Presidential aspirants, others jittery over electoral law

By Paul Michael, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja

Presidential aspirants holding political offices and other appointees seeking to contest the 2023 and other future elections are having sleepless nights over the new electoral law.

This is because under the amended Electoral Act, Clause 84 (12) makes it mandatory for all appointees of government with interest to run for any public office to resign before such contest.

The clause also states that any political party that violates the provision of the Act in the conduct of its primaries shall stand disqualified in that particular election.

The law says: “No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.

“Where a political party fails to comply with the provisions of this Act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate for election shall not be included in the election for the particular position in issue.”

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President Muhammadu Buhari, knowing its implications, requested the National Assembly to consider the amendment of the controversial Clause, saying it “constitutes a fundamental defect, as it is in direct conflict with extant constitutional provisions” and “a disenfranchisement of serving political office holders from voting or being voted for at conventions or congresses of any political party, for the purpose of nomination of candidates for any election in cases where it holds earlier than 30 days to the Election.”

However, a Federal High Court in Abuja has restrained Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and Senate President Ahmad Lawan from taking any further step regarding Section 84 (12) of the amended Electoral Act.

Presiding Judge Inyang Ekwo gave the order while delivering ruling in an ex-parte application brought by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), challenging the legality of the National Assembly to amend a bill already
signed into law by the president

The Senate also rejected the request made by the President. The request was rejected after Senate Leader Yahaya Abdullahi (APC Kebbi North) made the lead debate for the second reading of the bill.

The Senators kicked against it and voted no when put to voice vote by Lawan. This has sealed the fate of political appointees ahead of the 2023 elections. The only option now left for appointees is either to forget about the 2023 elections or resign.

Meanwhile, the timetable for political activities leading to the 2023 general elections released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has also made it expedient for all appointees of government with the intention of contesting in the 2023 general elections to vacate their seats.

Although they are yet to officially declare their intentions, The Trumpet critically studied the body languages of appointees as well as the political terrain and can state that the following appointees of Buhari are likely to resign their appointments in line with the Electoral Act in pursuit of their political ambitions.

**Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi

Minister of Transportation Amaechi is rumoured to have a 2023 presidential ambition. The former governor of Rivers State and Director-General of the APC Presidential Campaign Council in 2015 and 2019, has been identified as a major presidential aspirant in the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Amaechi was recently honoured by Daura Emirate Council under the leadership of the Emir Faruk Umar Faruk who conferred the chieftaincy title of “Dan Amana Daura on the minister. It means the Trusted One of Daura.

The choice of the chieftaincy title, which was widely celebrated across the country, has been interpreted by analysts as a statement by top northern traditional and political leaders ahead of 2023.

Several political leaders have been calling Amaechi, through the “#AbegCallAmaechi2023” campaign to declare for the presidency. Also, several outfits like Amaechi Vanguard, Amaechi Support Group (ASG), Coalition for Progress and Continuity (CPC), Amaechi Supporters Forum, among others have been launched to mobilize support for his presidential ambition.

Unless otherwise decided, the minister must have concluded plans to vacate his office sooner than later in pursuit of his presidential bid.

**Godswill Akpabio

A former Governor of Akwa Ibom State and current Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Godswill Akpabio, is another member of Buhari’s cabinet that will likely vacate his seat for the 2023 presidential election.

Akpabio joined the APC in 2018 and resigned his position as Senate Minority Leader. He has since then enjoyed a close relationship with Buhari. This could be the reason why the president has entrusted the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in his hands since inception of his administration in 2019.

Some citizens from all over the country including youths and women groups are also calling on Akpabio to join the 2023 presidential race.

**Ogbonnaya Onu

Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Ogbonnaya Onu, is a known name in the country’s political power corridors. He is the first civilian governor of Abia State in 1992 and a former National Chairman of the defunct All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP). Onu represents a chunk of the ANPP bloc in the APC and stands a chance in the ruling party’s primary election especially with agitations for an Igbo presidency.

He was the presidential standard bearer of the All People’s Party (APP) but after a merger of his party with the Alliance for Democracy (AD), he relinquished the position to Olu Falae, who lost to Olusegun Obasanjo of
the PDP in 1999. He was a major stakeholder in the merger of the then opposition parties that formed APC in 2014.
A source told The Trumpet that barring any last-minute change, the minister is set to resign his appointment and formally join the 2023 presidential clash.

**Chris Nwabueze Ngige

Minister of Labour and Employment Ngige is a prominent political figure from the Southeast. In 2003, he was elected Governor of Anambra State in controversial circumstances. After an unsuccessful attempt in 2003 by his then political godfather, Chris Uba, to remove him from office through a fabricated letter of resignation, an election tribunal led by Justice Nabaruma nullified his victory in August 2005.

Ngige is a symbol of the APC in the Southeast, especially the bloc of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). At a time when agitation for an Igbo presidency is at its peak, an Ngige can stage a political surprise in the 2023 general elections if he gets the APC ticket.

He has said he would resign his appointment for the 2023 presidential bid.

**Godwin Emefiele

Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele’ presidential ambition is gathering momentum as we head closer to the 2023 elections. The Trumpet can authoritatively report that Emefiele is seriously considering to join the presidential battle.

Several support groups like ‘Friends of Meffy’ are currently mobilizing support for the seasoned economist, who was a Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank.

Unified Northern Nigeria Youths Forum (UNNYF), a coalition of 40 social, cultural, political and economic groups recently called on Emefiele to run for the office of the president.

Barring any last-minute change, the Delta-born technocrat will be resigning to pursue his ambition to succeed Buhari.

**Abubakar Malami

Current Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, is said to be seriously in the Kebbi State 2023 governorship race.

According to reports, the ambition of the AGF is said to be causing crisis within the APC in the state.

Malami has been heading the Federal Justice ministry since Buhari’s first tenure in 2015. He is one of the most powerful men in the Buhari government.

If the rumour of his ambition is anything to go by, he will be among the appointees vacating their current offices as 2023 activities begin in earnest.

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