PAR­TIES DAMN INEC, RUN CAM­PAIGNS

We spent over N100m on Dino’s re­call – Prof. Yakubu

Weekly Trust - - Front Page -

The In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (INEC) re­leased the timetable and sched­ule of the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions as far back as Jan­uary this year, when it said cam­paigns must not com­mence be­fore De­cem­ber, three months to the com­mence­ment of the polls. But the Nige­rian po­lit­i­cal space is al­ready agog with cam­paigns. Daily Trust Satur­day takes a look.

Hamza Idris, Ab­bas Ji­moh, Cle­ment Oloyede (Abuja), Lami Sadiq (Jos), Ab­dul­la­teef Aliyu (La­gos) Habibu Umar Aminu (Katsina), Itodo Daniel Sule (Lokoja), Haruna Gimba Yaya (Gombe) & Vic­tor Chuks (Port Har­court)

The dec­la­ra­tion by Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari, many first-term gover­nors, and many leg­is­la­tors at na­tional and state lev­els that they would go for a sec­ond term is no longer news, as far as the schem­ing for 2019 is con­cerned. The same could be said for many pres­i­den­tial and gu­ber­na­to­rial as­pi­rants, among oth­ers, who have al­ready de­clared their in­ten­tion to chal­lenge those oc­cu­py­ing var­i­ous po­si­tions. Unar­guably, the con­test has reached a crescendo, to the ex­tent that the rul­ing All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC), the lead­ing op­po­si­tion Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) and many of the 68 reg­is­tered po­lit­i­cal par­ties have taken the gauntlet and en­dorsed their as­pi­rants for var­i­ous of­fices, es­pe­cially at state lev­els.

So com­pli­cated is the race that some rul­ing party lead­ers in some states have openly en­dorsed sit­ting gover­nors, say­ing there is no va­cancy in govern­ment houses, while in op­po­si­tion states, party stal­warts var­i­ously gave such en­dorse­ments to cer­tain prom­i­nent politi­cian, such as the case of the min­is­ter rep­re­sent­ing them in the Fed­eral Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil (FEC).

Posters and bill­boards are com­mon sights in strate­gic places in al­most all the states across Nige­ria, with the FCT be­ing no ex­cep­tion. Many politi­cians have re­painted their 2015 cam­paign of­fices, while those did not have any, have pro­cured or rented apart­ments for cam­paign pur­poses. Cus­tomized cars and buses with sound sys­tems are now com­mon sights in towns and vil­lages, even as song writ­ers have al­ready made for­tunes from com­pos­ing jin­gles for politi­cians.

Some state houses of as­sem­bly have not been left be­hind as they have openly de­clared their pref­er­ence for the sit­ting gover­nor ahead of party pri­maries. Wor­ried by this de­vel­op­ment, the Chair­man of INEC, Prof. Mah­mood Yakubu, three days ago cau­tioned politi­cians and po­lit­i­cal par­ties against tram­pling on the law reg­u­lat­ing elec­tion­eer­ing be­fore the end of the year. He gave the warn­ing at a town hall meet­ing on ‘Health, Democ­racy and Gov­er­nance: Putting Health as Top Po­lit­i­cal Agenda of Nige­ria,” or­gan­ised by the Nige­rian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (NMA), rep­re­sented by a Na­tional Com­mis­sioner, Muhammed Lecky.

Prof. Yakubu lamented that even though INEC had rolled out a timetable for the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions, politi­cians were flout­ing it and mount­ing cam­paign bill­boards na­tion­wide.

The elec­tion guide­lines re­leased by INEC over three months ago, the Elec­toral Act 2010 (as amended) was suc­cinct on tim­ing for cam­paigns, and penal­ties for vi­o­la­tors. Sec­tion 99 Sub­sec­tion (1) stated that “the pe­riod of cam­paign­ing in pub­lic by ev­ery po­lit­i­cal party shall com­mence 90 days be­fore polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day.

(2) A reg­is­tered Po­lit­i­cal Party which through any per­son act­ing on its be­half dur­ing the 24 hours be­fore polling day. (a) Ad­ver­tises on the fa­cil­i­ties of any broad­cast­ing un­der­tak­ing; or (b) Pro­cures for pub­li­ca­tion or ac­qui­esces in the pub­li­ca­tion of an ad­ver­tise­ment in a news­pa­per, for the pur­pose of pro­mot­ing or op­pos­ing a par­tic­u­lar can­di­date, is guilty of an of­fence un­der this Act and upon con­vic­tion shall be li­able to a max­i­mum fine of N500,000.”

Prof. Yakubu had on Jan­uary 10, said the no­tice of elec­tion would be com­mu­ni­cated on Au­gust 17, 2018 in line with Sec­tion 30(1) of the Elec­toral 2010 which pro­vides that the no­tice of elec­tion be made not later than 90 days be­fore the elec­tion. He how­ever said the con­duct of party pri­maries in­clud­ing res­o­lu­tion of dis­putes aris­ing from the pri­maries would take place be­tween Au­gust 18 and Oc­to­ber 7, 2018.

But the im­por­tant mes­sage is this: “The cam­paigns of po­lit­i­cal par­ties for Pres­i­den­tial and Na­tional As­sem­bly elec­tions should be­gin by Novem­ber 18, 2018 while that of gov­er­nor­ship and House of As­sem­bly is De­cem­ber 1, 2018.”

On cam­paign spend­ing by po­lit­i­cal par­ties, Prof. Yakubu said, “The Elec­toral Act is clear on the mat­ter be­cause it states that no pres­i­den­tial can­di­date can spend over N1bn, no gov­er­nor­ship can­di­date can spend over N200m and no sen­a­to­rial can­di­date can spend over N40m.” He said the same Act fur­ther states that cor­po­rate bod­ies can­not do­nate money to po­lit­i­cal par­ties and no pri­vate in­di­vid­ual can do­nate more than N1m to any as­pi­rant or can­di­date.

Race for cam­paigns

Find­ings re­veal that de­spite the un­am­bigu­ous ex­pla­na­tion by INEC, po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties are al­ready un­fold­ing. While some politi­cians are ac­tively fi­nanc­ing their cam­paigns, oth­ers have not done any­thing in that di­rec­tion but have not also rep­ri­manded those go­ing against the law on their be­half. For in­stance, the pic­tures of Pres­i­dent Buhari, in­di­cat­ing the need for Nige­ri­ans to give him an­other chance in 2019, in­clud­ing bill­boards show­cas­ing his achieve­ments in se­cu­rity, econ­omy and fight against cor­rup­tion are sym­bolic of his re­cent vis­its to states.

Pic­tures, fly­ers, posters and ban­ners of ex-VP Atiku Abubakar, ex-gover­nors Rabiu Kwankwaso, Ibrahim Sheka­rau, Ahmed Makarfi, Sule Lamido and out­go­ing gover­nor of Gombe State Ibrahim Has­san Dankwambo equally dot many high­ways, in­di­cat­ing their re­solve to run.

So car­ried away are Buhari’s en­thu­si­asts, es­pe­cially after he de­clared that he would go for a sec­ond term, that they have rein­vig­o­rated hun­dreds of the sup­port groups that worked for his elec­tion in 2015. These in­clude APC Pres­i­den­tial Cam­paign Coun­cil which re­cently reap­pointed the Min­is­ter of Trans­porta­tion Ro­timi Amaechi as Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral, the Na­tional Com­mit­tee for Buhari Sup­port Groups headed by Se­na­tor Abu Ibrahim; the Buhari Cam­paign Or­ga­ni­za­tion (BCO) headed by Al­haji Dan­ladi Pasali; the #Friends of Buhari headed by a for­mer Min­is­ter of In­for­ma­tion, Chief Ikeobasi Mokelu, and many oth­ers.

It is also re­ported that there are many groups work­ing for Atiku’s pres­i­den­tial mis­sion, while Kwankwaso has re­port­edly opened many of­fices across the six geopo­lit­i­cal zones. The likes of Lamido and Sheka­rau have writ­ten of­fi­cial let­ters to their party, the PDP, in­ti­mat­ing the lead­er­ship of their plan to vie for the pres­i­dency.

A lot of noc­tur­nal meet­ings are go­ing while plans for merger and al­liances are now the is­sues of dis­cus­sion in po­lit­i­cal cir­cles. All these have raised con­cerns by Nige­ri­ans that pre­ma­ture cam­paigns are se­ri­ous dis­trac­tions, es­pe­cially for those in po­si­tion of author­ity.

Cam­paigns in states

In Plateau State, Gover­nor Si­mon Bako La­long’s dec­la­ra­tion on the 13th of April to re-con­test the gov­er­nor­ship seat did not come as a sur­prise. Even be­fore his for­mal dec­la­ra­tion, his cam­paign posters mostly spon­sored by youth groups had flooded Jos city. The Vote La­long Again (VOLA) group has even opened a cam­paign of­fice while the 4+4 group are seen mov­ing around town in cars branded with the gover­nor’s pic­ture, and the sym­bolic 4+4 to re­fer to two terms for the gover­nor.

But La­long’s sup­port­ers are not the only ones flaunt­ing the INEC reg­u­la­tion, as op­po­si­tion party can­di­dates within the PDP also have cam­paign posters lit­tered around the city. Se­na­tor Jeremiah Useni, who has ex­pressed in­ter­est to con­test the gov­er­nor­ship seat un­der the PDP, has a huge bill­board in front of his cam­paign of­fice, and

posters around town.

How­ever, the APC sec­re­tary in the state, Bashir Mu­san Sati, said the bill­boards seen around town were not spon­sored by the gover­nor, or the party, as both are aware of the INEC rules and guide­lines. “VOLA or 4+4 are in­de­pen­dent bod­ies, but for us in the APC, we have not started the cam­paigns yet.”

How­ever, PDP Pub­lic­ity Sec­re­tary, John Akans said theirs is a law-abid­ing party, but said since INEC had “al­lowed” the APC from the fed­eral to state level to flaunt their cam­paign bill­boards, the PDP could not stop it’s as­pi­rants. He added: “Since we’ve seen the pres­i­dent’s, and gover­nor’s cam­paign bill­boards ev­ery­where, we thought INEC had opened the door for every­one. But if they can cau­tion the APC, then we will also cau­tion our peo­ple.”

In La­gos, Gover­nor Ak­in­wunmi Am­bode has not de­clared in­ten­tion to run for a sec­ond term, but all in­di­ca­tions point to a bid for a ten­ure be­yond 2019. How­ever, typ­i­cal of Nige­ria’s po­lit­i­cal ter­rain, var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal groups, politi­cians, and their ap­pointees have since last year launched re-elec­tion cam­paigns for him. At the mo­ment, many posters and bill­boards bear­ing ‘Am­bode for 2019’ lit­ter ma­jor parts of La­gos. Some of these bill­boards can be seen in ar­eas like Alimosho, Agege, Iko­rodu, La­gos Is­land, and many oth­ers spread across the 20 lo­cal gov­ern­ments, and 37 lo­cal coun­cil de­vel­op­ment ar­eas. Fly­ers could also be seen at the Alausa sec­re­tariat adorn­ing govern­ment ve­hi­cles and of­fi­cial cars of com­mis­sion­ers, spe­cial ad­vis­ers and as­sis­tants.

It would be re­called that op­po­si­tion Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) had re­cently cried out over early cam­paigns for Am­bode.

APC spokesman Mr. Joe Ig­bokwe said the gover­nor has not com­mit­ted a crime, as he him­self has not de­clared for a sec­ond term, but only those who have seen his per­for­mance in the first ten­ure felt the obli­ga­tion to cam­paign for him.

Katsina is not dif­fer­ent, as vir­tu­ally all as­pir­ing can­di­dates from in­cum­bent to new ones have erected bill­boards or pasted posters. Even though Gover­nor Aminu Masari has not pub­licly de­clared his in­ter­est in a sec­ond term, his bill­boards and posters are all over the streets of Katsina, placed by dif­fer­ent pres­sure groups back­ing the sup­posed re-elec­tion bid. Most of the bill­boards and posters carry the pic­ture of the pres­i­dent along­side the gover­nor and the in­di­vid­ual as­pi­rant in­tend­ing to vie.

Groups such as Masari Restora­tion, House To House, Masari Zalla, Masariyya and Buhari, Masari For Con­ti­nu­ity, and more, have all gone a-cam­paign­ing for the gover­nor.

Katsina’s ‘bill­board war’ is not pe­cu­liar to the APC, as other par­ties like PDP and PRP are on the train, with graf­fiti on walls and per­sonal build­ings, all in a move to show their pres­ence. Posters of Se­na­tor Lado and Ab­dul­lahi Tata, all of the PDP, are com­mon­place in Katsina and en­vi­rons.

Irked by the de­vel­op­ment, the Katsina State Chair­man of Na­tional Con­science Party, in March this year, pe­ti­tioned INEC, Po­lice and DSS on the is­sue in­ti­mat­ing them of the need to in­ter­vene and ad­dress the il­le­gal­ity.

In Kogi State, Gover­nor Ya­haya Bello is in his first term, and yet to of­fi­cially de­clare for a sec­ond one, but there are strong in­di­ca­tions he will, even­tu­ally. In Lokoja, the state cap­i­tal, there are bill­boards and ban­ners erected by sup­port­ers in strate­gic lo­ca­tions with the pho­tos of the gover­nor and Pres­i­dent Buhari.

Apart from Lokoja bill­boards and ban­ners, some branded cam­paign ve­hi­cles with the pho­tos of the gover­nor and that of Pres­i­dent Buhari, could be seen around. In the same vein, some of the politi­cians eye­ing of­fices at both the Na­tional As­sem­bly and state as­sem­bly have erected bill­boards and ban­ners in­di­cat­ing their am­bi­tions for 2019.

Gover­nor Bello and his sup­port­ers also held ral­lies across some lo­cal govern­ment ar­eas of the state to re­ceive de­fec­tors. It was ob­served that such ral­lies were tac­itly used by var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal glad­i­a­tors to make case for their am­bi­tions in 2019. Speak­ing on the de­vel­op­ment, the Kogi State chair­man of Unity Party of Nige­ria (UPN), Mr Ibrahim Itodo urged INEC to be firm in en­sur­ing that elec­toral laws are obeyed.

In Gombe, as­pi­rants for the gov­er­nor­ship seat have flooded the state cap­i­tal with posters and bill­boards. Even though in­cum­bent Gover­nor Ibrahim Has­san Dankwambo will round up his ten­ure in 2019, he is yet to en­dorse or anoint a suc­ces­sor, there­fore prom­i­nent politi­cians from the rul­ing PDP and the op­po­si­tion APC are com­pet­ing fiercely. Also, politi­cians as­pir­ing to con­test for the Na­tional As­sem­bly and 24 seats of the state House of As­sem­bly from the two par­ties, have seen to ma­jor streets and pub­lic places strewn with posters.

Gover­nor Dankwambo, him­self be­lieved to be as­pir­ing for the pres­i­dency, also has his cam­paign posters placed in some places with in­scrip­tion like ‘Hope 2019,’ ‘Vi­sion­ary Dankwambo 2019’.

APC’s Zonal Vice Chair­man in Gombe South, Mr Julius Ishaya, said the plac­ing of posters by as­pi­rants in their party is not a cam­paign, but in­ter­nal ac­tiv­i­ties.

Sec­re­tary of the PDP, Al­haji Buba Shanu, said they don’t en­cour­age any as­pi­rant to paste posters.

In Rivers, sev­eral in­ter­est groups have vis­ited the Govern­ment House in Port Har­court to ap­peal to Gover­nor Nye­som Wike to seek re-elec­tion, but the gover­nor has not given any def­i­nite re­sponse, say­ing he would make his in­ten­tion known in due time even though it would be a straight fight with Min­is­ter of Trans­porta­tion, Ro­timi Amaechi, who might likely sup­port an APC can­di­date. The two po­lit­i­cal plat­forms have vir­tu­ally vis­ited all the lo­cal govern­ment ar­eas in search for sup­port.

Lawyers dif­fer

A se­nior lawyer who had rep­re­sented INEC in sev­eral le­gal mat­ters, Chief Adeg­boyega Awom­olo (SAN), said while it can­not be said that what politi­cians are do­ing is il­le­gal, it can also not be de­clared to di­verge from laws. “INEC is the reg­u­la­tor of po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties, so if the ex­tant laws grant INEC the pow­ers to dis­ci­pline them or call them to or­der, it has the pow­ers to do it. And INEC is en­cour­aged to do so ex­cept in Osun and Ek­iti states, where elec­tions have been sched­uled to hold soon,” he said.

But a for­mer pres­i­dent of the Nige­rian Bar As­so­ci­a­tion (NBA), Chief O.C.J Okocha (SAN), said dec­la­ra­tion of in­ter­est is not cam­paign­ing, but a sig­ni­fi­ca­tion of an in­ter­est to con­test. He said, “In my un­der­stand­ing, peo­ple move around to sen­si­tise stake­hold­ers in their po­lit­i­cal par­ties and in­deed the gen­eral pub­lic to test the waters; to know whether they have a chance. Cam­paign­ing can only start when you are a can­di­date and you have filed the nec­es­sary pa­pers and INEC has given the go-ahead as they have done in pub­lish­ing the timeta­bles for the elec­tion,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to him, “I don’t think there is any­thing un­law­ful in what all those that have in­di­cated in­ter­ests are do­ing at the mo­ment.” On groups hold­ing ral­lies for such in­di­vid­u­als that have showed in­ter­est, Okocha said, “It’s the same. You know in pol­i­tics, not only the can­di­dates, but also the elec­torate are in­volved in sen­si­tis­ing the peo­ple; and some can­di­dates even need to be mo­ti­vated to come for­ward.”

But Civil So­ci­ety Or­ga­ni­za­tions (CSOs) looked at the com­plex­ity of the sit­u­a­tion dif­fer­ently. The Di­rec­tor of Cen­tre for Democ­racy and De­vel­op­ment (CDD), Idayat Has­san, said it is now a norm for po­lit­i­cal par­ties to flout the laws ahead of ev­ery elec­tions. “Since 1999, there are clearly the chal­lenges of im­pos­ing puni­tive mea­sures; there is hardly any­thing that INEC has done or can re­ally do to whip them into line. This cre­ates un­fair ad­van­tages on other smaller par­ties and even fur­ther en­gen­der the flout­ing of cam­paign fi­nanc­ing reg­u­la­tions,” she said.

On his part, the Con­vener of the Good Gov­er­nance Team (GGT), Malam Tunde Sal­man, said it is in­ap­pro­pri­ate for as­pi­rants and par­ties to be vi­o­lat­ing the law on cam­paigns. “But it would be dif­fi­cult to dis­suade po­lit­i­cal as­pi­rants from sub­tle cam­paigns at the mo­ment, as the mo­men­tum to 2019 is build­ing up,” he said.

The Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the Civil So­ci­ety Leg­isla­tive Ad­vo­cacy Cen­tre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Raf­san­jani, said what the par­ties are do­ing is the dis­play of im­punity and dis­re­gard for the rule of law. “We have to be alive to our re­spon­si­bil­i­ties; they should en­sure that they re­spect the INEC timetable. INEC has not lifted the ban on open cam­paign. Nige­ria should not tol­er­ate the vi­o­la­tion of elec­toral laws. You can­not claim to be re­spon­si­ble when you vi­o­late the elec­toral sys­tem, such that it un­der­mines the cred­i­bil­ity of the whole sys­tem,” Raf­san­jani said.

Gover­nor Bello’s bill­board, in Lokoja

The Ma­ham­madu Buhari Cam­paign Of­fice, in Kaduna

Cam­paign of­fice of Se­na­tor Jeremiah Useni in Jos

Cam­paign of­fice of La­long, in Jos

Kaduna State PDP Sec­re­tariat

Bill­boards ga­lore, in Katsina

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.