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Parties, INEC tangle over primaries deadline

By TUNDE JOSHUA

The 18 political parties in the country have demanded an extension for the conduct of primaries across parties from June 3 to August 4, but the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) stuck to its guns that it will not review timelines already released for the 2023 general election.

Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Engr. Yabagi Sanni made this demand on behalf of the parties Tuesday in Abuja at a quarterly meeting between INEC and leaders of political parties held at the INEC headquarters.

At the meeting which had in attendance, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Dr . Iyorchia Ayu, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) among other party leaders, Sani said that the demand for the adjustment of the timetable and schedule of activities for 2023 general elections, was a unanimous decision of the 18 political parties at its general assembly meeting.

He said “in summary, the General Assembly of IPAC, after an exhaustive examination of the INEC timetable and related issues, arrived at a unanimous decision to request for an extension of two months to the deadline of the time frame for the conduct of party primaries and resolution of conflicts arising from the primaries: “By implication, the IPAC leadership is appealing to the INEC to extend the deadline for the conduct of party primaries and resolution of ensuing conflicts from the present INEC given date of June 3, 2022 to Aug. 4.

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“Some of the issues considered by the IPAC General Assembly which necessitated the call for extension in the timeframe of the present INEC timetable and schedule of activities are based on certain circumstances and developments that have hampered timely and strict compliance by the political parties to the timetable.”

He, however, advanced reasons for the demand, stressing that there are certain constraints which INEC failed to put into consideration while drawing up its schedule of activities. Such includes but not limited to; fasting period by both Christians and Muslims as well as the Eld-el-fitr and Easter celebrations within the same period. Others according to him include “the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun states”.

The parties said time allotted by INEC for the conduct of party primaries is too short in view of the efforts required by the political parties for effective and scrupulous screening and selection of their flag bearers.

The IPAC boss said the unprecedented large number of aspirants jostling to emerge as candidates of their various political parties in the coming general elections, had made the task of screening very cumbersome and demanding.

Sani added that political parties also had to be cautious and painstaking in the screening and selection procedures as a safeguard against creating rooms for disruptive incidents of litigation by aggrieved aspirants.

“In making the request for extension in the INEC stipulated timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections, we in the Inter-Party Advisory Council, are not unmindful of the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act with respect to timelines in the electoral process. “We are however, of the considered view that our request will not, in any way, tantamount to an infringement or, a breach of any extant laws and provisions.

“This is because, the alterations that we are demanding, will not affect the statutory dates already fixed for the conduct of the 2023 general elections.

“We are praying for the slight changes in the timetable for the conduct of party primaries in full consciousness of our position as key stakeholders in the nation’s democratic process and who, at the bottom of it all, constitute not only the greatest beneficiaries but, as the platform of all the registered political parties, we are in fact, the fulcrum around which the entire system and processes revolve.

“We should therefore, be seen as a body of responsible and patriotic interest bloc with a very high sense of responsibility and commitment to the success of every crucial stage and aspects in the electoral chain.”

Sani urged INEC to consider IPAC request as a decision that was in the best interest of the nation’s democracy and specifically, the smooth and successful conduct of a rancour free, credible, transparent, free and fair elections in the year 2023.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, reiterated that the June 3 deadline for parties primaries is sacrosant. Yakubu said that any extension in the timeline for one activity would affect other activities and put unnecessary pressure on political parties and the commission.

“This is also our first meeting since the Commission released the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election over two months ago on Saturday Feb. 26.

“Already, all 18 political parties have forwarded the schedules of their primaries to the Commission, and some have commenced the process of choosing their candidates by conducting Ward and Local Government congresses.

“The period earmarked for the conduct of primaries by political parties commenced on 4th April 2022 and will end 24 days from today i.e. June 3.

Twice in the last two weeks, the Commission had cause to remind political parties of the necessity for strict compliance with the timelines for party primaries. “I hereby reiterate the position of the Commission that there will be no review of the timelines.

“There are so many inter-related activities that are associated with the timelines which must be carried out. “ Any review to extend the timeline for one activity will affect other activities and put unnecessary pressure on political parties and the Commission,” Yakubu said. Yakubu added that such action would ultimately result in more complications than what the extension seeks to achieve.

“Therefore, the Commission will not review the timelines.” “Working together, we should ensure fidelity to the timelines in conducting transparent and democratic primaries for the purpose of electing candidates for the 1,491 constituencies for which elections will be held on Feb. 25 and March 11 2023.”

Yakubu disclosed that the INEC had prepared a calendar of party primaries for presidential, governorship, national and state assembly seats based on the proposals submitted by political parties as at Friday May 6, presented to party leaders at the meeting.

He also advised political parties as they conclude their primaries and prepare for the off-cycle and general elections, to ensure a transparent electioneering process devoid of acrimony and rancour. “In doing so, fidelity to internal democracy is critical. “Unfortunately, the number of litigations by aggrieved party members challenging the conduct of party primaries so far may exceed the 807 pre-election Court cases on the 2019 General Election in which the Commission was joined by litigants. “

In addition, as we all know the security situation in the country is challenging enough. “Do not wittingly or unwittingly compound the situation by the disruptive behaviour of your members and supporters during party primaries and general elections. Leaders of other parties at the meeting include those of the Action Alliance (AA), All Progressives Congress (APC), Action Peoples Party (APP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), National Rescue Movement (NRM), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Social Democratic Party (PDP).

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