UNDERSTANDING THE ROLES OF INEC IN THE CONGRESSES AND PRIMARIES OF POLITICAL PARTIES
By. Amb. Tony Okonigene
In this write up, I am going to go out of my character by putting up a lengthy post. This is necessary because I am getting scared for the health and mental state of some of my close friends in Edo PDP. There is the need to explain certain issues to them in details so that they do not end up in the hospital at the end of the day. We need everyone hail and heathy for the coming elections.
It is of paramount importance that before anyone comments on any issue, he or she takes out time to read and digest the rules governing the issue on ground. I cannot comment on the game of Cricket for instance because I know nothing about the rules. I will only sound foolish before those that are abreast with the rules if I try arguing about cricket.
Politics like every other game, business or venture has its rules and regulations. You must takeout time to read the Constitution of the FRN, the Electoral Act and the Constitution of the political party in question so that you do not progress in ignorance.
I have discovered that some people who come out to make noise on social media, can not differentiate between congresses, primaries and general elections. They seem not to know the roles of INEC at the different stages of the electoral system.
Like in a football match, the political parties are the teams or clubs while INEC is the referee. The referee cannot interfere in the training and selection of players for the teams or clubs but the referee enforces the rules and ensures that the match is played according to the rules. The referee can send out any player the breaches any of the rules of the game. His decision is final.
The Constitution of Nigeria and the Electoral Act vest the powers of monitoring the congresses and primaries of political parties on INEC. The Constitution of parties are subject to the provisions of the Electoral Act. For example, the PDP’s constitution vests the final powers to determine the delegates and candidates of the party on the NEC but subject to the provisions of the Electoral Act which says that INEC SHALL monitor and ensure that no breach occurs. Ask your lawyer the consequences when the word SHALL is used.
INEC deploys its officers to monitor congresses and primaries at the wards, local government, Federal / Senatorial Constituencies, State , Zonal and National levels. As proofs, the official collect copies of the results sheets which are transmitted to their headquarters through the RECs. This is a measure of checks to ensure that the principles of internal democracy are practiced and adhered to by political parties. If INEC does not monitor any Congress or primary of any party, the results from such an exercise will be a nullity.
For example, INEC has declared that after the close of Primaries, the APC has no governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom for the 2023 Elections because it did not monitor the primary. No matter the cries from APC, that is the position of the law.
Coming to Edo State, INEC has on request given the certified true copies of the PDP candidates it monitored their Primaries. It had earlier released on request the certified true copies of the adhoc delegates whose congresses it monitored. No matter the window dressing and political acrobatics, INEC will only accept the names of the candidates it monitored their Primaries who were voted for by the ad-hoc delegates that emerged from the congresses it monitored. INEC has already written a letter to all the political parties to emphasize this position.
It is a naked display of ignorance for anyone to say that INEC has issued certificates of return or nomination to candidates that emerged from the primaries of a political party. INEC can only issue certificates of return to candidates that emerged winners in general elections conducted by the commission.
The political parties issue certificates of return to the candidates that emerge from their Primaries and also download INEC nomination forms for aspirants and candidates.
As far as INEC is concerned, the Edo State PDP, after the close of Primaries, has candidates to field for the 2023 general elections. The NEC of the party has been notified of the candidates whose primaries were conducted by the delegates affirmed by INEC and duly monitored by INEC as required by the Electoral Act. Know this and get sense.