Illegal Substitution, Removal Of Names Threaten INEC’s Credibility
In the last few weeks, aggrieved candidates had forwarded numerous petitions and complaints to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to disregard claims made by their parties for substituting their names, after they had emerged winners from their various party primaries.
One case is that of Oarhe Dickson, a House of Representatives aspirant for Owan federal constituency, Edo state, under the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Dickson, who claimed to be the winner of the primary held on November 29, 2014.
He is alleging that his party had substituted his name with one Ekeinde Stephen Obas, without his consent as the authentic choice of the party. At present, he has dragged the party to the Federal High Court in Benin City, challenging such decision.
The aggrieved man is asking the court to declare that the purported withdrawal of his name and the subsequent submission of another name as candidate to INEC is illegal, null, void and of no legal consequence or significance.
Dickson who spoke with The Guardian said his party cannot remove his name after same was submitted to INEC for the March 28th, 2015 National Assembly election, asking if SDP and Obas can circumvent the provisions of the electoral act 2010, as amended.
He is seeking an order to declare him as the candidate of the party and that he should be treated as such, noting that despite his complaints the electoral umpire has failed to comply with his plea.
It was the same experience for the governorship candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in Ogun State, Sina Kawonise, whose name was allegedly substituted with that of Mr. Abolaji Sunmola to INEC. While describing the action as “an illegality committed by the National Working Committee of his party,” he told The Guardian that the fact of the matter is that he was the lawfully elected candidate of the LP in the state.
“I was the sole aspirant that attended the affirmative Congress of the LP in Abeokuta on December 10, 2104. INEC, the Directorate of State Security (DSS), the Police, and the Mass Media witnessed the Congress that returned me as the Governorship Candidate. It is on record that the INEC team that witnessed the Congress duly wrote the Report of the Congress returning me as the Governorship candidate and submitted same to INEC headquarters in Abuja.”
While noting that his legal team has taken up the matter in the appropriate court, he urged his supporters and Ogun LP to remain calm and continue the campaign for “our candidates at all levels in the coming elections. I assure all that the law is on our side as judicial precedents on matters as this are very clear and unambiguous.”
In Benue State, a member of the All Progressives Party (APC), is crying foul of an alleged infiltration of INEC’s database by ‘hackers’, who “illegally replaced the name of its candidate for Kwande West State constituency, Mr. Joseph Boko, with the incumbent legislator, Benjamin Nungwa.”
The content of a letter signed by the state chairman of the party, Mr. Abba Yaro revealed that the perpetrators hacked into the website of INEC and altered its database to include the name of incumbent legislator, who was defeated by Mr. Boko at the party primaries in December 2014.
The chairman, who noted that such act, was not in the spirit of the party, called for the immediate arrest of the offenders. Yaro, described the act as an illegality and called on the law enforcement agencies to investigate the matter and bring the culprits to book.
“The perpetrators of this illegality should be arrested and treated as true criminals as the party is not responsible for this illegal change of name.
“The sudden appearance of the name of Hon. Benjamin Nungwa, on your website dated 27/01/2015 is illegal and unacceptable as we are fully aware of the procedures needed for change. We are also aware that the time for candidate substitution is over, furthermore, if a change had to take place, we should have notified the necessary authorities appropriately.”
The Guardian gathered that the victim, Boko, had defeated two others including, Nungwa at the APC primaries and had also passed the APC’s screening, and was issued a certificate of clearance for the general elections.
The party called on INEC to fortify its website to secure its database against criminals trying to invade it.
But when contacted, the incumbent legislator, Nungwa said his name was properly sent to INEC by the National Working Committee of the party.
He maintained that the party took the decision to replace his name instead of that of Boko, on the strength of the recommendations of the party’s appeal panel, which investigated the petitions against the primary election.
When contacted, the Administrative Secretary of INEC, SalihuYa’u, said the commission was yet to receive the letter of complaint from the party even as he admitted that the time stipulated for substitution had already elapsed.
Also in Ogun State, a House of Representatives aspirant for Abeokuta North, Odeda and Obafemi/Owode Federal Constituency, Dr. Adesina Ibrahim Olaleye, has sued the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for substituting him with a gubernatorial aspirant, Jelili Kayode Amusan, describing such as irregular and inconsistent. He joined Amusan and INEC, as first and third defendants, respectively.
The plaintiff through his counsel, Malachy Ugwummadu of Malachy Ugwummadu’s Chamber said he emerged as the candidate of the party, having contested and polled the highest votes cast at the PDP primary election in the state held on December 6, 2014, for the House of Representatives, but his name was substituted with Amusan, describing it as unconstitutional and inconsistent with both Electoral Act 2010 and the PDP’s Electoral Guidelines for Primary Election 2014.
He noted that Amusan did not in any way partake in the House of Representatives primary but that of the governorship in the state, hence the party shouldn’t have forwarded his name to INEC as the elected candidate, saying both PDP and INEC lack the power under Section 33, 35 and 87(4)(C)(ii) of the Electoral Act 2010, as well as Section 50 of PDP’s Electoral guidelines to do such.
Olaleye is therefore seeking a relief stating that the substitution is illegal, null and void and of no effect; that he was the duly elected candidate having polled 56 votes, which was the highest number of votes; that Amusan is not eligible or qualified to contest, being an aspirant who obtained and contested the party’s gubernatorial primary, which he lost to Gboyega Isiaka, among others.
In a related development, the beneficiary of the substitution, Amusan has sued both the South West leader of the party and the PDP for trying to substitute him with yet another person, after he was declared dead. Olaleye is therefore approaching the court for the possibility of joining the case as interested party.
When Amusan was contacted, he disclosed that he was aware of the suit, in which he was joined as a defendant. He noted that Olaleye needs to contact the party leaders because he did not personally went to INEC’s office to withdraw his name.
“He should go to the party and resolve the issue. If you are actually monitoring what is going on in the state, you’ll realise that there was no primary according to what the party announced, most of the primaries in the state were not approved. Most importantly, the party has the right to fix candidates of their choice, and I want to believe that, that was what the party has done.”
He revealed that he actually contested for the governorship seat, noting that it should be at the discretion of the party to fix their candidates, in a situation where there was no election.
“But since he has gone to court, it is left for the party to decide because the issue is beyond what I can control. I am not blaming him for the step he took because when he approached me as a brother I told him that if he knew that he had been unjustly treated he should approach the court and if the court says he is the rightful candidate so be it,” he stated.
Amusan confirmed that his name had already been substituted too, saying he is also in court, “but lets wait and see. The court is the final arbiter; we would wait and see what the court’s decision would be.”
When the INEC spokesman, Kayode Idowu was contacted on phone on the issue, he said the time for substitution of candidates had lapsed since December. He noted that he was not aware of moves by any party to make changes for now. “In any event, the law is clear on procedures and INEC wont accommodate anything outside the law.”
When asked on the next move by the electoral body regarding cases instituted by some aggrieved candidates in courts, he simply asked, “If they are in court, what should INEC do?”
With the increase in cases of names removal and substitutions, analysts are of the view that if INEC does not rise up to its responsibility and sanction erring political parties, it will leave a plethora of pre-election cases to the judiciary to work on post election.