Published February 18, 2019 Politics (The Punch)
Political parties participating in the 2019 general elections have said they will not obey the directive of the Independent National Electoral Commission that they should stop campaigns after the postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections on Saturday morning.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had on Saturday while giving reasons for the postponement of the elections, said campaigns had ended on Thursday.
But the All Progressives Congress, the Peoples Democratic Party and the Coalition of United Political Parties, on Sunday said they would never obey the order, saying that they would continue their campaigns.
We will continue our campaigns – APC, PDP
A report by the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation, monitored in Kano, on Sunday, quoted the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole and a Director in the Atiku Campaign Organisation, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso as saying the electoral laws allowed for campaigns to go on until 24 hours before polls.
Kwankwaso said, “Nobody asked that the elections should be delayed. So, since the elections have been postponed, they (INEC) should allow everybody to campaign.
“Everybody knows that what the electoral law says is that campaigns can continue until 24 hours to the elections so, since the elections have been postponed by one week, political parties should continue with their campaigns.”
Kwankwaso, who said he was certain nobody was happy with INEC’s decision to postpone the elections, prayed that such would not repeat itself on Saturday.
To give fillip to its position, the PDP on Sunday said it took the decision to re-open its campaigns after due consideration of the provision of the Electoral Act.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement, said the PDP rejected what he called the wrongful administrative prohibition of open campaigns by INEC.
He said, “Our position is predicated on the clear provision of Section 99 (1) of the Electoral Act, which stipulated that “for the purposes of this Act, the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day.
“The clear import of this provision, in the current situation, is that given the postponement of the elections to February 23, the 24 hours requirement for closure of all public campaigns falls on the midnight of February 21.”
The BBC reported that Oshiomhole said the electoral law allowed for campaigns until 24 hours before the commencement of polls.
He said, “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 (yesterday) 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 (Muhammadu Buhari). For one week, if we don’t talk, people will forget; we will campaign.”
CUPP asks opposition parties to resume campaigns for Atiku
On its part, the CUPP asked its members to shun INEC’s directive and resume campaigns ahead of the Saturday’s elections.
CUPP, in a statement by its national spokesman, Imo Ugochinyere, also said Yakubu’s position was unconstitutional.
He argued that since the presidential election had been moved to Saturday, political parties were at liberty to resume campaigns till midnight on Thursday.
Ugochinyere, therefore, asked members of CUPP to resume campaigns from Sunday (yesterday) and mobilise voters for the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
We will take final position on electioneering today – INEC
But reacting to the parties’ defiance to the commission’s order, INEC said it would take a final decision on whether or not political parties could resume campaigns for the elections on Monday (today).
The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, who disclosed this in an interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday, said the meeting of the commission’s management would determine whether the electoral body would shift its ground on its earlier decision on campaigns or not.
Oyekanmi in the interview with The PUNCH said, “On the issue of campaigns, the commission will meet tomorrow (Monday) and take a decision on the matter. On the issue of Zamfara State APC candidates appearing on the ballot papers, I have no comments on that at the moment.”
Falana faults INEC on campaign ban
However, a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), called for the unbundling of INEC. This, he said, would have averted the last-minute postponement of the elections originally scheduled to hold last Saturday.
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Falana, in a statement he issued in the aftermath of the rescheduling of the polls, also criticised INEC’s decision to stop campaigns by parties.
He said political parties were by Section 99 of the Electoral Act allowed to campaign up till 24 hours to the new date of elections.
According to him, with the delay of the elections by one week, political parties’ campaign period had changed and would only end 24 hours to the elections.
Falana stated, “Meanwhile, INEC which has delayed the general elections by seven days is alleged to have turned round to ban political parties and their candidates from further campaigning for votes.
“With due respect, INEC has not paid attention to Section 99 of the Electoral Act which provides that the period of campaigning in public by political parties shall end 24 hours before polling day.
“Since elections have been delayed, the period of campaign has also changed and will end 24 hours to the new polling day. Therefore, the limitation of campaign imposed by INEC should be reversed without any delay.”
Falana quoted Section 26 of the Electoral Act as saying, “an election may be postponed if a serious breach of peace or violence is likely to occur or on account of natural disaster or other emergencies.” He said the postponement of the elections on account of logistical or operational reasons was unjustifiable.
He added that the APC and the PDP should share in the blame for the postponement due to their acts of imposition of candidates, which he said, led to court orders changing the candidates of parties on election eve.
INEC has legal powers to postpone any election – Umeh
However, the Senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial district, Chief Victor Umeh, said INEC had powers under the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act to postpone elections.
He said, “We are not happy that the elections are postponed at the wee hours of Saturday because we had prepared and mobilised the electorate only for the elections to be postponed.
“But INEC is the umpire charged by the constitution to conduct elections and the constitution and the Electoral Act give INEC the powers to postpone elections for good and verifiable reasons.”
He called for calm over the postponement.
Umeh, who described the poll delay as painful and sad, said Nigerians should bear with the commission.
Sue INEC, CASER urges Nigerians
But the Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights has urged Nigerians who suffered unduly as a result of the postponement to sue INEC.
The Executive Director, CASER, Frank Tietie, in a statement on Sunday also said whether or not INEC postponed the elections in the national interest was immaterial to any Nigerian who suffered any financial loss or experienced undue hardship because of the postponement.
He explained that the goal of such legal redress was to teach INEC a lesson.
FG forced INEC to postpone elections, says Wike
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, said contrary to excuses being fed Nigerians, the Federal Government pressured the INEC chairman to postpone the elections.
Wike, who made these remarks in a statement issued in Port Harcourt on Sunday, said he was sure that Nigerians were shocked to note that despite the assurances from the commission, the elections were postponed.
The governor alleged that the Federal Government had sensed that it was going to lose the February 16, 2019 elections, adding that it allegedly ordered the commission to begin a process of staggering the elections.
This, Wike said, would be done by postponing elections in Rivers and other strategic states including Lagos, Akwa Ibom and Kwara to other dates.
INEC decision is better for Nigerians – Ondo Rep
But a member of the House of Representatives from Ondo State, Mr Bamidele Baderinwa, urged the electorate not to be discouraged by the decision of the electoral commission.
Baderinwa, who represents the Idanre/Ifedore Federal Constituency of Ondo State, spoke with journalists on the postponement of the elections in Akure, the state capital on Sunday.
Isiaka chides INEC
However, the governorship candidate of the African Democratic Congress in Ogun State, Gboyega Isiaka, described the last-minute postponement as unfortunate and most condemnable.
The governorship candidate stated this in a statement released by the Director of Media and Publicity, Gboyega Nasir Isiaka Campaign Organisation, Bolaji Adeniji.
Poll delay shows INEC can be irresponsible – Ex-Senate leader
Also, a former Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin, said the last-minute postponement of the elections was a sign of irresponsibility on the part of INEC.
The two-time senator said in a saner society, the unfortunate development would have forced the INEC chairman to resign without being asked to do so.
Teslim, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, stated that the hasty postponement was an international embarrassment.
INEC only postponed Buhari’s defeat date – S’East PDP
In the same vein, the South-East chapter of the PDP said that INEC only postponed the electoral doomsday of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The main opposition party in a statement issued by its Publicity Secretary in the geopolitical zone, Chijioke Ekwegh, said the country was united in voting Buhari out of power.
The statement read, “That the last-minute postponement of the presidential and National Assembly polls by INEC is an indication that the APC-led Federal Government has failed woefully.
“That the last-gasp postponement is an indication that the electoral umpire is under pressure and doing the bidding of the APC just to rig the elections in favour of the unpopular President Muhammadu Buhari.”
Abia APGA accuses PDP of plans to rig elections
However, the Abia State Chapter of the All Progressive Grand Alliance has accused the PDP of plotting to rig the postponed elections.
The state chairman of APGA, Rev. Augustine Ehiemere, made the accusation in a statement on Sunday in Umuahia, the state capital.
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Ehiemere, whose address was presented by the Deputy Chairman of the party, Chima Onyekwere, said the party in the state received the postponement with shock and great disappointment.
While recounting the losses recorded as a result of the postponement of the elections, the APGA chieftain said the attention of the party was drawn to an alleged plan by the PDP to rig the postponed elections.
AU council cautions against blame game
But the African Union’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council has cautioned politicians and stakeholders to stop the blame game caused by the postponement of the elections.
It also charged INEC to set a global standard with the February 23, 2019 polls, adding that voters must not be discouraged as a result of the one-week postponement.
The council urged Nigerians to be calm, exercise restraint and support INEC in discharging the responsibility of conducting free, fair and credible elections.
The AU-ECOSOCC disclosed this in an e-mail its Nigeria Chapter Representative, John Oba, sent to one of our correspondents in reaction to the postponement.
It said, “We have read with concern several insinuations and blame game in the media on the postponement and wish to caution that all stakeholders should exercise restraint and rather channel their efforts into assisting the commission to organise credible polls.
“We must all understand that our words at this time will go a long way to either make or break the process and endanger the peace of Nigeria and Africa at large. Stakeholders must therefore watch against comments that may hamper the process.”