Coalition tasks INEC to defend democracy

Ahead of the release of the final list of candidates for the upcoming gubernatorial election in Ondo State, a pro-democracy group, Coalition in Defense of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution (CDNDC) has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to follow the path of established principles of law and decisions of the Supreme Court, adding that the commission should apply the various judgments of the Supreme Court in determining the rightful candidates of the various political parties, where there seems to be contention, especially that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The Coalition,  in a statement signed by it conveners, Messrs Ariyo-Dare Atoye, Ilemona Onaja and Ojugo Onyeluka, on Tuesday, sated that from its investigation, the Supreme Court has settled the fact that only the national executive organ of a party can validly submit to INEC the names of the party’s candidates in a general election.

The group cited the judgments of the Apex court in: “Emeka vs Okadigbo & Ors (2012) 18 NWLR (pt1331) 55; Emenike vs PDP (2012) 18 NWLR (pt 1315) 556; Oguebego vs PDP, where it was held that, “To the effect that the appropriate organ of a party empowered to conduct primaries and submit names of its candidates for the purposes of general election is the National Executive Committee,” the statement clarified.

CDNDC equally referred to a subsisting judgment of Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court in Okonkwo vs INEC, which asserted that: “It is settled law that the state executive committee organ of a political party lacks power to nominate candidates for an election. It is only the primary election conducted by the national executive committee of a party that is valid to be submitted to INEC for the purpose of an election and no other arm.”

The group, however, observed that there is no contention before INEC as to who is the rightful leadership of the PDP, since various judgments of the Federal High Court have upheld the legitimacy of the Ahmed Makarfi led National Caretaker Committee (NEC).

, adding that “the judgements of the Federal High Court on the PDP leadership, delivered by Justices Abdulahi Liman, Valentine Ashi and Nnwamaka Ogbonnaya; the combined import of which have validated and authenticated the Ahmed Makarfi led NEC of the PDP.

“When read together, these judgments point to the fact that only the Makarfi led PDP NEC can submit names of candidates to INEC. This was done in Edo State and it has also been done in respect of Ondo State, and no other body or institution has the power to act otherwise,” it added.

CDNDC described any legal voyage to alter this known position of the law as “an exercise in futility,” meant to distract INEC and create an electoral logjam that could undermine the neutrality and consistency of the commission on PDP matters.

, noting that it is difficult to ascertain if Jimoh Ibrahim was in the first place a member of the PDP, referring to an exclusive interview the businessman granted Trace Magazine on June 19, 2016 where he admitted his membership of the Accord Party (AP).

“Jimoh Ibrahim is a member of the Accord Party, he has never denied that; what INEC must try to ascertain is whether a member of one political party can contest on the platform of another party irrespective of a procured court order. We urge INEC to take cognisance of all these facts and act appropriately in the interest of democracy and political Justice,” the coalition added.

The group also urged INEC not to fall for any political blackmail, cautioning that if any person or group is allowed to subvert due process, this could create serious problem for the commission as “more desperate politicians could exploit this in future.”