BY HENRY UMORU , IKECHUKWU INOCHIRI & BEN AGANDE
ABUJA—LEADERS of the 63 political parties were literarily in a rat-race, yesterday, to beat the January 31 deadline of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for the submission of list of their candidates for the April polls.
However, the exercise was not devoid of heartaches for a number of leading politicians especially in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, whose hopes or those of their followers were dashed and a flurry of late court injunctions restraining the parties from fielding some candidates flew across the political atmosphere.
This came as a Federal High Court in Abuja stopped the PDP from submitting the name of Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime, as a candidate and the INEC prepared the stage for a legal tussle by insisting that it would reject candidates who emerged from primaries conducted after the January 15 deadline for congresses and primaries.
Indeed, the PDP dashed the hopes of the Chairman of its Board of Trustees, BoT, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, by not submitting the names Ogun PDP candidates from his camp to the electoral body.
Obasanjo’s candidate for Ogun State governorship election, Gen Tunji Olurin, did not make the list, just as the PDP submitted the name of Gboyega Isiaka, a candidate backed by the Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel.
The PDP also submitted the name of Jumoke Akinjide Balogun (daughter of the former Justice Minister and Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Richard Akinjide) for Oyo Central Senatorial and that of Senator Smart Adeyemi who contested the Kogi East Senatorial District.
Jibril Isah Ochecho of Kogi and Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano also made the list as well as all the PDP governors returning for the second time. The PDP also submitted the name of its Presidential candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan, and his running mate, Architect Namadi Sambo.
Meanwhile, INEC rejected PDP’s lists from Oyo and Anambra States because it did not supervise the primaries.
PDP NWC in marathon meeting
The party’s National Working Committee, NWC, was in a marathon meeting to brainstorm on the prepared list by the office of the National Organising Secretary, Prince Uche Secondus before its final submission to INEC. Vanguard gathered that the NEC meeting was designed to resolve knotty issues on the candidates’ list.
They rose from the meeting at 5.15 pm and proceeded to INEC National Headquarters in Maitama with the list and attached documents on each of the candidates.
Secondus led the PDP team to INEC accompanied by the party’s National Legal Adviser, Chief Olusola Oke and other supporting staff of the party.
On the names of those fielded, Vanguard gathered that the daughter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Iyabo, did not make the list, against the backdrop that the senatorial district she contested for was won by Mrs. Lola Abiola_Edewor, a former member of the House of Representatives.
Shortly before the PDP officials left for INEC office, some protesters from Kogi East had stormed the office to complain against the submission of Smart Adeyemi as the candidate for Kogi West Senatorial District.
Meanwhile, the senator representing Bayelsa East Senatorial District, Senator Nimi Amange Barigha, yesterday, obtained a court injunction to restraining the PDP from submitting the name of his opponent in the PDP primary for Bayelsa East Senatorial District, Hon Clever Ikisipo to INEC instead.
In the suit no: FHC/ABJ/CS/99/2011 and filed in an Abuja High Court, Amange also prayed that Hon Ikisipo be restrained from parading himself as the PDP Senatorial candidate for Bayelsa East Senatorial District pending the determination of the suit.
Protests in Kogi West
Protesters from Kogi West had complained at the National Secretariat that the PDP re_ordered Primary did not hold in the Senatorial District, alleging that Senator Adeyemi had masterminded the stalemate in connivance with some PDP officials who eventually ensured that his name was submitted.
However, Adeyemi countered that he truly won the primary based on his popularity, his work and commitment he made to the electorate in the state.
He said: “When you are passionate about the well being of your people particularly the less privileged, you will always receive the blessings of God. I am not in doubt that I have not betrayed the mandate of the people. From the beginning,
I knew I will win my election and if I will have problem, the problem will not be because the people are not appreciative. It may be that the powers that be do not want me. But if I equally have the mercy of God, I will still triumph at the end of the day.”
Speaking with Vanguard, the National Publicity of PDP, Prof. Rufai Ahmed Alkali said that the PDP had no problem with the list it submitted to INEC because it did everything to ensure that the primaries were conducted and addressed all complaints that arose from the primaries it conducted across the country.
According to him, there was a level playing ground for every aspirant to participate in the primaries and the leadership of the party have attended to all the complaints raised by aspirants.
No way for candidates of late primaries – INEC
However, the INEC reiterated its decision to shut out candidates of primaries conducted after January
The declaration came in an interview with the Commission’s director in charge of Political Party Monitoring and Liaison, Ms Regina Omo_Agege.
Her words: “The result of any primaries conducted after the January 15 deadline is unacceptable to the commission and it would not accept the names of such candidates. Section 153 of the Constitution gives the INEC, powers to make bye laws for its operations. So if we make the law arising from a legal requirement, it is law. It is the law. We are acting within the law.
“INEC derives its powers from the Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010 as amended so whatever comes out of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Electoral Act 2010 is law. If the Act says you can do this and we do it, we are acting within the law. So far, INEC is acting within the law.”
She stated that before the primaries were conducted, the “commission had made its stand known that any primary conducted outside the time frame is unacceptable.”
Omo_Agege continued: “We gave a time table of activities for the primaries and the primaries were supposed to have been conducted latest by January 15, 2011. Any result from a primary that does not fall within this time frame is not acceptable to the commission. Only candidates from political parties that have done the primaries and if the primaries were validly conducted within the times specified would be accepted by the commission which had monitored the primaries of all political parties.”
She dismissed insinuation that the PDP, which had actually dared the commission on the matter, could pressure it into changing its position. “They know better that they need to abide by the law. If there is a regulatory body and you are a law abiding political party, are you not supposed to obey the law? If INEC says the deadline is January 31, are you not supposed to comply? Why would the ruling party pressurize INEC to change its position? INEC is an independent body and the ruling party knows it better, that they should play according to the rules.”
Vanguard, however, gathered that officials of the commission had come under pressure from politicians in the last few days to change certain rules to allow for their preferred candidates to be accommodated.
A member of the House of Representatives who won a senatorial seat in Kogi State was sited at the office of Director of Political Monitoring and Liaison but when journalists entered her office, the politician quickly moved out.
Court stops Chime, Ikisipo
In a last-minute move to stop Governor Chime, his opponents got an order restraining the PDP from submitting his name as its Enugu guber candidate pending the hearing and determination of a suit challenging the legality of his nomination.
Sequel to an ex_parte application filed by Dr Alex Aigbe Izinyon, SAN, on behalf of a PDP gubernatorial aspirant in the state, Engr. Anayo Onwegbu and 38 other aspirants, the High Court equally issued an interim order restraining the INEC from accepting or validating Chime’s name as the party’s flag_bearer for the scheduled gubernatorial polls in Enugu State.
The court further halted the electoral body from acting upon any list of nominees for the various levels of political offices in the state, for the impending general elections, other than the list containing the names of the plaintiffs.
Justice Abdul Kafarati who issued the interim order, specifically ordered that “the 1st Defendant, PDP, is hereby restrained in interim from submitting any other names, list of names other than the names contained in the list of candidates dated January 17, 2011 which includes the Plaintiffs as the gubernatorial candidate and deputy gubernatorial candidate for Enugu State, 2011, respectively and 1st Defendants for the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly in Enugu State for submission to the 2nd Defendant , INEC, pending the determination of the Motion on Notice.”
He also held that “the 2nd Defendant, INEC, is hereby restrained in the interim from accepting, using, validating or giving any effect to any other names, list of names or candidates from the 1st Defendant other than the list of names of candidates shown in the names / letter of 17th January, 2011 which includes the names of the plaintiffs pending the determination of the Motion on Notice”.
Speaking on the issue, Olusola Oke said that the PDP was not aware of the court injunction and had in fact submitted Chime’s a week ago.
In a similar development, Justice Kafarati, also issued an order restraining the PDP from putting forward the name of Hon Clever Ikisikpo as its candidate for the Bayelsa East Senatorial District pending the determination of a suit filed by one Senator Amange Nimi Barigha.
Ruling on an ex_parte motion equally filed by Dr Iziyon, SAN, Justice Kafarati in the interim, restrained the PDP from submitting Ikisikpo’s name to INEC as its candidate for the Bayelsa East Senatorial District even as he also barred INEC from accepting or recognizing him as the party’s flag bearer for the said election.
He, however, fixed February 8, 2011, to commence hearing on the substantive suits.