January 30, 2023

Benue APC guber dispute: Youths caution against plunging state into crisis

...urges party to respect extant laws

By Peter Duru, Makurdi

The Benue Youth Forum, BYF, has cautioned the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state against acts that could breach the peace and plunge the state into crisis over its recently nullified governorship primary election.

It would be recalled that the Court of Appeal sitting in Makurdi in an appeal brought before it by an aggrieved APC governorship aspirant, Prof. Terhemba Shija, last Monday nullified the governorship primary election of the party ordering a rerun in 11 out of the 23 Local Government Areas, LGAs of the state.

The appellant has appealed the ruling which ordered the rerun and also filed a stay of execution pending the determination of the appeal by the Supreme Court.

Bothered by alleged plans by the APC to go ahead to conduct a rerun despite a pending appeal at the apex court, which might plunge the state into crisis, the BYF warned that the action could breach public peace, law and order in the state.

Addressing the media on Sunday in Makurdi, the President of BYF, Terrence Kuanum noted that the forum had in the past cautioned the APC on the noticeable lapses in its governorship primary election and it was called names.

He said “and when the party eventually held the questionable primaries and it started generating resentment among their governorship aspirants who claimed they were not aware of any primaries, we suggested that they reversed the process and do the right thing as specified by the law especially as they were still within the INEC time frame for conduct of party primaries which elapsed on June 9, 2022. Rather than commendations we received spikes from the APC only for our stand to be vindicated when the court nullified the process.

“Now that the nomination of  Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia has been nullified by the appeal court, the APC has moved on to another leg of illegality by proposing to conduct a rerun on the 1st and 2nd of February. This move is against two backdrops; first and foremost being that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, calendar for conduct of party primaries has elapsed since the June 9, 2022 and secondly, Prof. Shija has activated a process of appeal to the Supreme Court which requires maintanance of status quo ante bellum until the Apex Court delivers a final decision on the dispute and between the disputants.

“The APC must also be made aware that Section 82 of the Electoral Act, 2022 specifies that political parties must serve a notice of primaries to INEC at least 21 days before the conduct of a primary election. More so, Section 29 of the Electoral Act is explicit that the names of duly nominated candidates must be conveyed to INEC at least 180 days before election.

“As it stands, the APC is clearly warming up to again, flout the electoral act and other extant laws of the country. This is because the election is less than 60 days away and the planned rerun which is in itself another illegality is coming barely a week after the appeal court ruling which is now been further appealed to the Supreme Court.

The INEC regulations on political party primaries also makes it mandatory that upon a request, aspirants are entitled to have certified true copies of the register of party members to be used as mode of accreditation in a direct primary.

“We are aware that in spite of evidence of such request, the party has refused to make such bulky certified true copies available to the aspirants. This is a recipe for chaos as every Tom, Dick and Harry is capable of infiltrating the process and claiming to be eligible to vote.

“Stemming from the above, our main concern is that majority of the followers of the APC in Benue are youths and we can’t fold our hands and watch the party continually derail them and expose them to acts capable of causing breach of public peace, law, order and due process and causing rancour in the polity just because of the desperation of some unpopular politicians who have penchant for disobeying laws and regulations.

“We therefore reiterate our call on the APC not to cause any crisis in the state, especially as the matter is now at the Supreme Court and the windows for primaries are already closed by INEC, except in the event of death or voluntary withdrawal of a candidate like the case in Abia, where a primary shall be conducted due to the demise of a governorship candidate.”

Continuing, Kuanum said, “we also want the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, in Benue not to be dragged into the mud. We believe in the ability and professionalism of the current REC to stay faithful to extant laws governing our electoral processes.

“In this wise we therefore expect him to guide the APC properly. We also expect the National Headquarters of the INEC in Abuja which was served with relevant appeal processes respecting the proposed rerun to maintain adherence to the rule of law and fidelity with its own INEC calendar which mandates that party primaries must be conducted on or before June 9, 2022.

“We urge it to resist pressure or temptation to be caught up in the murky waters of the APC’s internal malfeasance. The best thing to do is to allow the appeal process initiated by Prof. Shija to run its full course rather than indulge the APC in more shenanigans.

“It is also imperative to warn Benue youths across the state to shun the antics of greedy and desperate politicians who would want to use them negatively for their political gains as the APC is planing to do.”

“For the people of Benue, we advise them to avoid any unlawful gathering organised by the APC in the name of rerun primaries to prevent any unforseen situation that may be potentially harmful, as we are aware of the tendency for the planned charade to become violent.

“We once again, say it loud and clear that the APC are responsible for their ordeal in Benue state and should desist from further illegalities and acts capable of causing a breach of public peace and order as that would be portraying us all as a state of people given to lawlessness.”