Friday Olokor, Sola Shittu and Peter Dada
As part of preparations for the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states, the Independent National Electoral Commission says it will recruit and deploy 38,887 officials for the two elections.
The commission noted that the ad hoc staff would respectively serve as Returning Officers, Local Government Area Collation Officers, Registration Area Collation Officers, Supervisory Presiding Officers, Presiding Officers, Assistant Presiding Officers (1, 2 and 3), Assistant Presiding Officers (Voting Points), Constituency Supervisors, LGA Supervisors, Governorship Constituency Supervisors and Reserves.
INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, who disclosed these to one of our correspondents in an interview on Thursday, also noted that due to the raging coronavirus disease, the commission would use electronic and non-contact means in the recruitment exercise.
INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, at a briefing at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja on February 5, said the commission had fixed September 19 for the governorship election in Edo State and October 10 for the election in Ondo State.
He also released the schedule of activities for the elections, including dates for primaries and commencement of campaigns.
Meanwhile, in the interview, Okoye said as part of its preparations, the commission was also redesigning the polling units in response to COVID-19, which had infected 8,915 persons in Nigeria, out of which 259 had died while 2,592 persons had been discharged.
Okoye noted that the formal recruitment of ad hoc staff for the election would commence as soon as the modalities for their recruitment were worked out.
He said, “Edo State has a total of 2,627 Polling Units, 4,519 Voting Points and 192 Registration Areas. Edo has 18 local government areas with a registered voting population of 2,210,535.
“Ondo State, on the other hand, has a total of 3,009 Polling Units, 3933 Voting Points and 203 Registration Areas. Ondo has 18 local government areas and a total registered voting population of 1,822,346.
“The commission will require 20,974 election officials in Edo State and 17,913 in Ondo State, made up of Returning Officers, Local Government Area Collation Officers, Registration Area Collation Officers, Supervisory Presiding Officers, Presiding Officers, Assistant Presiding Officers (1, 2 and 3), Assistant Presiding Officers (Voting Points), Constituency Supervisors, LGA Supervisors, Governorship Constituency Supervisors and Reserves.”
The National Commissioner noted that the commission was presently engaging its Edo and Ondo state offices and the leadership of the National Youth Service Corps on the modalities for the recruitment of the ad hoc staff.
He added, “The commission recruits majority of ad hoc staff that serve as Presiding Officers and Assistant Presiding Officers from the NYSC and from federal tertiary institutions. Shortfalls are sometimes sourced from state tertiary institutions or federal tertiary institutions from contiguous states.”
But, due to the closure of all schools across the country and the fact that corps members had been directed to stay or work from home on account of the raging COVID-19, Okoye explained that the commission would work with its offices in the states where the governorship elections and other senatorial and state Assembly bye-elections would hold to work out modalities for the recruitment.
He added, “In the Edo and Ondo governorship elections and the outstanding senatorial and state Assembly bye-elections, the commission will use electronic and non-contact means in the recruitment of ad hoc staff and will deploy its INEC press portal for this purpose.
“Presently, the commission has a robust database of past ad hoc staff members and all the databases containing such will be harmonised and made available to the state offices conducting elections. The commission will also notify all ad hoc staff members of invitations and postings electronically and as much as possible limit physical contact and large gatherings that are inimical to the fight against COVID-19.
“The commission is presently engaging Resident Electoral Commissioners, political parties, civil society groups and organisations and the media. It is also engaged in the review of its regulations, guidelines and manuals as well as the Voter Code of Conduct.
“The formal recruitment of ad hoc staff will commence as soon as the commission works out the modalities for their recruitment.”
Speaking on the procurement of election materials, he stated that different departments of the commission oversaw different aspects of the electoral process.
Okoye said, “Presently, the commission is carrying out assessment of its local government and Registration Area Collation Centres as well as Registration Area Centres to get them ready for the elections. The commission is redesigning the Polling Units against the background of the COVID – 19 pandemic.
“The personal protective equipment, alcohol-based hand sanitisers, face masks and hand-washing accompaniments are things that are available within jurisdiction and the two elections are state-specific elections, so the commission will not encounter challenges in procuring them.
“The commission will not have challenges in printing of ballot papers and result sheets based on one state election. The commission will maximise its non-sensitive materials and also draw from the contiguous states.”
Also, on the amount to be spent on the elections, Okoye said the COVID-19 pandemic had altered all earlier budgetary provisions made in relation to the two governorship elections. He, however, noted that the commission’s Finance Department was on top of the situation.
“The application for the funds is an issue handled by the Finance Department of the commission under the guidance and direction of the chairman of the commission and they are on top of the situation,” he added.
Okoye said the INEC chairman endorsed the release of the commission’s policy on conducting elections in the context of COVID-19 pandemic on May 21 and that the policy was to prepare the commission to respond to the effects of COVID-19 on the electoral process and the twin challenge of looming cuts in government spending and communicating same to stakeholders.
“Hence, all the operational and logistics arms of the commission are responding to this twin challenge and reviewing previous projections and imputing new issues and expenditures not previously envisaged and cutting down on some budgetary provisions,” he added.
He said candidates and political parties were expected to display exemplary conduct through the electioneering, the voting process and after the election.
When asked whether the commission was worried about the rising tension ahead of the primaries of some major political parties, especially the All Progressives Congress in Edo and Ondo states, Okoye called on political parties in states where elections would be held not to engage in acts or actions that could create fear and anxiety in the minds of the electorate.
He added, “Presently, there are 18 registered political parties in Nigeria and the commission expects all the parties intending to field candidates to strictly abide by their own constitution, guidelines for the conduct of party primaries and section 87 of the Electoral Act.
“All the political parties are aware of the current health challenges in the country and their implications. We expect the political parties and their leaders to display exemplary conduct at this critical period.
“The political parties must not engage in acts or actions that can create fear and anxiety in the minds of the people of the two states and the other states where bye-elections would hold. All the stakeholders must assure and reassure the people that they can exercise their democratic mandate and remain safe and healthy.”
Shaibu asks Buhari to intervene in Edo APC crisis
Following the crisis in the Edo State chapter of the APC, the Deputy Governor of Edo State, Mr Philip Shaibu, has appealed to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to intervene in the crisis.
He alleged that the party’s National Chairman, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, was bent on destroying the President’s anti-corruption legacy.
Speaking with journalists in his office on Friday over the crisis rocking the party in the state, Shaibu noted that there was ample evidence that Oshiomhole was not joining forces with the President on his anti-corruption crusade, but rather aligning with a man who has a pending corruption case to contest the governorship seat in the state.
…alleges Oshiomhole bent on destroying anti-corruption legacy
He said, “My message to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the leader of the party in Nigeria, is for him to intervene in the crisis rocking Edo APC. I urge him to provide leadership at this critical time as Oshiomhole wants to destroy his anti-corruption legacy.
“Oshiomhole is not joining the President’s anti-corruption crusade, rather he’s bringing a person that has N700m corruption case pending in court to contest an election. Oshiomhole called this man a thief; it is the same man he is bringing to govern Edo people.”
Shaibu argued that Oshiomhole’s achievements as governor could not be compared to that of incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki, whose successes, he said, were obvious across the state.
Shaibu added, “The party’s National Executive Council said every state executive should decide on its mode of primary and submit to the National Working Committee. We have done that and we stand by that resolution. Oshiomhole is an interested party and he can’t decide for us.”
…insists Ize-Iyamu unqualified to contest
The deputy governor also alleged that Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who has also obtained the form for the election from the APC and is the consensus aspirant for a faction of the party, is not a registered member of Edo APC, and as such not qualified to contest the election.
He said, “Ize-Iyamu is not a member of the Edo APC because he is not registered in his ward. The constitution is clear on who a member is. He agreed to the fact that he didn’t register at the ward and his ward chairman didn’t register him.
“The constitution says for one to be a member of the APC in the state, he or she must be a registered member of the party in his or her ward.”
I’m a bona fide member of APC –Ize-Iyamu
Meanwhile, Ize-Iyamu has dismissed claims that he is not a member of the party, saying those disputing his membership of the party are only engaging in a fruitless exercise.
Ize-Iyamu was reacting to a statement credited to some persons who claimed to be chairmen of the 18 local governments of Edo State purportedly challenging his membership of the party on the grounds that it fell short of the party’s constitutional requirements.
A statement signed by the Director of Communication and Media to Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu Campaign Organisation, Mr John Mayaki, said, “Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu was one of those who not only formed the APC but drafted the constitution of the APC.”
He said Article 9 of the party’s constitution said people could register at the ward or do online registration.
He said, “Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu applied and nobody can quarrel with the online registration. He has the slip, the registration number and his name is on the portal of the party.
“Again, unknown to these renegades, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu does not really need to rely on that card because with his online registration, nobody can challenge his membership of the party. What they are doing is an exercise in futility.
“When Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and others were putting the party together, the governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, was not there and nowhere to be found; so how do you expect a man who should be a beneficiary of a house that he helped to build being stopped from gaining access into the house?
“However, knowing the rules, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu went to his ward chairman, Mr Ogbebor, in Ugboko ward in Orhiomwon to say he and his teeming followers were coming back home, and he was given the party card.”
Again, Obaseki, Ize-Iyamu trade words on mode of primary
Meanwhile, the major contenders for the APC ticket in the forthcoming primaries, Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu, on Friday disagreed again on the mode of election to be used for the party’s June 22 governorship primary.
Obaseki, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr Crusoe Osagie, faulted the choice of direct primary for the state.
He said, “The power to decide what kind of primary to use is only with the National Executive Council and NEC at the last meeting has decided that because of the dissenting voices, all modes of primaries should be decided by the different state chapters as it was done in Kogi and Bayelsa states.
“So in Edo, the same method will be adopted. We will now write the NEC to say this is the mode of primary that we want.”
But Ize-Iyamu, on Thursday night cautioned against the adoption of indirect primary saying it could fuel the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
A statement by his campaign organisation and signed by the Director of Communications and Media, Mr John Mayaki, said, “The indirect option also means he (the governor) would mobilise members from every ward to Benin City, which is more dangerous and it appears they don’t know the implications of an indirect primary.
“The party has the right to decide on what type of primaries we should have.
“Whatever the national body says, we will abide by it.”
Meanwhile, the factional chairman of the party in the state, Col. David Imuse (retd), on Friday urged the governor to be ready to face the primaries.
Speaking at a press conference in Benin, the state capital, Imuse said there was no going back on using direct primary option as pronounced by the party’s NWC.
He added, “The responsibility of who decides the mode of election for the office of the president, governor, national and state Houses of Assembly is the NWC. There is nothing anybody can do about it.”
Oke, Boroffice support direct primaries for Ondo
As the Ondo State APC prepares for its governorship primaries, two stakeholders in the party have expressed support for the direct mode of primaries.
The senator representing Ondo North Senatorial District, Ajayi Boroffice, who spoke through his media aide, Mr Kayode Fakuyi, said, “The option of indirect primary is not desirable because Ondo APC has two factions and the court case could go in favour of the aggrieved faction. The lesson from the Zamfara experience is that APC risks losing everything if a faction is allowed to elect party candidates.
“Therefore, direct primary is the best option for APC in Ondo State. It will bring the two factions together, provide level-playing field for all governorship aspirants and give all party members the powers to elect the governorship candidate.”
In the same vein, a chieftain of the party, Chief Olusola Oke, who emerged as the consensus candidate of the Unity Forum of the party, said direct primaries would provide equity and fairness in the party.
Speaking through his Special Adviser on Media, Mr Rotimi Ogunleye, he said, “As a democrat and in agreement with the overwhelming opinion of the majority of the leaders and members of the APC in Ondo State, I am in full support of direct primary as allowed by the constitution of our party.
“It is a fact that there is a faction in Ondo APC executive and the matter is pending in court. For equity and fairness, direct primary will provide participatory platform for all shades of interests that were prevented from participating in the last congress of the APC in Ondo State.”
The state chairman of the party, Mr Ade Adetimehin, declined to comment on the issue when contacted by one of our correspondents.
“I don’t have anything to say about the issue of primaries for now but all I can say is that the party is preparing for the primaries and the main election,” he said.