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APC, PDP Sink Deeper Into Crises Ahead 2023 Elections

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Internal crises are festering within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Leaders of the two dominant political parties are at the center of the turmoil.

Last week at the Supreme Court, the minority judgment in the Eyitayo Jegede (PDP) versus Rotimi Akeredolu (APC) Ondo State governorship appeal opened the APC crisis.

Three justices, led by Justice Mary Odili, submitted that it is illegal for a sitting governor to hold another office simultaneously, citing Section 180 of the 1999 Constitution.

Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni is the APC Caretaker national chairman.

Akeredolu won the judgment by a narrow 4-3.

Many party stalwarts demanded that Buni should step down so that the party will not sink into “judicial jeopardy.”

The call becomes more strident at the weekend.

In the PDP, the governors have decided to meet next week to determine the fate of the Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC).

A source said the August 9 meeting may decide on bringing the December elective party convention forward to October to kick the NWC earlier than their end of tenure.

Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike is spearheading the campaign for Secondus’ ouster.

The PDP governors, who met in Bauchi last week, decided against the undemocratic process being suggested by Wike to get Secondus out.

They also came up with some solutions to lower the brewing tension in the party ahead of 2023.

All the options will be considered at the August 9 meeting in Abuja.

A governor, who spoke in confidence, said at the weekend: “Since there is division in the party on the fate of Secondus and his team, we are working on a middle-of-the-road approach to keep the party intact.

“One of the options is the likelihood of bringing the National Convention forward by one or two months. We are thinking of holding it either in October or early November. Statutorily, the tenure of the NWC ends in December.

“The governors resolved to meet on August 9 to decide the exit date of Secondus and NWC. The decision will then be communicated to all organs of the party.”

The anti-Secondus campaign has heightened in the last few days with a plot to use some peripheral NWC members, especially some of those serving as deputies to national officers, to pass a vote of no confidence on Secondus.

“We know that some people are floating a cash-for-sack deal against Secondus and the NWC but they cannot succeed.

“If the NWC is sacked before its tenure ends, there will be anarchy in the party,” a member of the party executive said.

While writing off the NWC, WIke had said: ”An opposition party ought to be united, to work, to take over the affairs of government, because people are waiting for this opportunity, but the current leadership of NWC is not prepared for that. Rather, what they have done is to constitute some people to sow a seed of discord among governors for their own selfish interest. And that will boomerang; that will consume them.

“Yes. If you ask me as a member of PDP, am I ready to support PDP to take over, yes. But, if you ask me currently as it is, is the leadership of the party willing for us to harvest this opportunity for a change, I will say no.

“The present NWC is not interested or doing anything to take over the rein of government in 2023.”

BIG STORY

2023 Presidency: Nigerians Should Wait For Tinubu To Speak In January —- Fashola

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Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has urged Nigerians to wait till January 2022 for the National Leader of All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, to declare whether he will be running for president in 2023 or not.

He stated this on Channels Television’s ‘Hard Copy’ programme aired on Friday night.

Of recent, posters and billboards advertising the rumoured presidential bid of Tinubu who was Lagos governor from May 1999 to May 2007 have been seen in major cities including Lagos and Abuja.

Though Tinubu has yet to declare his intention to contest any office in 2023, there have been reports and veiled indications that he might be interested in the exalted seat.

It was earlier reported that the SouthWest Agenda 2023, a political movement mobilising support for Tinubu to contest the 2023 presidential election, was inaugurated in Lagos in October by Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and other party chieftains.

Tinubu, who celebrated his 69th birthday in March 2021 and command an arguably large following of political loyalists, has been reported to nurse presidential ambition in 2023, even as political debates get intense for a Southern President after the eight-year regime of the incumbent, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who is from Katsina State, North-West Nigeria.

Some groups and persons have also said aside from Tinubu, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi; and Fashola are equally capable to be Nigeria’s President.

When asked whether he is interested in becoming the President of Nigeria, Fashola said, “It is a very tough responsibility, a very tough job; I don’t envy those who have held that office and I don’t envy those who aspire to take it as well.”

Asked whether he is speaking for any aspirant come 2023, the minister said, “As far as I am aware, nobody has said, ‘I want to be Nigeria’s President’. There are people speaking for people. Nobody has come out, we are not at that stage yet.

“I can’t venture out and say that I will speak for X or Y. Let the person come out and say, ‘I want to serve Nigeria’.

“It pains me sometimes when we see that very important job and responsibility to, ‘My people said’. I think the whole sense of it should be that, ‘I am able, I have looked at myself, give me your problem, you go to sleep’.”

On whether he will support Tinubu’s rumoured 2023 presidential bid, the two-term ex-governor of Lagos said, “I saw him (Tinubu) last week, he didn’t tell me he is running for office and to the best of my knowledge, the last statement he made on it is that people will know in January.”

Fashola also said he has not asked Tinubu whether he is interested in the 2023 Presidency or not. “No, I didn’t ask him, I just went to ask how was doing. He has issued a statement that, ‘I will speak in January, so let us wait till January,” he said.

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BIG STORY

INEC Lists Corps Members To Conduct Direct Primaries

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The Independent National Electoral Commission may be forced to use serving members of the National Youth Service Corps to monitor political parties’ direct primaries across the country if the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), signs the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

This is because of the large number of personnel that will be needed to monitor the direct primaries across the 8,809 awards in the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, confirmed this in a chat with one of our correspondents on Sunday.

Okoye said it would be premature to speculate since Buhari had not yet signed the bill. He also said certain factors would be considered.

He admitted that the staff requirements for primaries would “change if the President assents to the bill.”

The INEC spokesman said some political parties might consider conducting primaries at the ward level, while others might use the local governments or senatorial districts as the criteria for primaries

Responding to a question, Okoye said, “Some parties may adopt the 8,809 registration areas (wards) of the commission for their primaries. Some may use the 774 LGAs for their primaries. Some may cluster their primaries around the senatorial districts.

“Some may use the state capitals and have a differential period when people from a particular local government area can vote. These things will be set out in the guidelines that will be designed by the parties and filed with the commission at least 14 days before the conduct of the primaries.

“When the bill is signed into law, the commission will meet and take a position on how to proceed with each strand and segment of the process. We may use our staff members for some of the primaries. We may use lecturers of federal tertiary institutions for some. We may use staff members of federal agencies and commissions, and we may use corps members. It depends on the track designed and submitted by the parties.”

Also speaking with The PUNCH, a retired INEC director, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, said the use of corps members would be the most feasible if the President assents to the bill.

Osaze-Uzzi, who said mandatory direct primaries would increase the cost of elections, stated that the NYSC remained the largest single pool of personnel available to INEC.

“It is most likely that INEC will use corps members because the NYSC is the single largest pool of personnel available to the commission. But more importantly, is the cost implication. The cost of conducting elections will be astronomical,” he stated.

The commission, according to its 2019 project plan, hired about 2.7 million ad hoc officials for the general elections, many of whom were corps members.

The document, which was obtained by The PUNCH, showed that N630m was spent on monitoring political party congresses and primaries in 2018. About N104.8m was spent on monitoring governorship, senatorial, state constituency, and federal constituency primaries, while the presidential primary cost N27.8m.

Attempts to get a response from the NYSC on the proposal proved abortive as its spokesperson, Mrs Nike Adeyemi, did not respond to inquiries.

The National Assembly had last week passed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which makes it compulsory for all political parties to conduct their primaries using the direct method.

The Peoples Democratic Party and the governors of the All Progressives Congress have rejected the provision for direct primaries, while the National Assembly remains adamant.

This week, the bill is expected to be transmitted to Buhari for assent upon his return from South Africa. However, governors have begun making moves to ensure that he does not sign it.

But the House of Representatives and some senators have threatened to veto the President if he fails to sign the bill within 30 days.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo had said last week that many of the National Assembly members believed the best way for them to win re-election was by the direct primary method, which would not be easily manipulated by their state governors.

“The reason (for the endorsement of direct primaries by the National Assembly) as it emerged from our discussions at the tripartite committee was that some legislators felt that state governments had completely taken over party congresses, and other legislators, as stakeholders, stood no chance of a fair contest in the primaries if all potential delegates and actors have already been spoken for,” Osinbajo said.

Meanwhile, political parties under the aegis of the Inter-Party Advisory Council, have again kicked against the use of direct primaries

The National Publicity Secretary of IPAC, Major Agbo, told The PUNCH that it could affect smaller parties, which did not have the finances.

He said, “The passage of the Electoral Act due to pressure from the electorate is a welcome development. The wishes and aspirations of Nigerians prevailed at last even though they tried to scuttle it initially.

“However, the inclusion of the clause on direct primaries is meant to stifle smaller parties without resources. The resources required to mobilize all party members for the primaries are enormous and will effectively put the smaller parties in difficulty, especially as the parties do not receive any funding from the government as tenable in other climes.

“This is not healthy for our democracy as it gives undue advantage to the bigger parties at the expense of the smaller ones. Nigerians should insist that this clause be removed before the bill is assented to.”

In a related development, the Senate has expressed optimism that Buhari will sign into law the 2010 Electoral Act (amendment) Bill, 2021, which will be transmitted to him this week.

The spokesman for the Senate, Ajibola Basiru, stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja.

He said only enemies of democracy would envisage that the President would not assent to the bill.

“The President has not rejected direct primary and has not told anybody that he will not sign the bill,” Basiru stated.

Asked if the federal lawmakers would carry out their threat to veto the President if he declines assent to the bill, Basiru said he did not believe in assumptions.

He stated, “I don’t deal in theories. I don’t deal in hypotheses. I won’t answer any question on whether the National Assembly will veto the President or not. It will be an insult on the President for anybody to be thinking that he will withhold assent to the bill.

“We don’t have any problem with the President. We have done our work. Let anybody go and tell the President not to sign it. Go ahead. When we get to the bridge, we will know how to cross it.

“It is presumptuous for anybody to assume that he will refuse assent to the bill. It is not even healthy for democracy. It is only negative people, who are enemies of democracy, who will think like that.”

Meanwhile, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, has said the direct primary method is better than the indirect system.

Rafsanjani, in an interview with one of our correspondents, however, said the National Assembly should not impose the direct primary method on all political parties without due consultation.

“The positive side of the direct primary method is more than the indirect, because of the ways and manners in which it affects political parties negatively. The National Assembly should get the support of other political parties before imposing the method on them,” he said.

The National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Kola Ologbondiyan, also said the party was against the imposition of a sole mode of primary on all the parties.

Ologbondiyan stated, “Our position in the PDP has always been that the parties should be allowed to determine the type of primary they wish to adopt.

“The National Assembly cannot force a singular process on all the political parties.”

The PDP spokesman, however, said the party had yet to determine the method it would adopt to elect the candidates, who would fly its flags in the 2023 general elections.

“We have not adopted any mode of primary for the 2023 general elections. We should be able to agree on that by the end of the year,” Ologbondiyan added.”

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BIG STORY

INEC Declares Ex-CBN Governor, Chukwuma Soludo Winner Of Anambra Governorship Election

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Former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, has been declared winner of the Anambra Governorship Election by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

The Returning Officer of the Anambra Governorship Election, Prof Florence Obi, announced the result on Wednesday morning at the INEC office in Awka, Anambra State.

“That Charles Chukwuma Soludo of APGA, having satisfied the requirements of the law is hereby declared the winner and is returned elected,” the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calabar said on Wednesday.

Soludo, who was the apex bank governor between 2004 and 2009, was declared the winner after the November 6 election was declared inconclusive by INEC and after a supplementary election was held in the Ihiala Local Government Area of the state on Tuesday. He won 19 of the 21 local governments areas including Ihiala LGA.

Sixty-one-year-old Soludo won with 112,229 votes beating Valentine Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party, who polled 53,807 votes, and Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress who got 43,285 votes. Ifeanyi Ubah of the Young Progressive Party polled 21,261 votes came fourth.

Soludo’s walk to victory was paved with stony challenges including legal battles and intra-party squabbles but the Supreme Court in Abuja affirmed him as APGA governorship candidate. This was after the sacking of a former APGA candidate, Chukwuma Umeoji, by the court.

Umeoji, who is the current member of the House of Representatives representing Aguata Federal Constituency in Anambra State, was recently sacked by a court decision after his name had been listed by the Independent National Electoral Commission as APGA’s candidate.

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