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Kogi: APC to replace Audu as Wada plans court action

Different views on the December 5 poll:

The issue is very straightforward. Section 33 of the Electoral Act is very clear in case of death. The right for substitution by a political party is sustained by Section 33 —AGF

We are going to proceed with the process of organising primary to provide a substitute candidate for Prince Abubakar Audu. That is the situation at this point in time —APC

We are at a loss as to which sections of these … laws, INEC and the AGF relied on in arriving at their bizarre decision to substitute a dead candidate —PDP

The only logical and solution closest to the law on ground now is to allow his running mate to step into his shoes for the supplementary election —Sagay

The All Progressives Congress (APC) will hold a primary election to replace the late Prince Abubakar Audu, its governorship candidate who died before the election was declared inconclusive – a decision rejected by many legal experts.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Returning Officer, Prof. Emmanuel Kucha, declared Saturday’s election inconclusive on account of irregularities in 91 polling units. But the APC had an almost unassailable lead. In fact, the popular thinking is that since APC was leading by 41,000 votes and the number of registered voters in the 91 polling units is 49,000 but only 25,000 have Voter Cards, there is no need for a supplementary election.

The remains of Prince Audu, 68, were buried on Monday in his hometown, Ogonicha, Ofu Local Government Area of the state.

His death sparked a debate on how the matter will be handled since the Constitution and the Electoral Act did not envisage such a scenario.

But Attorney General of the Federation Abaubakar Malami (SAN) said it was in order for INEC to conclude the process by having the supplementary election and full results declared. He also said the APC should be free to replace Audu.

The electoral agency also yesterday announced December 5 as the date for the supplementary election, the same day governorship election will hold in Bayelsa State.

Eminent lawyers, including Prof. Itse Sagay, support the decision of INEC to conclude the process.

In a statement by its Secretary Mrs Augusta Ogakwu, after a two-day meeting, INEC said: “The commission has, after due consideration of the circumstances, decided to conclude the process by conducting election in the 91 affected polling units as announced by the returning officer.

“It also decided to allow the APC to fill the vacancy created by the death of its candidate.

“Accordingly, notice is hereby given to all the 22 political parties participating in the Kogi governorship election that supplementary election in the 91 affected polling units shall hold on Dec. 5.’’

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP, whose candidate Governor Idris Wada was trailing the APC’s Audu, rejected the INEC decision. The APC announced its plan to hold a primary to replace the late Audu.

APC National Chairman Chief John Odigie-Oyegun told a news conference that the leadership of the party will hold an emergency session “within the next few hours” to determine the modalities for the primary.

Odigie-Oyegun said INEC had written to the party to fill the vacancy created by Audu’s death, pointing out that the party will do everything possible to ensure that the preference of the people of Kogi State replaces the late Audu as the party’s candidate.

He said, however, that INEC was yet to notify the party of the details of the inconclusive nature of the election in writing, specifying the polling units involved and other details.

He said: “We lost our candidate for the election in Kogi State and since then, we have concentrated as a party on paying him the right respect that is due to a man of his calibre.

“Let me take this opportunity to express the very sincere condolences of the entire party nationwide to the family of Prince Abubakar Audu and to the people of Kogi State who have just gone through the rigours of an election, indicated their preference for Prince Abubakar Audu, only to lose him at the very moment of victory. We were represented at the funeral by almost the entire executive and that is now behind us. Now, matters of state must come back to the fore.

“INEC has made a pronouncement as to the election being inconclusive, but as at this moment, we are yet to get anything in writing from INEC specifying the details of the polling units that are involved and a clear definition of whether we are talking about, in their consideration, about registered voters or those with permanent voter cards. But those are matters of details and when we get them from INEC, we will proceed from that point.

“Also, the chief law officer of the federation has made his views known on how things should develop from this stage and he has made a pronouncement to the effect that all that is required is for the APC to go through the process of providing a substitute to our late mourned candidate.

“The implication being that thereafter, the supplement election to conclude the process of electing a new governor for Kogi State will then be put in place.

“So, as a party, we are going to proceed with the process of organising primary to provide a substitute candidate for Prince Abubakar Audu. That is the situation at this point in time.

“We are in a deep state of mourning for the most dedicated politician, consistent politician who has proven to be in firm control of the politics of Kogi State on behalf of the APC.

“I want to underscore the fact that INEC is also apparently in agreement with the views of the Attorney General because we have already received a letter from them formally asking us to find a replacement for the vacancy that has been created by the passing on of Prince Abubakar Audu and that is what will now engage the APC from this moment on.”

On when the primary will hold, Odigie-Oyegun said: “We just got notification from INEC today. So, we will go into an emergency session now to work out the modalities and nature of the primary within the next few hours. We are told that the supplementary election will be on December 5th.

“When that will be or who will be is a matter of detail. But it is going to be the preference of the electors and we will respect that. We are a democratic, law abiding party and we are going to proceed accordingly.”

Asked about the faith of Audu’s running mate Abiodun Faleke, he said: “I said it will be the preference of the electors that will determine who the candidate that will replace Prince Abubakar Audu will be.”

Odigie-Oyegun, however, refused to say whether the party intended to sell forms to aspirants, or make do with those who contested against Audu during the last primary. “All that is a matter of details. We just got the letter today. We are now going into the boiler room to work out the details of what should happen,” he said, adding:

“We don’t have the luxury of time at our disposal and we also have the election in Bayelsa in our hands. So, we are going to do everything as straight forward and simple, but clearly above board in maintaining due process as much as possible. I cannot give you that answer now because we just got indication of the clear direction from INEC within the last few hours”.

The Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) is set for a long-drawn court battle.

The opposition party prefers a fresh poll.

A source close to Governor Idris Wada said the PDP candidate will go to court because INEC cannot take a decision on a constitutional issue outside the court.

The PDP and Governor Wada last night concluded plans to head for court.

An aide of the governorsaid: “In the days ahead, there will be a lot of legal fireworks because the issue at hand is purely a constitutional matter. What INEC ought to have done was to approach the court for the interpretation of the situation at hand. Instead, INEC has decided to usurp the powers of the court.

“By the decision of INEC, the electoral body is saying that the votes cast for the late Prince Abubakar Audu were still valid in death. That is a strange phenomenon when even if a party in a court dies, the case becomes dead.

“We will not accept INEC’s position at all, we will instead go to court for a declaration on this constitutional crisis.

The source added: “We will be asking for the interpretation of three issues: These are:
the validity of the votes cast for the late Abubakar Audu;
whether or not the timeline for primaries and substitution of candidates have not elapsed;
whether or not a fresh governorship election is the proper thing in this peculiar circumstance.