For the umpteenth time, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu yesterday assured Nigerians that the Commission has no preferred political party or candidates in the 2023 general elections.
He also reiterated that votes of Nigerians at the polls would count.
The INEC Chairman said this at the 4th Abubakar Momoh Memorial Lecture with the theme: “Electoral Act 2022: Imperatives for Political Parties and the 2023 General Elections,” that took place in Abuja.
The INEC chairman was represented by the chairman of the Board of the Electoral Institute, Prof. Abdullahi Abdu Zuru, a national commissioner of INEC.
Yakubu said: “Once again, I wish to assure you that INEC has no preferred party or candidate. We shall only ensure that valid votes count and the winners are decided solely by the voters.”
He explained that as the 2023 general elections draws near, it was imperative for all stakeholders especially the political parties to note the major features introduced by the new Electoral Act 2022 and the possible implications of the changes on the upcoming elections. According to him, the happenings that accompanied the recent parties’ primaries attested to these.
The INEC chairman, said, “These changes include amongst others, the conduct of early party primaries by political parties, technological changes in the electoral process, the Commission’s power to review the decision of Returning Officer and over voting based on the number of accredited voters.
“These initiatives as contained in the law served as the bedrock for the reviewed Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections 2022 released by the Commission in 2022. This in turn dictated the review of the Manual for Election Officials, 2022.
“Let me draw your attention to the fact that the use of electronic devices such as Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS), INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED), INEC Results Viewing Portal (IRev) and other technological devices, are now legally allowed in the accreditation process for voters, collation of results and in the general conduct of elections.
“These changes include amongst others, the conduct of Early Party Primaries by Political parties, technological changes in the electoral process, the Commission’s power to Review the decision of Returning Officer and Over-voting based on the number of accredited voters.
These initiatives as contained in the law served as the bedrock for the reviewed Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections 2022 released by the Commission on 24h 1 2022. This in turn dictated the review of the Manual for Election Officials, 2022.
“Please be assured that these innovations are intended to deepen the electoral process in our country and their optimal performance in the just concluded gubernatorial election in Ekiti and Osun States is an eloquent testimony to their electoral value. We shall only do more to consolidate their deployment in our election.”
Yakubu said the Prof. Abubakar Momoh memorial lecture was a platform established by the Commission to project the ideals of a social activist and an advocate of citizen’s involvement in elections and nation building.
In view of this, Yakubu said it was therefore befitting to ride on the platform for advocacy on the electoral legal framework that would drive the 2023 general elections.
He therefore warned that, “INEC will scrupulously apply the laws without fear of favour to ensure free, fair, credible, inclusive and transparent election come February, 2023. Please, I urge you all to listen attentively to our guest lecturer.”
In his lecture, Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George, a legal practitioner and consultant said, “politics is not anarchy; it is not disorderliness; it must be punctuated by justice, fairness and orderliness.”
According to him, the Supreme Court had decided on several cases that political parties must obey their own constitutions, saying the court would not allow them to act arbitrarily or as they like.
Accordingly, he said, “The party primaries are conducted by the National Executive Committees of the parties, not the state chapters of the parties. Where INEC receives a report that a party did not conduct primaries, there is no way INEC can publish the list and personal particulars of whoever purportedly emerges from any so called party primaries.
In the case of Yobe state, the quest lecturer said, “In relation to the party’s primary relating to the Senate President in Yobe State, there was a report that a party primary was conducted and somebody won the election. “But the party whose responsibility it is to submit the name of the validly nominated candidate submitted the name of another candidate and the Commission did not publish the name of any candidate in relation to that party primary.
“This is because if you look at Section 29(1) of the Electoral Act, it says that a political party shall submit the list of candidates it intends to sponsor who have emerged from valid party primaries.”
While on the case of Delta State, he said that the Commission monitored party primaries, a candidate emerged from that party’s primary, the political party submitted the name of a candidate they believed won the primary; one of the aspirants went to court and the court said, ‘no, you are the candidate, the PDP and INEC should do the needful and submit your name’.
“What INEC did was that having received the court order, INEC wrote to the PDP to comply with the judgment of the court and upload the name and particulars of the person the court said won the party primary. They have not done so. So, it is the responsibility of the party under S. 29, to do the needful.”