Political parties and contenders for the 15 vacant parliamentary seats at both National and State Houses of Assembly have intensified their campaign strategies despite the postponement of the polls by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The electoral body had after an emergency meeting on Thursday, announced the postponement of the15 by-elections in 11 states over the #EndSARS protest in parts of the country citing security reasons.
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INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Festus Okoye reportedly said elections earlier scheduled for Saturday, October 31, have been postponed indefinitely.
He said the decision taken at the end of the commission’s management meeting with the 37 Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) was in compliance with Section 26 (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
The affected constituencies are Bayelsa Central; Bayelsa West; Nganzai State Constituency (Borno); Bayo State Constituency (Borno); Cross River North and Obudu State Constituency,( Cross River).
Others are Imo North; Lagos East; Kosofe II State Constituency(Lagos); Plateau South Senatorial District; Bakura State Constituency, (Zamfara); Ibaji State Constituency(Kogi); Isi-Uzo State Constituency (Enugu) and Bakori State Constituency, Katsina State.
The seats, Daily Trust on Saturday reports became vacant following the deaths and resignation of some lawmakers at both federal and state parliaments.
Daily Trust reports that since August when INEC fixed October 31 for the polls, candidates, political parties and their supporters have moved across the 15 constituencies, campaigning to clinch the vacant positions.
Parties, candidates intensify campaign despite postponement
The Bayelsa Central and West senatorial districts became vacant following the emergence of the former occupants as governor and deputy governor respectively. But despite the postponement by INEC due to the #endSARS protests, the PDP and APC are not relenting in their campaigns.
The PDP fielded Henry Seriake Dickson, immediate past governor of the state as its candidate in Bayelsa West, while APC fielded former Deputy Governor, Peremobowei Ebebi as its candidate. Both are very popular in the district.
Also, in Bayelsa Central, the immediate past Chairman of PDP in the state, Mr. Moses Cleopas will slug it out with a grassroots mobilizer, Chief Abel Ebifemowei, the candidate of the APC. Although INEC said that 13 political parties have fielded a candidate for the election, the battle is between PDP and APC.
Similarly, the opposition APC and the ruling PDP in Bauchi State have reiterated their readiness for the Dass state constituency by-election.
State Chairman of APC, Alhaji Uba Ahmed Nana said although the party has concluded all the arrangements for the by-election the safety of the electorate and election officials are paramount.
“Everybody is aware of the security challenges; we are fully prepared for the election but having observed what is happening in the country security-wise we welcome the idea for the shift of date.
“If we are to be fair to ourselves, the situation is not conducive for the election because it involves the movement of people from one place to another and from one state to the other. Notwithstanding, we still remain prepared to wait for another time that INEC will fix for the election,” he said.
On his part, the state PDP chairman, Alhaji Hamza Akuyam, hailed the postponement of the poll.
Also in Borno State, the major political parties and their contestants were gearing up for the state house of assembly by-election in Bayo and Nganzai local government areas of Borno State until the INEC’s announcement.
Campaigns for the by-elections in Bayo LGA were peaceful and coordinated according to political pundit, Musa Wuyo who said while no party would be said to have come close to winning the election but ‘partisan campaigns were action-packed,’ in recent time.
He said the electorate felt anxious about elections as candidates continued to plead with their supporters to go to polling places on Election Day, adding that Bayo was a non-conflict area even as most parts of the state grapple with insurgent attacks and that #ENDSARS protests were not carried out in the area and the state generally.
The major contenders in the by-election in Bayo were Mohammed Danjuma of the PDP and Alhaji Maigari Adamu Abare of the APC.
Meanwhile a source at Gajiram, Nganzai LGA said political activities were nonviolent but that people from the area who lived in Maiduguri and wanted to travel to their polling units to vote were frightened of the incessant attacks by Boko Haram insurgents along the road. The source said adequate security measures must be put in place to safeguard the electorate and officials.
There were fears in the hearts of many not about whether the Cross River northern senatorial district by-election would be free and fair but really about the safety of electorate, officials, and even participants.
This is because during the PDP primary election at the Ogoja local government council quarters to select the flag bearer, one of the delegates was shot dead with several others injured as a result of a stampede and sporadic shooting.
This all came to play because of the two major contenders for the party ticket. Before the primaries there was internal disagreement within the PDP in the state where federal lawmakers from the state reportedly accused the state governor, Ben Ayade of sidelining them and usurping powers and structures of the party.
Whereas Governor Ayade allegedly gave his backing to one Dr. Stephen Odey who was chairman of the state Universal Education Board (SUBEB), the member representing the Ogoja/Yala federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe also came out very strongly.
The Bakura constituency in Zamfara State by-election is considered by many observers as a litmus test for both ruling PDP and opposition APC in the state.
Last Saturday, the candidate of the opposition APC in the state, Alhaji Muhammad Dankande Gamji kicked started his campaigns in Bakura town where the party’s bigwigs across the state attended the rally.
In the same vein, PDP’s candidate Alhaji Ibrahim Birnin Tudu remains a popular figure in the constituency and has a strong support base among his constituents and even the party’s bigwigs. Daily Trust on Saturday gathered that the PDP’s candidate is expected to kick start his campaign rally this week.
The battle for Plateau South senatorial district is between Professor Nora Ladi Dadu’ut, of the ruling APC, and Senator George Daika of the PDP who are said to be going ahead with their electioneering campaigns in spite of the postponement.
In the same vein each the political party has equally intensified campaigns for the Lagos East Senatorial and Kosofe 2 House of Assembly bye-elections in Lagos State before postponement.
The major parties for the election especially the ruling APC and PDP had traversed the nooks and corners of the senatorial district comprising Ikorodu, Epe, Shomolu, Ibeju-Lekki and Kosofe local governments to solicit for votes.
Though the ruling party, APC, has always dominated previous elections in the district, the opposition PDP has vowed to shock the party with what it called the “Edo treatment” even as Governors of the PDP were said to be planning a ground rally for the PDP candidate, Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi oblivious of what would be the turn of things with the #EndSARS protests which have triggered the postponement of the election.
The APC candidate, Mr. Tokunbo Abiru, the immediate past Managing Director of the Polaris Bank, also hopes to leverage on the existing structure of the party in the five local governments in the district to win the bye-election and replace the deceased lawmaker, Senator Bayo Osinowo whose death of June 15 necessitated the bye-election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had initially expressed readiness for the election. It got the candidates to sign a peace accord and met with all stakeholders including security agencies which gave their words to provide adequate security before, during, and after the elections.
But even with the postponement, the candidates and the political parties agreed that this is the right thing to do given the mood of the nation.
In Imo, the ruling APC and the opposition PDP, the two major political parties contesting for the Imo North senatorial by-election have welcomed the postponement of the election.
APC candidate, Frank Ibezim, speaking in an interview with our correspondent, described the action of INEC as inevitable. On its part, the PDP said that INEC acted within the ambits of the law.
Thought the party’s candidate, Emma Okewulonu, could not be reached, the party’s Publicity Secretary, Ogubundu Nwadike, said since it’s a constitutional matter, the party could not do otherwise.