The Independent National Electoral Commission says it is yet to take a position on the leadership crisis rocking Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party.
INEC’s Deputy Director for Public affairs, Nick Dazang, who disclosed this on “Political Platform,” a programme on Ray Power FM Radio Station, on Thursday, said the commission’s delegation that monitored the party’s recent national convention had submitted its report but it was yet to decide on it.
“The PDP, as we have said is in a state of flux. In spite of what happened in Port Harcourt, the Commission was there because it was invited and by law we are supposed to be invited 21 days to a convention or congress,” he said.
“We sent a high powered team led by a national commissioner to monitor the convention. They have submitted their report as at now but the Commission is yet to take a position in terms of who is supposed to be the chairman of the party.”
The PDP at its convention in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital on May 21, sacked its acting National Chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff, and appointed a Caretaker Committee headed by a former governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Markarfi, to run the party until another convention is organised to elect substantive members of its national working committee.
However, Mr. Sheriff rejected his removal insisting that he was still the chairman of the party.
The disagreement led to the closure of the party’s national secretariat in Abuja until Wednesday when the members of Board of Trustees took over the running of the party.
Mr. Dazang said the PDP risked not taking part in the Edo State governorship election if the leadership crisis was not resolved soon.
He explained that in line with the timetable and the schedule of the governorship election unfolded by the election, parties participating in the election were expected to hold their primary elections between June 2 and July 4 to pick their candidates.
He stressed, “I expect that a very responsible party, a formidable party for that matter like the PDP will put its acts together in time for it particularly to collect the forms for those that will conduct the elections in Edo and Ondo and also to conduct the primaries that will lead up to who will now be their standard bearer for Edo governorship election to be conducted on Saturday 10 September.
“The primaries are supposed to take place between 2nd June and 4th July. So, we expect that between now and then the PDP should be able to resolve some of these issues in the interest of that election.”
Mr. Dazang was not definite when asked if, in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act, the Markarfi-led Caretaker Committee was competent to conduct primaries with a view to selecting the party’s candidate for the election.
He instead said officials of the electoral body “always encourage the parties to sort themselves amicably rather than resorting to the court”.
Stating that the Commission was pressed for time, Mr. Dazang warned the disputing groups not to resort to court to resolve their differences because such would be time consuming.
He said, “In this instance when we are pressed for time if the parties in the dispute resort to court, it is going to take long it before the issues are resolved and they collect these forms.
“So we advise that they resolve some of these issues in good time to collect the forms so that they can hold the primaries and the candidates that will contest under their platform can emerge. They have between now and 4th July to do that.
“We normally encourage them. We have a department that relates particularly with the political parties to ensure the processes we laid out and articulated in the timetable and schedule of activities are strictly and religiously followed and we expect them to that.”
Mr. Dazang also encouraged the other parties, apart from the PDP and the All Progressives Congress, to field candidates in the governorship election, “so that the contest will be very keen and the debate also will be robust and healthy as has happened in the past in Edo State.”
He said in line with Section 30 of the Electoral Act, the Commission was supposed to issue a notice 90 days before the election, adding “and starting from today (Wednesday), the Commission has 90 days before that election.”
The Act states that ‘the Commission shall, not later than 90 days before the day appointed for holding of an election under this Act, publish a notice in each state of the federation and the federal capital territory (a) stating the date of the election; and (b) appointing the place at which nominating papers are to be delivered.