By Angela Atabo
YIAGA AFRICA, a CSO, on Thursday expressed worry that the mandate of Nigerians in the 2019 general elections could be determined in the courts rather than polling booths due to outcome of primary elections in many parties.
Mr Ezenwa Nwagwu, Board Member, YIAGA AFRICA, made this known at the presentation of the group’s Watching The Vote (WTV) report on the conduct of political Party Primaries for the 2019 General elections in Abuja.
Nwagwu said that possible fallout from the manipulations, impositions and disregard for extant laws in the conduct of the just concluded party primaries was a harvest of pre-election litigations.
According to him, there will be a harvest of pre-election litigations ahead of 2019 general elections.
“This could even lead to the cancellation of outcomes of elections by the court and in some cases resulting to loss of huge public funds and resources expended on the conduct of the elections.
“Considering that the recent amendment to Section 285 of the Constitution provides for the court to deliver its judgment in every pre-election matter within 180 days from the date of filling,
“This means that some of the pre-election matters will be decided after the conduct of the election.‘’
Nwagwu said that this could possibly amount to a reversal of the gains so far made in the efforts at reforming, sanitising and ensuring uniformity in the electoral system and process.
He said that Nigeria could not afford to continue taking one step forward and several many others backwards in her democratic journey.
He said that the group observed that there was also disregard for guidelines on primaries as parties willingly flouted their guidelines, constitutions, INEC Guidelines on Party Primaries as well as the Electoral Act.
The board member of YIAGA, said that most parties failed to submit the list of delegates to INEC prior to the conduct of primary elections while some also conducted parallel primaries in contravention of laid down rules.
Nwagwu said that such attitude led to violence and disruption especially in Benue, Delta, Zamfara and Imo.
“Section 87 of the 2010 Electoral Act as amended prescribes direct and indirect primaries as the procedure for nomination of candidates by parties.
“Contrary to this legally approved procedure, some of the parties adopted consensus as a mode of selecting candidates.
“This procedure didn’t avail all aspirants equal opportunity of being voted but resulted into imposition of candidates,’’ he said.
Nwagwu said WTV observed major challenges with all the procedures for primaries adopted by parties adding that principal among them was the absence of credible registers of party members or delegates.
He added that the CSO witnessed the overbearing influence and interference of party leadership at different levels with the process of the primaries.
The activist said that the indirect primaries were fraught with challenges such as absence of authentic and unaltered list of delegates before the beginning of the primaries, and undefined process of accreditation of delegates.
He said that there were also alteration of the process for primary election by the party leaders present.
Nwagwu said that for the direct primaries, WTV observers also noted some lapses incluuding lack of uniformity and transparency in the voting process which provided an opportunity for manipulation among others.
He said that high cost of nomination forms was another issue because although the Constitution empowered INEC to develop guidelines to regulate political parties and promote internal democracy, fair and transparent primaries the commission defaulted.
He said that different parties imposed exorbitant nomination fees that invariably excluded women and young people, adding that the situation was not limited to the dominant parties because more parties imposed fees that were unreasonable.
“The primaries were a shameful display of politicians and political parties disregard for democratic principles and the sanctity of citizens participation.
“As observed during the primaries, delegates in the indirect primaries were induced with money in both local and international currencies.
“This was also the case in direct primaries where some aspirants spent millions to get votes,’’ he noted.
Nwagwu said that this unsavoury and intimidating role of money in the electoral process was a major threat to the credibility of the 2019 general elections.
He said that it also raised a major question of legitimacy of persons that emerged through a process where the votes were bought.
The board member said that WTV urged INEC to make public its report on the monitoring of political party primaries.
He also said that relying on the strength of the decision of the Supreme Court in Hembe’s Case and Danladi’s case (SC/583/2016 and SC/733/2016), INEC should not accept candidates list that did not reflect the outcome of the primaries.
This, he said was especially where parties substituted candidates who emerged from the primaries or where primaries were not held in line with the Electoral Laws.
Nwagwu said that YIAGA AFRICA WTV also called on all candidates especially the women and youth candidates who successfully emerged from the primaries to remain vigilant.
He also urged them to ensure that parties did not substitute their names at the point of submission to INEC.
Nwagwu urged INEC to deploy efforts at strengthening its processes of monitoring campaign financing by candidates and political parties and party supporters in line with the Electoral Act.
He said that INEC should also seek inter-agency support and Civil Society partnership to enhance its effectiveness in monitoring campaign spending.