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P16 edited analysis with two pics

P16 edited analysis with two pics APC, INEC in collision course over Anambra re-run By Muideen Olaniyi It is no longer news that Dr Chris…

P16 edited analysis with two pics

APC, INEC in collision course over Anambra re-run

By Muideen Olaniyi

It is no longer news that Dr Chris Ngige will not contest the March 5, 2016 Anambra Central Senatorial District re-run election. This follows his decision to accept the nomination and subsequent confirmation as the Minister of Labour and Employment under President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. Ngige said he would not leave the current national assignment to pursue the senatorial seat again.

The Minister of Labour and Employment was the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the annulled March 28 senatorial election.

The Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu, had on December 7, 2015 nullified the election of Senator Uche Ekwunife, representing Anambra Central Senatorial District and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct fresh election within 90 days.

The three-man appellate panel, led by Justice A.H. Yahya cancelled the March 28 election of Ekwunife and upheld the appeal filed by the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, who challenged the judgment of the lower tribunal that had earlier upheld Ekwunife’s election.

After the annulment of the poll, the governing APC has been facing challenges over the ticket. The challenges arise from the choice of Ngige’s replacement and the latest report suggesting that a fresh candidate will not be allowed to participate in the re-run election.

In order to surmount the challenges, the APC had to organize fresh primary in order to produce its candidate for Anambra Central Senatorial re-run election since Senator Ngige had decided to dump the senatorial ambition for his current ministerial position.

The primary posed a serious challenge to the party after the sudden defection of Senator Ekwunife to the governing party apparently to secure the APC ticket.

The dust raised from the primary forced the APC national leadership to warn against the declaration of any result from the Anambra Central Senatorial primary election conducted by the party.

APC National Secretary, Mai Mala Buni, in a three-paragraph release titled ‘Anambra Central Senatorial APC Primary Election’, said only Senator Domingo Obende, who was duly appointed by the party to conduct the primary poll, could declare a final result.

The stalemate caused by the supporters of Ms Sharon Ikeazor and Senator Ekwunife was resolved by the party’s national leadership as they relied on the reports of the screening and appeal committees.

A five-man screening committee for the Anambra Central Senatorial District had, in its report, concluded that Senator Ekwunife is ineligible to seek the party’s nomination for the Senatorial re-run election.

The report of the committee, however, gives a clean bill of health to Ms Ikeazor Sharon Olive.

The report, which was obtained by Daily Trust, showed that the committee screened only the two aspirants.

The report, which explained the reasons for the decision taken on Senator Ekwunife, stated that “the committee members each independently scored the aspirant (Ekwunife) below the pass mark of 51 Points” when she appeared before them.

The report of the APC five-man screening committee was also upheld by the appeal committee.

So, Ikeazor, a member of the defunct ANPP, woman leader of the defunct CPC, woman leader of the interim National Executive Committee, and a member of the BOT, was finally adopted as the APC candidate.

Her candidacy was formally announced by the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, after reconciliatory meetings with Mrs Ekwunife who was said to have promised to take the decision of the party in good faith and thanked her supporters in the Senatorial District for sustained support.

Odigie-Oyegun, who confirmed the emergence of Barrister Ikeazor as the party’s candidate in the forthcoming Anambra Central Senatorial District re-run election, said the process that threw her up followed due process and met the party’s constitutional requirements.

Just as the dust raised by the primary poll was settling down, the INEC created another worry for the APC after stating that the re-run polls would feature only the candidates who participated in the first elections.

As a result, the APC National Chairman raised an alarm that INEC is making attempts to bar his party from elections in Anambra and other states at a meeting with a high-level delegation of the Rivers state chapter of the party led by the party’s governorship candidate in the 2015 general elections, Dr. Dakuku Peterside at the party’s National Secretariat in Abuja.

“As of today, there are attempts being made by INEC to bar us from elections in Anambra and other states. We must address these issues. I still find the judgment on the Rivers State governorship election totally astonishing. There is something fundamentally wrong in the Judiciary,” he said.

Chief Odigie-Oyegun’s alarm was followed by an official position of the party on the Anambra re-run poll from its National Secretary, Mai Mala Buni.

Buni, in a signed statement, said the party’s candidate, Barrister Sharon Ikeazor, would contest the Anambra Central Senatorial District re-run election on March 5, 2016.

The APC National Secretary said the clarification became necessary, following some media reports suggesting that the party’s senatorial candidate had been excluded from the election by the INEC.

He said the party was not in receipt of any communication from the INEC in respect of the ‘purported’ exclusion of its senatorial candidate.

The INEC Secretary, Mrs Augusta Ogakwu, had stated in a release that the commission would “conduct elections in 69 of the constituencies with the same political parties and their candidates who participated in the annulled elections” in 17 states, including Anambra.

This statement had been interpreted to mean that the APC candidate, Ikeazor who replaced Dr. Ngige was not qualified to contest the re-run election.

However, the APC scribe said for the sake of clarity, Dr. Ngige, who contested the election in March 2015 on the platform of the party, is now a Minister and had withdrawn from the fresh election ordered by the Court of Appeal.

He said the party presented the candidature of Barrister Ikeazor as replacement for the original candidate who withdrew from the race in order to avoid a vacuum after due process.

Buni stressed that a political party has the right to nominate and sponsor candidates in all elections in Nigeria by law, adding that “it is immaterial whether it is a general election, bye-election, new election, fresh election or election of any nomenclature”.

He added that the right of a political party to substitute a candidate who dies or withdraws his/her candidacy is contained in Sections 33 and 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).

The party expressed confidence that the INEC as a law-abiding body would be guided by the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) at all times.

The Anambra state chapter of the APC, which had joined the debate, said it did not expect any obstacle as it received INEC’s acknowledgment of both the withdrawal of Ngige and the submission of the name of APC’s new candidate, Barr. Ikeazor.

The state chapter, in a statement through its Publicity Secretary, Okelo Madukaife, stressed that it had fulfilled all the conditions specified in Sections 33 and 35 of the 2010 Electoral Act, as amended.

“We, therefore, do not expect any obstacles from INEC in the natural stride to deliver an APC senator in Anambra Central which enjoys the support of every citizen in the senatorial district, Anambra State, and South East Nigeria.

“Once again, we urge INEC to pull back and refrain from trying to choose a candidate for APC in the March 5, 2016, as APC is sufficiently imbued with knowledge and options to explore in the bid to allow the real desire of the people of Anambra Central Senatorial District not to allow any single candidature, no matter what unofficial no matter what unofficial considerations and incentives are at play.

“Once gain we urge our overwhelming supporters to keep focus, keep faith and vote resoundingly for Barr Sharon Ikeazor and APC, to change things for the South East, where a dummy Deputy Senate President, occupying an empty position cannot attend the caucus meeting of the ruling caucus in the senate and therefore constitute the only zone entirely let out in the majority caucus leadership of the National Assembly,” the statement also read.

As the APC continues to express fears ahead of the Anambra re-run election, only a clear message from the electoral body can finally douse the tension.

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