The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been notified by the All Progressives Congress (APC) of the death of its governorship candidate in the November 21 election.
The INEC says it will conduct the Kogi State supplementary governorship election on December 5.
A statement by the electoral body said elections would hold in the 91 affected polling units, as announced by the Returning Officer.
According to the electoral body, the APC would be required to fill the vacancy created by the death of its candidate, Mr Abubakar Audu, who was leading in the election declared inconclusive.
News about Mr Audu’s death filtered in on Sunday the same day the election was declared inconclusive.
Mr Audu was buried on Monday in his country home, Ogbonicha in Ofu Local Government Area of Kogi State.
After election results from the 21 local government areas were collated on Sunday, the All Progressives Congress’ candidate, Abubakar Audu, was leading while the incumbent Governor, Captain Idris Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) trailed by a margin less than the number of cancelled votes.
The candidate of the APC had 240,867 votes while that of the PDP got 199,514 votes.
The commission said 49,953 votes were canceled, which was higher than the margin between the leading candidate and the runner-up. It then declared the election inconclusive.
But what about the small matter of the feared constitutional crisis? How is Inec to proceed according to law?
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, has said that the All Progressives Congress (APC) could substitute its candidate in the Kogi State governorship election, who died a day after the November 21 election.
Mr Malami said section 33 of the Electoral Act provided for such substitution. The Electoral Act in section 33 says: “A political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted pursuant to section 32 of this Act, except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate.”
At a seminar in Abuja on Tuesday, organised by the Nigerian Law Reform Commission on the reform of the National Environmental Standards and Regulation Enforcement Agency (establishment) Act, the Attorney General said the Kogi election had to be concluded.
He explained that section 221 of the constitution was clear that the votes that were cast were cast in favour of the APC.
Mr Malami said since the primary election conducted by the APC prior to the governorship election was still valid, the candidate that came second may have to be considered as replacement.
So…problem solved? Well not quite, at least not according to the APC’s major rival political party.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has kicked against an advice by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr Abubakar Malami, to the All Progressives Congress (APC) that the party can substitute its late candidate in the Kogi State governorship election.
The opposition party also asked Mr Malami to “immediately vacate his office for harrying and misleading the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) into arriving at the decision”.
In a statement by the opposition party’s spokesman, Olisa Metuh, the party said it was shocked that “INEC, a supposedly independent electoral umpire, could allow itself to succumb to the antics of the APC by following the unlawful directive of an obviously partisan AGF to substitute a candidate in the middle of the ballot process”.
Alien To The Constitution
The party in a statement said: “We are all aware that the two legal documents guiding INEC in the conduct of elections; the Constitution and the Electoral Act, have provisions for electoral exigencies as well as empower the electoral body to fully take responsibility for any of its actions or inaction without undue interference from any quarters whatsoever.
“We are therefore at a loss as to which sections of these two relevant laws, INEC and the AGF relied on in arriving at their bizarre decision to substitute a dead candidate in an on-going election even after the timelines for such has elapsed under all the rules.
“INEC as a statutory body has the full complements of technical hands in its legal department to advice it appropriately and we wonder why it had to wait for directives from the AGF, an external party, if not for partisan and subjective interest”.
The PDP further rejected what it said was “a brazen move by the APC and INEC to circumvent the laws and ambush the yet-to-be concluded election by introducing a practice that is completely alien to the constitution and the Electoral Act”.
The party claimed that the clear implication of this action of the AGF and INEC was that the APC would be fielding two different governorship candidates in the on-going Kogi election, a situation it said meant that INEC would be transferring votes cast for late Prince Abubakar Audu to another candidate.
According to the opposition party, the scenarios had no place in the Nigerian Constitution.
The opposition party further said: “Whereas the PDP, in honour of the sanctity of human life and respect for the dead, had since Sunday refrained from making comments on the conduct of the election, we can no longer maintain such in the face of the barefaced attack on our democracy.
“This INEC, under the leadership of Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has shown itself as partisan, morally bankrupt and obviously incapable of conducting a credible election within our laws”.
It also demanded for the resignation of the INEC Chairman, as claimed that the nation’s democracy could not afford to be left in the hands of an electoral umpire that could not exert its independence and the sanctity of the electoral process.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has announced that a fresh primary election will be conducted in Kogi State to pick a replacement for late Abubakar Audu.
Speaking with reporters at the National Secretariat of the party in Abuja on Tuesday, the Chairman of the party, John Oyegun, said the decision to hold a fresh primary was taken after the APC received a letter from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) asking it to replace late Audu.
“It is in the public space already that the Chief Law Officer of the republic has made his views known on how things should develop from this stage on.