BY BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, ABUJA
The Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) has appealed to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to extend the deadline for the conduct of party primaries and resolution of conflicts arising from the primaries.
The National Chairman of IPAC, Yusuf Yabagi Sani, made the appeal on Tuesday during a consultative meeting with stakeholders between INEC and political parties at the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja.
According to him, “It is within the framework of the enduring bond between the INEC and IPAC in service to the country, that all the 18 registered political parties on the platform of IPAC are jointly, without exception, requesting the INEC to consider a slight adjustment to the recently announced timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections.
“In summary, the General Assembly of IPAC, after an exhaustive examination of the INEC timetable and related issues, arrived at a unanimous decision to request for an extension of thirty-seven (37) days to the deadline of the time frame for the conduct of party primaries and resolution of conflicts arising from the primaries.
” By implication, the IPAC leadership is appealing to the INEC to extend the deadline for the conduct of party primaries and resolution of ensuing conflicts from the present INEC given date of 3rd June, 2022 to the 7th July 2022.
“Some of the issues considered by the IPAC General Assembly which necessitated the call for extension in the timeframe of the present INEC timetable and schedule of activities are based on certain circumstances and developments that have hampered timely and strict compliance by the political parties to the timetable.
“Some of the constraining developments which, we believe were not considered and therefore, not factored by the NEC while drawing up its schedule of activities includes the Christian Lenten season and the Muslim fasting in the month of Ramadan respectively followed by the celebrations of Easter and Eid El Fitr, (Sallah), in which the vast majority of party members were involved.
“The developments inevitably, therefore, greatly disrupted planned activities and programmes of the political parties, leading to the loss of about two weeks out of the allotted time on the timetable. It is also, noteworthy that, the scenario was the first time that the two major events in the Christian and Muslim calendars would be occurring around the period of general elections.
“The forthcoming gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun states within the timeline of the INEC for the conduct of party primaries were additional remarkable distractions and constraints that obviously affected the political parties because, most of them are, understandably, preoccupied with preparations for the conduct of the elections.
“Very pertinently, the IPAC General Assembly regards the time allotted by INEC for the conduct of party primaries as too short in view of the efforts required by the political parties for effective and scrupulous screening and selection of qualified and quality flag bearers. The significance of a tidy selection of party candidates in the elections comes, in the country in the long run, with the benefits of minimizing conflicts with all the likelihood of slowing down the electoral process.
“Mr. Chairman, we wish to reaffirm the appreciation and confidence of the entire leadership and members of the 18 registered political parties on the platform of the Inter-Party Advisory Council, IPAC, in the high level of diligence and single-minded commitment you and your management team have been displaying in the conduct of the onerous assignment of superintending the nation’s drive toward having a smooth and reliable, credible and transparent conduct of elections.
“INEC, under your leadership, has won the confidence of the IPAC and all well-meaning citizens, friends of our country and democrats around the world as a result of the zeal, courage and dexterity which have so far, hugely resulted in the conduct of elections marked by unprecedented high level of transparency, credibility, integrity and widespread acceptance.
“Consequent on our belief in your clear vision, heroic and patriotic intentions, IPAC has on its part, all along, chosen to remain a reliable partner and a formidable pillar by being consistent in its support and defence of INEC on the series of the administrative reforms and introduction of technology which in our view, are with the noble objectives of further enhancing the efficiency of the electoral process. I’m here once again giving the reassurance that IPAC will remain unwavering and faithful to INEC towards the actualization of our shared statutory and historic responsibility of deepening the roots of democracy in Nigeria.”
The IPAC Chairman also noted that the unprecedented number of aspirants angling for parties’ tickets in the forthcoming general elections is another reason they are seeking extension of deadline.
“Relatedly, while the unprecedented large number of aspirants jostling to emerge as candidates of their various political parties in the coming general elections, have made the task of screening very cumbersome and demanding, the political parties have also had to be cautious and painstaking in the screening and selection procedures as a safeguard against creating rooms for disruptive incidents of litigation by aggrieved aspirants
“In making the request for extension in the INEC stipulated timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections, we in the Inter-Party Advisory Council, are not unmindful of the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act with respect to timelines in the electoral process. We are however, of the considered view that our request will not, in any way, be tantamount to an infringement or, a breach of any extant laws and provisions. This is because, the alterations that we are demanding, will not affect the statutory dates already fixed for the conduct of the 2023 general elections.
“We are praying for the slight changes in the timetable for the conduct of party primaries in full consciousness of our position as key stakeholders in the nation’s democratic process and who, at the bottom of it all, constitute not only the greatest beneficiaries but, as the platform of all the registered political parties, we are in fact, the
fulcrum around which the entire system and processes revolve. We should therefore, be seen as a body of responsible and patriotic interest bloc with a very high sense of responsibility and commitment to the success of every crucial stage and aspects in the electoral chain.
“By way of Illustration and reinforcement of our position that the request for slight modifications the INEC schedule of activities is not, as such, without a precedence, I wish to recall the nation’s experience in 2019, when in the heat of the general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission called for a 24 hour shift in the conduct of a scheduled segment of the exercise. At the end of the day, the postponement neither affected the smooth conduct of that year’s entire exercise, and transparent election.
“By the way, should perhaps, also recall that in the 2019 incident referred to above, the political parties on the platform of the Inter-Party Advisory Council, overwhelmingly and solidly stood by the 7Independent National Electoral Commission by unanimously supporting the call for a shift in the conduct of the election. That show of solidarity and decision of the political parties was informed by their patriotic consideration of the fact that in the circumstance, taking that course of action was the most rational option, in the superior imperatives of democracy, the electoral process, peace and tranquility in the polity.
“This time around, we are expecting the INEC, to regard the request of the political parties for an extension in the timeline for the conduct of party primaries as a decision that is in the ultimate best interest of the nation’s democracy and specifically, the smooth and successful conduct of a rancour free, credible, transparent, free and fair elections in the year 2023.”