The All Progressives Congress has said it is preparing for a fresh governorship primary in Kogi State to elect a candidate, who will replace its candidate in the November 21 poll in the state, Prince Abubakar Audu, who died on Sunday.
The new APC candidate will participate in the supplementary governorship election in the state, which the Independent National Electoral Commission has fixed for December 5.
Audu died on Sunday shortly after INEC declared the Saturday’s governorship poll inconclusive.
In the Saturday election, the APC candidate had polled 240,867 votes, 41,353 votes higher than the Peoples Democratic Party candidate and incumbent state governor, Capt. Idris Wada (retd.), who scored 199,514 votes.
The National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie- Oyegun, said this in Abuja on Tuesday while addressing the press after an emergency meeting of the party’s National Working Committee.
Odigie-Oyegun said, “As a party, we are going to proceed with the process of organising a primary to produce a substitute candidate for the late Prince Abubakar Audu.”
Reacting to the pronouncement of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who said the party could produce a replacement for Audu in the rerun, the APC chairman stated, “It is in the public space already. The chief law officer of the Republic has made his views known as to how things should develop from this stage on.
“He has made a pronouncement to the effect that all that is required is for the APC to go through the process of providing a replacement for our late candidate.
“INEC is obviously in agreement with the position of the AGF because we have already received a letter from it, formally asking us to find a replacement for the vacancy created by the passing of Prince Abubakar Audu; that is what we are going to engage in.”
Odigie-Oyegun added, “We’ve only just got notification today; we are going to go into an emergency session to fix a date for the primary.
“Even the nature of the primary and the rest of it, we will do in the next few hours; we are not talking of days because even the supplementary election, we are told, INEC has fixed for December 5.’’
According to him, INEC has yet to communicate to the APC how it arrived at the conclusion that the election was inconclusive and whether or not the outstanding number of votes was that of registered voters or voters who have their PVCs.
Odigie-Oyegun said, “INEC has made a pronouncement that the election was inconclusive. But as of this moment, we are still to get anything in writing from INEC, specifying the details of the polling units that were involved and a clear definition as to whether it is referring to registered voters or voters with PVCs; these are matter of details.”
Meanwhile, INEC has asked the APC to replace its Kogi State governorship candidate, Audu, who died on Sunday.
Opinions have been divided on how INEC and the APC will fill the vacuum created by Audu’s death, especially coming at a time when the election had yet to be concluded.
The commission, however, in a statement after a meeting of its management in Abuja on Tuesday, said the APC should produce a fresh candidate to replace Audu.
It also fixed December 5 for the conduct of the supplementary election in the 91 polling units spread across 19 of the 21 local government areas of the state where election could not hold on Saturday.
INEC, in the statement by its Secretary, Mrs. Augusta Ogakwu, stated that the commission had decided to conclude the process and to allow the APC to produce a replacement for the late Audu.
The commission added, “On the November 23, 2015, the All Progressives Congress notified the commission of the death of its governorship candidate in the election, Prince Abubakar Audu.
“The commission has, after due consideration of the circumstances, decided as follows:
“To conclude the process by conducting election in the 91 affected polling units as announced by the Returning Officer.
“To allow the APC to fill the vacancy created by the death of its candidate.
“To conduct the supplementary election on December 5, 2015.
“Accordingly, notice is hereby given to all the 22 political parties participating in the Kogi governorship election that supplementary election in the 91 affected polling units shall hold on December 5, 2015.”
The INEC statement coincided with the pronouncement of Malami, the AGF, who said on Tuesday that the Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution already provided for a situation that had taken place in Kogi.
Malami, who said the supplementary election had to be conducted, spoke in Abuja at a seminar organised by the Nigerian Law Reform Commission on the reform of the National Environmental Standards and Regulation Enforcement Agency (Establishment) Act.
Several legal experts had argued that Audu’s running mate, Abiodun Faleke, a House of Representatives member, would automatically become the APC candidate.
Malami said the decision of the party on the new candidate would be based on the outcome of the primaries from which Audu had earlier emerged as the party’s representative.
He said by virtue of the provisions of Section 221 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the votes cast were for the political party and by Section 33 of the Electoral Act 2010, the political party had the right to substitute its candidate in case of death.
The minister explained that by virtue of the provisions of Section 221 of the 1999 Constitution, the votes cast were for the political party and by Section 33 of the Electoral Act 2010, the political party had the right to substitute its candidate in case of death.
Malami said, “The issue is very straightforward. Fundamentally, Section 33 of the Electoral Act is very clear that in case of death, the right for substitution by a political party is sustained by the provisions of Section 33 of the Electoral Act.
“And if you have a community reading of that section with Section 221 of the constitution, which clearly indicates that the right to votes is the right of a political party, and the party in this case, the APC, has participated in the conduct of the election.
“It is therefore apparent that the combination of the community reading of the two provisions does not leave any room for conjecture.
“APC as a party is entitled to substitution by the clear provisions of Section 33 of the Electoral Act. Also Section 221 of the constitution is clear that the votes that were cast were cast in favour of the APC.
“Arising from those deductions, it does not require any legal interpretation. The interpretation is clear; APC will substitute, which right has been sustained by Section 33 of the Electoral Act.’’
The Section 33 of the Electoral Act 2010, which the minister referred to states, “A political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted pursuant to Section 32 of this Act, except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate.”
Clarifying whether Faleke would become the APC candidate or not, Malami said, “It all depends on the appreciation of issues arising from the primary conducted before now.
“There was a first and a second candidate. The primary that had taken place over time had not by anyway been nullified. And it is recognised by law.
“But then, a further consideration would be the idea of conducting another primary; but that is not envisaged in view of the sustainability of the first primary.”
The PDP has, however, asked the AGF to immediately resign from office over his position on the inconclusive governorship election in Kogi State.
The former ruling party also called on INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, to resign from office for what it described as his inability to exert the autonomy of the commission in the face of the confusion created by Audu’s death.
The party said the position of the minister compelled INEC to arrive at what it described as an unconstitutional decision to allow the APC to substitute its candidate for the proposed supplementary governorship election.
PDP said this in its reaction to the decision of INEC to allow the APC to replace Audu with a fresh candidate and also to fix December 5 for the conduct of the supplementary election.
A statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, in Abuja on Tuesday, said the opposition party had summoned an emergency national caucus meeting of the PDP to deliberate on the matter.
He said, “The party is shocked that INEC, a supposedly independent electoral umpire, could allow itself to succumb to the antics of the APC by following the unlawful directive of an obviously partisan AGF to substitute a candidate in the middle of the ballot process.
“We are all aware that the two legal documents guiding INEC in the conduct of elections – the Constitution and the Electoral Act – have provisions for electoral exigencies as well as empower the electoral body to fully take responsibility for any of its actions or inaction without undue interference from any quarters whatsoever.
“We are therefore at a loss as to which sections of these two relevant laws INEC and the AGF relied on in arriving at their bizarre decision to substitute a dead candidate in an ongoing election even after the timeline for such has elapsed under all the rules.
“INEC, as a statutory body, has the full complements of technical hands in its legal department to advise it appropriately and we wonder why it had to wait for directives from the AGF, an external party, if not for partisan and subjective interest.”
Metuh added that the PDP had “rejected in its entirety this brazen move by the APC and INEC to circumvent the laws and ambush the yet-to-be concluded election by introducing a practice that is completely alien to the constitution and the electoral act.’’
He added, “The clear implication of this action of the AGF and INEC is that the APC would be fielding two different governorship candidates in the ongoing Kogi election, meaning that INEC would be transferring votes cast for the late Prince Abubakar Audu to another candidate, scenarios that have no place in the constitution of the land.”
Metuh alleged that INEC under the leadership of Yakubu had shown itself as partisan, morally bankrupt and obviously incapable of conducting a credible election within the ambit of the laws.
He said the PDP was demanding the immediate resignation of the INEC chairman, alleging further that the nation’s democracy could not afford to be left in the hands of an electoral umpire that he believed could not exert its independence and the sanctity of the electoral process.
Running mate should replace Audu as APC candidate –Falana, Akintola
Two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Chief Niyi Akintola and Mr. Femi Falana, on Tuesday disagreed with Malami, who asked the APC to replace the late Audu with a new candidate other than his running mate, Abiodun Faleke.
Akintola, who charged Faleke to go to court if the APC failed to present him as its governorship candidate ahead of the supplementary election already fixed for December 5, said it was in the interest of the party to nominate the late Audu’s running mate in order to avoid a crisis.
He said, “If I were Faleke, I will challenge it in court. You cannot be a candidate without a running mate. Your ticket as a governorship candidate is joint and several with that of your deputy or running mate.
“That is the decision of the Supreme Court in Wammako and Dakingari to the effect that you cannot be a candidate without a running mate. In Amaechi’s case, the Supreme Court says it is the party that contests election. So it is in the interest of the APC to push for Faleke to avoid legal quagmire.”
He, however, commended the AGF for his opinion that the supplementary election should hold but faulted INEC for failing to declare the APC as the winner of the election, having led with 41,353 votes and the number of eligible voters with Permanent Voter Cards in the cancelled polling units was far less.
Falana, in a statement which he issued before the opinion of the AGF on the Kogi poll on Tuesday, said though INEC, having declared the election inconclusive, the APC no longer had the power to substitute candidate but to present Audu’s running mate as its candidate for the supplementary election.
He said, “Notwithstanding that there is no provision in the law for the death of a candidate in the middle of an election, the INEC is not totally helpless in the circumstance. Having declared the election inconclusive, the INEC is duty bound to conclude the election.
“As the APC cannot be allowed to substitute or replace the nomination of Mr. Audu at this stage of the electoral process, the INEC is legally bound to conclude the exercise. The question of falling back on the results of the primary election conducted by the APC does not arise as the proposition is in utter conflict with Section179 of the Constitution.
“Since the governorship and deputy-governorship candidates of the APC jointly contested the election, pursuant to Section 187 of the Constitution, the votes scored by the party in the inconclusive election remain intact and untainted.
“If the number of the disenfranchised voters is higher than 41,353, INEC should proceed and conclude the election, which may be won by either of the two parties. If the APC wins the election, the deputy governor-elect will become the governor while a new deputy-governor will be nominated by him and approved by the Kogi State House of Assembly.”