.Oye Kicks, Decries INEC’s Impunity
•We Acted On Court Orders, Electoral Body Insists
Factional national chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Ozo Victor Oye, has decried the various acts of impunity by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the buildup to the Anambra State governorship poll.
The APGA chieftain urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of the National Assembly to call INEC to order, adding that the nation’s law enforcement agencies should deal with impostors causing confusion in Nigeria political space.
He said those causing confusion in APGA are afraid that the party will win the governorship again, stressing, whoever “is strong politically should go to the people to test his/her strength and not go through the back door.”
Oye, who spoke with journalists at the APGA national secretariat, Abuja, yesterday, regretted that the electoral umpire was conniving with a bunch of lawless politicians to confuse the electorate about APGA’s candidate for the November 6 election.
The Guardian gathered that INEC listed Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji, who was elected at the primary organised by the Jude Okeke faction, as the candidate of the incumbent party for the forthcoming governorship election in the state.
In the list of governorship candidates uploaded on its website, INEC published the name of House of Representatives member, Umeoji under APGA, Senator Andy Uba as All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, even as it temporarily dropped the candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Valentine Ozigbo.
The electoral umpire, however, indicated ‘Court Order’ as reason for its action on APGA and PDP’s candidates, thereby signalling that the list was not yet exhaustive.
INEC National Commissioner & Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said the decisions were based on obedience to court orders served on the commission in relation to the party primaries and other processes leading to the election.
It should be recalled that prior to its governorship primary, APGA was rocked by leadership crisis, even as two separate factions laid claims to its leadership.
While the Oye-led faction threw up Soludo, the Okeke faction declared Umeoji winner of its own primary, just as the Chief Edozie Njoku camp announced him as its own candidate.
Further, an FCT (Federal Capital Territory) High Court in Abuja had last Thursday ordered INEC to suspend moves to publish any name as the governorship candidate of PDP in the November poll.
In his ruling on an ex parte application filed by one of the aspirants laying claim to the PDP’s ticket, the judge, Yusuf Halilu, directed INEC to maintain the status quo by not publishing any name as the party’s candidate in deference to ongoing proceedings.
“Order that all parties to this suit be put on notice, and I also further order that status quo shall be maintained by INEC by not publishing the name of any candidate as governorship candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice,” the enrolled order of the court read in part.
Valentine Ozibo and Ugochukwu Uba had emerged as the PDP’s governorship candidate from parallel primary elections and both men are currently laying claim to the party’s ticket while reconciliation fails to unite the gladiators.
Okoye said the commission would continue to act in consonance with the constitution and the law and will continue to obey the judgments and orders of courts served on it. The list showed that 18 political parties and candidates would participate in the November poll.
The INEC commissioner on Voter Education added that the personal particulars of the candidates would be published in the commission’s Notice Board in Awka, Anambra State.
But betraying pain and anger, Oye expressed surprise that INEC failed to upload the name of its gubernatorial candidate, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, despite the fact that it (INEC) monitored the governorship primary at which the former Central Bank (CBN) governor was elected.
The national chairman disclosed how APGA “got feelers from INEC that one Jude Okeke and his co-travellers want to infiltrate the commission to publish an aspirant that did not make it through to the party’s primary and to announce him as the governorship candidate of APGA.”
Describing Okeke and his co-travellers as strangers to APGA, Oye said the renegades decided to forum shop for complaint courts to create the impression that they represent the party.
He stated: “To tell you how wicked the impostors are, apart from going to Jigawa to get the bizarre judgement in which my name was not even mentioned, they procured a fake lawyers to present both INEC and APGA. They went to the Jigawa State High Court to confuse the judge, pretending that they were the genuine party leaders.
“How can you talk about change of leadership of APGA with the national chairman, who is still alive, and without adhering to the party’s constitution. As a law-abiding party, we have appealed against the Jigawa High Court judgement.
“If that development holds true, it will be a big embarrassment to Nigeria’s political system, and embarrassment to Nigeria as a nation and its leaders, particularly to President Muhammadu Buhari, who is a stickler for rule of law and equity.”
Going down memory lane, the embattled national chairman recalled how APGA started the processes for its governorship primary election by publishing a timetable.
He stated: “We followed through to the primary that held on June 23, 2021 in Awka, duly monitored by INEC. Result turned in by the monitoring committee of INEC. As at July 23, it was only APGA, under my leadership, that have conducted its primary.
“We are the first to conduct our primary among the three biggest political parties in Nigeria. And our primary was aired live by national televisions and witnessed by the entire world. After the primary, INEC sent me a letter to come forward to collect the code for uploading of particulars of our candidate and his deputy.
“On July 2, in accordance with the Electoral Act and the Timetable of INEC, we uploaded the particulars of our governorship candidate, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and his deputy, Dr. Onyekachi Ibezim. Immediately we concluded that, INEC duly acknowledged it. We also submitted the hardcopy at the INEC office and it was duly acknowledged.
“According to section 31(3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), “The Commission shall within seven days of the receipt of the particulars of candidates, publish the same in the constituency, where the candidate intends to contest the election.”
“We submitted our particulars of our candidate on July 2, INEC received and acknowledged it the same day. According to the Electoral Act, INEC supposed to have published APGA candidate name, seven days after receiving it, which is July 9.
“Now the question is, why did INEC wait till July 16? The information we got was that INEC delayed till today (Friday July 16), so that they will issue nomination papers and documents to a stranger, and an alien to APGA for them to fill and return today for their names to be listed as the APGA candidate.
That is unacceptable, it is criminal, it is legally unattainable. INEC cannot do that. INEC owes it as a duty to publish the names of Prof. Chukwuma Soludo as our governorship candidate and his deputy, Dr. Onyekachi Ibezim as a matter of responsibility.
“Anything outside that the commission be dragging itself name to the mud. We will not accept it. We are building an egalitarian nation. Why should we allow selfishness, clannishness and greed to blind the people’s vision and sense of reasoning? What was the intention of INEC for not publishing the name of Prof. Soludo seven days after it was submitted?”
Expressing disgust at the “shenanigans” of INEC, Oye recalled also that a Federal High Court in Awka had previously issued an order on the commission “to maintain the status quo and receive the particulars submitted to it by my leadership and publish the same. This is an order of court. Why did INEC want to disobey a valid order of court of competent jurisdiction?”
While swearing that the imposition would not stand, Oye declared: “They want to base their permutation and conclusion on a bizarre court order from Brini-Kudu Jigawa obtained by one Jude Okeke who is an impostor. We feel it is strange, because the court might have been misled.
“This is true, no judge will issue such order, when there is subsisting National Executive Committee of the party. What Jude (Okeke) did is illegal, unconstitutional and illegitimate and it should not stand.
“What is on is a plot to embarrass our party, because they know it cannot stand. The same thing happened in 2017 during Governor Willie Obiano’s second term bid. The same manipulations, but in the end, everything was thrown out and Governor Obiano’s candidacy was upheld by INEC.”