• Sunday, March 03, 2024
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INEC slumbers as politicians flout campaign rules


Political parties in the country are taking advantage of the loopholes in the electoral laws to disobey rules on election campaigns while the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) falters and watches helplessly.

The loopholes are lack of clear definition of election periods and who to gather together to make a campaign.

INEC had in its 2010 Acts, set the rules on election campaigns with clear stipulations on when political parties are to commence electioneering.

Section 99 (1) of the Electoral Act says “For the purpose of this act, the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day”.

Section 100 (1) states further that “a candidate and his party shall campaign for the elections in accordance with such rules and regulations as may be determined by the commission”.

Nigeria goes to the polls on February 14, 2015, commencing with the presidential election and the parties and the politicians are by the section 99 of the acts, allowed to commence campaign by November 14 this year.

Between April and this month however, politicians have held countless rallies under one guise or the other, trying to sell their programmes and candidates to the electorates.

Abdulrazak Gobir, a lawyer with AS Gobir and Associates, who wondered how else to campaign, said what had been going on so far were political campaigns, but that INEC was in a quagmire because the commission was incapacitated due the quantum of the campaign and the calibre of the people involved. Owing to this, the commission is impotent to invoke its powers against the errant politicians.

“From the few that we have watched on the television and see, the logo of the party is displayed, the colour and the main officials of the parties are seen at the rallies, with apparels with the party’s logo, colour and insignia,” he said.

Of note are the two main political parties in the country, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) which are currently touring the six geopolitical zones of the country in a bid to get a sizeable number of the electorates.

The electoral body seems unable to control the drift as it allows political parties to flout its rule on election campaigns, a development which the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) described as worrisome.

For instance, the almost 80 groups that are canvassing for the return of President Goodluck Jonathan are very visible, moving from one zone to another. The Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) is taking the lead in this respect.

INEC seems to be helpless on applying the brake as Oluwole Uzi, the commission’s director of publicity,  wondered if the PDP is involved in the TAN rallies that are being staged all over the country.

“TAN claims to be requesting someone to vie for office and not canvassing for votes or supports for a party or campaigning,” he said.

Ejike Orji, former Country director, Ipas, a health and human rights organisation said campaign could come in many forms. For instance, “when a man stands in a public place and asks people to vote for him, it is a political campaign,” which he said INEC has not ordered.

“But if another man goes to the public and asks someone to come and run for a public office, such person that is being urged is not liable,” and has not violated INEC act. But to him, both are campaigns.

Attendance at the TAN rallies across the geopolitical zones has suggested that the INEC is overwhelmed by the party chieftains that were present at such events.

Political heavyweights including Theodore Orji, Abia State governor and Chairman of South East Governor’s Forum; Emeka Ihedioha, deputy speaker, House of Representatives, and Anyim Pius Anyim, secretary to the Government of the Federation, attended the TAN rally in Awka, a state in the South East zone.

Others include Ben Obi, a senator; Peter Obi, immediate past governor of Anambra State; Arthur Eze, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Ifeanyi Ubah, and Uche Chukwemerije.

At the rally in Ibadan, a South West state, Pius Anyim was in attendance together with James Arogbofa, chief of staff to President Goodluck Jonathan.

Others are the PDP leader for South-West, Olabode George, minister of State for Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Jumoke Akinjide; Akinwumi Adesina, minister of Agriculture; Kingsley Kuku, special adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Niger Delta Affairs and chairman, Presidential Amnesty Programme, and Olusola Oke, former national legal adviser to PDP and governorship candidate of PDP in the 2012 governorship election in Ondo State, For the South-South zone rally held in Port Harcourt, Pius Anyim was also there with Emmanuel Uduaghan, Delta State governor; Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, minister of Finance; Edem Duke, Culture and Tourism minister; Mike Onolememen, minister of Works, and Peter Odili, former governor of Rivers State. Others are Tammy Danagogo, minister of Sports; Nyesom Wike, minister of State for Education, and James Manager, leader of South-South senators in the Senate.

Last week, the APC inaugurated its state executive council in Sokoto with a special rally. This and others before it were attended by all the chieftains of the party both serving and out of government, including Rabiu Kwankwanso, Kano State governor.

Others are Adams Oshiomole, governor, Edo State; Rochas Okorocha of Imo State; Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, Sokoto State governor, and John Odigie-Oyegun, the APC national chairman. In attendance also were serving federal lawmakers.

This was on the trail of similar rallies like the Amaechi-led Nigeria Governors’ Forum, meetings of progressive governors’ forum, and the third progressives governors’ forum lecture series held in Owerri recently.

“Between us and INEC, we would explore areas of possible partnerships” says Emeka Mba, the director-general, NBC, who noted that it is an area that required thorough approach, especially since the electoral commission has not officially kicked off political campaign.

“It is quite worrisome because you find all the big politicians coming through an indirect route to campaign. People hide under certain guise and are using that loophole to do indirect campaign”.

Mba said his commission will defer on those issues to INEC who is the final umpire.

“We have a say on how broadcasting features around electioneering and elections, but we defer to INEC in terms of setting the rules,” he said.

He observed that politicians take advantage of certain loopholes like the definition of an election period, gathering in a campaign and pointed out that “If we look at the Electoral Amendment Act as amended, the National Assembly could also support us”.