 33 of the Electoral Act.
“And if you have a community reading of that
section with Section 221 of the constitution it
clearly indicates that the right to vote is the right of
a political party and the party, in this case, the APC
has participated in the conduct of the election. It is,
therefore, apparent that the combined community
reading of the two provisions does not leave any
room for conjecture.
“APC as a party is entitled to substitution by the
clear provisions of Section 33 of the Electoral Act.
Also, Section 221 of the Constitution is clear that
the votes cast were cast in favour of the APC.
“Arising from that deduction, it does not require
any legal interpretation. The interpretation is clear,
APC will substitute, which right has been sustained
by Section 33 of the Electoral Act. So be it.
“The supplementary election has to be conducted
along the line”, the AGF added.
Weighing in on the way forward following its
acknowledgment of a notice from the APC on the
death of Audu, INEC in a statement issued by the
secretary of the commission, Augusta Ogakwu, put
all the political parties on notice that the
supplementary polls would hold on December 5.
She added that the APC has also been offered a
window of opportunity to pick a new candidate for
the exercise.
The statement reads: “The Independent National
Electoral Commission, INEC, conducted
governorship election in Kogi State on 21st
November 2015, which was declared inconclusive.
“On November 23, 2015, the All Progressives
Congress, APC, notified the commission of the
death of its governorship candidate in the election,
Prince Abubakar Audu.
“The commission has after due consideration of
the circumstances, decided as follows: To conclude
the process by conducting election in the 91
affected polling units as announced by the
Returning Officer;
“To allow the All Progressives Congress to fill the
vacancy created by the death of its candidate;
“To conduct the supplementary election on
December 5, 2015.
“Accordingly, notice is hereby given to all the 22
political parties participating in the Kogi
Governorship Election that supplementary election
in the 91 affected Polling Units shall hold on
December 5, 2015”.
PDP slams INEC, AGF
The INEC statement was immediately strongly
condemned by the PDP.
Immediately INEC issued the statement senior
officials of the party in Lokoja huddled into a
meeting to review the situation. At the end of their
meeting, yesterday evening, party leaders refused
to comment, saying the party in Abuja would speak
for them.
The party, reacting through its National Publicity
Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh in a statement issued
in Abuja demanded the resignation of Malami as
Minister of Justice and Prof. Mahmud Yakubu as
INEC chairman as the party alleged a conspiracy
between the two to derail the democratic
enterprise.
“The party is shocked that INEC, a supposedly
independent electoral umpire could allow itself to
succumb to the antics of the APC by following the
unlawful directive of an obviously partisan AGF to
substitute a candidate in the middle of the ballot
process.
We are all aware that the two legal documents
guiding INEC in the conduct of elections; the
Constitution and the Electoral Act, have provisions
for electoral exigencies as well as empower the
electoral body to fully take responsibility for any of
its actions or inaction without undue interference
from any quarters whatsoever.
“We are, therefore, at a loss as to which sections of
these two relevant laws, INEC and the AGF relied
on in arriving at their bizarre decision to substitute
a dead candidate in an on-going election even after
the timelines for such has elapsed under all the
rules.
INEC as a statutory body has the full complements
of technical hands in its legal department to advise
it appropriately and we wonder why it had to wait
for directives from the AGF, an external party, if
not for partisan and subjective interest.
Consequently, the PDP rejects in its entirety, this
brazen move by the APC and INEC to circumvent
the laws and ambush the yet-to-be concluded
election by introducing a practice that is
completely alien to the constitution and the
electoral act.
“The clear implication of this action of the AGF and
INEC is that the APC would be fielding two different
governorship candidates in the on-going Kogi
election, meaning that INEC would be transferring
votes cast for late Prince Abubakar Audu to
another candidate, scenarios that have no place in
the constitution of the land.
“Whereas the PDP, in honour of the sanctity of
human life and respect for the dead, had since
Sunday refrained from making comments on the
conduct of the election, we can no longer maintain
such in the face of the bare-faced attack on our
democracy.
“This INEC under the leadership of Prof. Mahmood
Yakubu has shown itself as partisan, morally
bankrupt and obviously incapable of conducting a
credible election within our laws.
“In view of the foregoing, therefore, the PDP
demands an immediate resignation of the INEC
chairman, as the nation’s democracy cannot afford
to be left in the hands of an electoral umpire that
cannot exert its independence and the sanctity of
the electoral process.
“In view of the developments regarding Kogi
Governorship election, the National Working
Committee of the PDP has summoned an
emergency National Caucus meeting of the party
on Wednesday, November 25, 2015 (today), to take
a decision on this obvious threat to our
democracy.
APC welcomes development
The APC on its part, however, welcomed the
development even as it proposed a primary among
interested contestants as a replacement for Audu.
It was learned, last night, that the APC National
Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, met behind
closed doors with some of the aspirants who
participated in the previous primaries yesterday.
Audu’s running mate in the election was also
invited to the meeting.
Speaking to newsmen yesterday, Odigie-Oyegun
said: “We lost our candidate for the election in Kogi
State on Sunday and since then, we have
concentrated as a party on paying him the right
respect that is due to a man of his calibre. Let me
take this opportunity to express the very sincere
condolence of the entire party nationwide to the
family of Prince Abubakar Audu and to the people
of Kogi State who have just gone through the
rigours of an election, indicated their preference
for Prince Abubakar Audu, only to lose him at the
very moment of victory. We were represented at
the funeral by almost the entire executive and that
is now behind us. Now, matters of state must now
come back to the fore.
“I want to underscore the fact that INEC is also
apparently in agreement with the views of the
Attorney-General because we have already
received a letter from them formally asking us to
find a replacement for the vacancy that has been
created by the passing on of Prince Abubakar
Audu, and that is what will now engage the APC
from this moment on.”
Asked when the primary election was expected to
hold, the chairman said all that was a matter of
discussion with the party stakeholders
“We just got notification from INEC today. So, we
will go into an emergency session to work out the
modalities and nature of the primary. We are told
that the supplementary election will be on
December 5. When that will be or who will be is a
matter of details. But it is going to be the
preference of the electors and we will respect that.
We are a democratic, law abiding party, and we are
going to proceed accordingly.”
On the fate of Audu’s running mate, Faleke, Odigie-
Oyegun decided that it was incumbent on the
people to decide whether he would join in the
primaries.
“I said it will be the preference of the electors on
who the candidate that will replace Prince
Abubakar Audu will be”, he said.
On a similar stance, the national chairman also
refused to give details on whether it would sell
fresh expression of interest forms or work with the
former aspirants of the ticket.
Meanwhile, it emerged, yesterday, that Alhaji
Echocho, who crossed over to the APC from the
PDP after a futile bid to take the governorship
ticket from Wada, was inclining into the contest.
Echocho had reportedly been backed by Senator
Smart Adeyemi in the PDP primary and failing
which, his supporters and those of Senator
Adeyemi collaborated in the election to fight Wada.
On whether such new entrants would be allowed
into the APC contest, Odigie-Oyegun was yet
undecided saying: “So, we are going to do
everything as straightforward and simple, but
clearly above board in maintaining due process as
much as possible. I cannot give you that answer
now because we just got indication of the clear
direction from INEC within the last few hours.”
The INEC stance on a fresh election was also flayed
by the Progressive Peoples Congress.
Speaking to Vanguard, the Kogi State Chairman of
the party, Mr. Simeon Ojonuba said the electoral
body erred by arrogating importance to illegality.
He said the party was prepared to contest the
position of INEC in a competent court of
jurisprudence if the commission fails to retrace its
steps on the matter.
Ojonuba accused the electoral body of acting the
script of a political party, saying the party would
only favour an outright cancellation and rerun.

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