By Innocent Anaba, Clifford Ndujihe, Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Henry Ojelu & Joseph Erunke
POLITICAL parties are at daggers drawn with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, over resumption of campaigns for the Presidential and National Assembly polls, which the commission postponed last Saturday to February 23.
INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, at a press conference on Saturday, where he explained reasons for postponing the polls, said campaigns and collection of Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs remained closed.
However, the parties are insisting on resuming campaigns, citing Section 99 of the Electoral Act which allows them to campaign up till 24 hours before the polling day.
The position of the political parties, led by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC; main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; and the Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, enjoys the backing of many lawyers, who spoke on the issue in chats with Vanguard.
Lawyers, who kicked against the INEC’s directive included Mr. Femi Falana, SAN; former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Dr Olisa Ogbakoba, SAN; Mr. Sebastine Hon, SAN; Mr. Abiodun Owonikoko, SAN; Mr Ebu Olu-Adegboruwa; former Secretary General of NBA, Nimi Walson Jack; and Mr Israel Mbaebie.
However, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, the chief press secretary to the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu, told Vanguard, last night that ‘the commission will meet tomorrow (today) and take a decision on the matter.’’
APC, PDP vow to continue campaigns
Nigeria’s two main political parties, APC and PDP vowed to proceed with their campaigns, despite the INEC’s directive.
National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, said it was impossible for his party to stop campaigns a week before the election.
He said election guidelines clearly stated that all campaigns be suspended 24 hours to an election. He said everyone was aware of the law, hence, his party would resume campaign.
“INEC cannot go contrary to what the law says. Everyone knows that campaigns can only be suspended 24 hours to an election, I will continue with campaigns on Sunday because if we don’t campaign, people will not come out and vote.
“We will tell the people what happened has happened. Let them come out and vote for the president. For one week, if we didn’t talk people will forget, we will campaign,” he said in a BBC Hausa programme yesterday.
Also, a campaign director of Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, said on the same programme that since the election had been postponed, parties and candidates should be allowed to continue with campaigns.
He advised INEC to ensure the elections were not postponed again.
“All the stakeholders, including INEC and the international observers, are not happy with the postponement, for whatever reason they have postponed the election, and I hope that they will not do that again.
“From now to one week, there is no reason we will suspend the campaign because the law clearly states that campaigns should be suspended 24 hours to an election.
‘’Nobody ordered them to postpone the election. Now that they postponed the election, we will have the chance to go and campaign,’’ Kwankwaso said.
Resume campaigns, CUPP directs member parties
On its part, the CUPP said it would resume campaign tomorrow (Monday) and asked its 51 member- parties to “return to the campaigns fields and recommence campaigns” immediately.
In a statement by its Spokesman,Ikenga Ugochinyere, the CUPP said: “It is wrong to expect that political parties will stop campaigns on February 14 for polls that will open on February 23.”
Citing Section 99(1) of the Electoral Act which it noted, “provides that public campaigns shall end 24 hours prior to the day of Polling”, CUPP insisted that political parties under its fold will reopen “campaign on Monday (today) and end by midnight of Thursday 21st February, 2019 as required by Law.’’
It said: “Campaigning until 24 hours prior to the day of polling is a statutory right of parties and cannot be taken away, curtailed or abridged by any executive fiat. INEC cannot on its own accord limit the period of campaigns as it is regulated by law.
“Member parties are hereby directed to continue campaigns from tomorrow (today) and focus on voter re-mobilization and ensure that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is elected and declared winner of the presidential election.”