The Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts has advised the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure that political parties do not substitute names of duly elected candidates in the just concluded primaries with people that did not participate in the process.
It also tasked the electoral body to ensure that its actions are guided by the Electoral Act to avoid external manipulations by anti-democratic elements.
The group’s position contained in a statement issued yesterday by its Director, Dr. Sam Amadi, came on the heels of the controversy surrounding the submission of the name of the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan and the former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, which appeared on INEC portals as senatorial candidates of the party when they were said not to have participated in the elections that produced the party’s candidates
The group contended that for anyone to emerge as a candidate based on the provisions of the Electoral Act, the person must have participated in a primary election.
It said an aspirant must have purchased the expression of interest form for the senatorial election and be swcreened, adding that by the provisions of Section 33 of the 2022 Electoral Act, a political party cannot remove or substitute a candidate that emerged from a valid primary.
Besides, the person must be on the list of contestants sent by a political party to INEC and must have participated in the senatorial election on the 27th of May when the election was conducted.
The statement read in part: “With the conclusion of the elective primaries of the parties and the close of deadline for submission of the candidates for federal elections based on the guidelines issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the process for the 2023 General Elections in Nigeria has commenced in earnest.
“The Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts has watched the process of the elective primaries of the parties and is satisfied with the considerable compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.
“We want to commend INEC for exercising its oversight functions in a manner that forced the parties to comply with the requirement of democratically electing candidates for elective offices in the 2023 General Elections. Without INEC oversight, many of the parties would have continued the tradition of violating the norms of democracy in the choice of their candidates.
“As an intellectual and policy thinktank committed to providing insights and evidence-based analyses to assist state institutions to deliver on their mandates, the Abuja School is alarmed at the efforts of some politicians and party leaders to undermine the provisions of the electoral law as regards submission of nominated candidates to INEC.
“It is being reported that some high-profile politicians who did not win INEC- monitored primaries of their parities are being submitted by their party leaders, in clear violation of the provisions of the electoral law.
“Two notable cases are those of the President of the Senate and the former Minister of Niger Delta Affair, who contested for the APC Presidential Primary and lost, but are making frantic efforts to regain senate seats from the winners of the primaries.
“The winners of the duly conducted primaries have refused to give up their tickets. Notwithstanding, the party reportedly has uploaded the Senate President and the Minister of Niger Delta as senatorial candidates, although they did not participate in a valid primary.
“Submitting names of persons who did not win duly conducted primaries on INEC portals is contrary to the electoral law. The electoral law requires that only persons who won duly conducted primaries should be submitted as candidates.
“It is INEC that determines what is a duly conducted primary, based on its guidelines and the electoral law. The practice in the past where INEC allowed parties to make wrong and fraudulent entries and hoped that the courts will reverse them has gone with the new Electoral Act which now empowers INEC to reverse such fraudulent and wrong actions by the parties.
“Section 84 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 provides that “A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Act shall hold primaries for the aspirants to all elective positions which shall be monitored by the Commission”.
“Section 84 (13) of the Act further provides that “Where a political party fails to comply with the provisions of this Act in the conduct of its primary, its candidates for election shall not be included in elections for the particular position in issue”.
“These provisions and others in the Electoral Act aim to ensure that only candidates who win duly conducted primaries are presented for elections. Unlike in previous electoral law, the new law authorizes INEC to disqualify candidates who did not emerge from a duly conducted primary which INEC monitored.
“In the context of the new electoral law and the wrong submissions the parties are making in these notable instances, the questions Nigerians ask are (1) whether INEC will gamble with its integrity by accepting from political parties names of persons that did not emerge from valid primary monitored by INEC, (2) whether INEC will compromise and ignore the report of its monitoring team about those candidates that emerged from validly conducted primaries across the 36 states; (3) whether INEC will act like a real regulator and exercise its power to sanction parties that violate the electoral law and reject fraudulent and false submissions from the parties; and (4) whether INEC will succumb and accept high profile persons who did not emerge from validly conducted primaries.
“We call on INEC to discharge its regulatory obligation by rejecting every submission of names of persons who did not emerge from valid primary elections as candidates for elective offices in the 2023 General Elections.”