Eyitayo Jegede, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Saturdas governorship election in Ondo State, has led protesters to the state office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), demanding for the postponement of the governorship election by four weeks.
Jegede, who was on Thursday accompanied by a mammoth crowd to the office of the INEC, was armed with a letter of request seeking for the postponement of the governorship election scheduled for Saturday, November 26, in order to enable him fulfill and comply with the Electoral Act. (2010) as amended.
Jegede and some leaders of the party, including the State Party chairman, Clement Faboyede, were attended to by the state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Segun Agbaje , who told Jegede and his entourage that they were denied entry into the premises of INEC because they staff of the cCommission were busy distributing sensitive materials for tomorrow’s election.
Speaking to the REC, Jegede who drew the attention of the Commission to the Section 34, 45, and 74 of the Electoral Act of 2010 said the request became imperative to avoid some loopholes in the election process.
According to him, the PDP flag bearer, the Electoral Act made it mandatory for the electoral umpire to publish the names and addresses and political parties of each candidate contesting the election on the commission’s website and display such in their office.
He also noted that the Commission has not receive the names of his agents for the election saying ” the Electoral Act enjoins each political party to forward the names of its agents in each of the polling units to the commission at least seven days before the day of the election. We also refer to Section 74 of the Act which provides for every result sheet to be countersigned by polling agents.”
He however said ” We want all these corrected. We are asking INEC to shift the election and give me also the opportunity to enjoy the same rights and privileges that other political parties candidate have enjoyed. That is why we are here and that is why we are waiting for INEC response and I do hope they will give us the opportunity to formally make this presentation to him.
He said his counsel had written to the Commission earlier to inform the INEC of some provisions of the Electoral Act and said ” before now my counsel had written INEC to inform the Commission of what is needed to be done in line with the provision of the law . They have till date not reply the letter and we want to know what is the official position of INEC.
He queried INEC over the election saying “are they prepare to give a level playing ground or not? Are they also prepared to give the same opportunity they have given to other political parties and I have heard INEC spoke about conditions for postponement.These conditions are three, Violence, natural disaster or any other emergency but what we have here is legal emergency and it must be attended to. It’s not my fault, it is a legal emergency”
While responding, Agbaje said the Commission had taken notice of all the issues raised by Jegede and PDP and had forwarded it to the Commission headquarters in Abuja, but said the governorship election would go on in the state as scheduled.
Agbaje explained that all the sensitive materials needed for the election have been distributed to all the local government areas of the state, and disclosed that postponing the election would cost the nation a fortune.
He acknowledged receiving the Court order reinstating Jegede’s mandate and said the commission has replaced the Jimoh Ibrahim’s name with Jegede saying “the Commission has taken notice of all these issues, when we have the directive from the National headquarters, we have since pasted the name of the candidate on our notice board and also sent it across to all our office in all the local government “
He said the Commission should not be blamed for the party’s woes and explained the rationale behind dealing with Biyi Poroye’s group, and said the voters register had been handed over to the Jimoh Ibrahim faction.
He said “On the issue of voters register, the soft copy as far as the Commission is concern, was given to the party that the court directed us to deal with on the 28 of last month .when the judgement was given and the officials of the other faction of PDP came here the following day after the judgement, they were duly given, so as far as we are concern. PDP was given.
“This morning when we started the distribution of sensitive materials, the party agents was also among the agents who witnessed the collection and distribution of these materials to the local government areas
“I must be sincere with you that this election must go on and we are going to go ahead with the election on Saturday, the security agencies are ready. It is going to cost Nigeria serious financial implication.
” It is true that the party has crisis but the crisis is intra party crisis, it is not the fault of INEC and we have no control over the Judge that directed us to give the mandate of the party to one faction of the party and now that the Supreme Court had spoken and Appeal court has also given judgement, we have bowed to the order of the superior court”
Agbaje said further “The fact that we have two days in between the election and the fact that today is the last day for the campaign. This is not the fault of INEC but the fault of the party themselves because the first judgement was given in June, so I believe if the two faction had approached the Superior court that time, maybe it would have been something difference today.
“It is not the fault of INEC, if 27 parties are ready and we are also ready for the election and by now sensitive materials have gone out, even the chairman cannot call them back again because it means the government is going to spend millions of Naira to produce new set of sensitive materials.
“On the issue of party agents, as at about an hour ago about 17 local government have been received by our office and I am sure that the Electoral Officer must have given instructions to them on how to receive them in a very transparent manner.”
Similarly, the state Party Chairman, Faboyede, has asked INEC to postpone the election in order to give room to equity and fair play in the election.
Faboyede urged the Commission not to run foul of the electoral laws in the election, noting that the party has not submitted the names of the agents in the election while the voters register for the election has not been receive by the party
The PDP chairman who said that INEC is not ready for the election, said ” we don’t want to waste our time and energy on illegality, INEC should follow and employ Electoral Act and guidelines as stipulated by the electoral laws.”
Meanwhile, the Coalition of INEC Accredited Domestic Observers, has also called for the postponement of the Ondo state governorship election to ensure fairness, moral considerations and level playground.
Speaking on behalf of the group, the Coordinator, Kalu Igwe said the call became necessary following the last minute Court judgement that affirmed the authentic candidate of PDP, Jegede.
The group urged INEC to consider postponing the election to enable the candidate of the PDP that was just cleared by the court to minimally prepare for the election.
Igwe said “The postponement of the election will douse political and security tension created by Justice Okon Abang Kangoroo judgement against Eyitayo Jegede’s candidature for the election. A judgement that threw the state into serious chaos; dividing the judiciary, our electoral system and the political class.
“While we have confidence on the commitment on our dear President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR in strengthening our democratic values, we urge him to see reasons with the good people of the State who are threatening to boycott the election should INEC go ahead with the election on Saturday and call the commission to order by postponing the election in consideration to the demands of the people.”
The group noted that some few hours to the election, politicians in the state have commenced buying of voters card in some areas of the state while it said ” It has also been reported that thumb-printing of ballot papers is ongoing in a local government within the coastal area of the state.
Also yesterday, the National Chairman of the Inter Party Advisory. Council of Nigeria Hon Muhammad Lawal Nalado called on political parties, contestants and the electorate to maintain high sense of civility and decorum in the course of their last minutes campaigns.
Addressing newsmen in Akure, Nalado advised against selling their votes noting that doing so is ” mortgaging the future of your unborn generation and denying you the moral right to hold the winner accountable.
He pleaded with INEC and security agencies to conduct a credible and acceptable election and to perform their constitutional duties without bias
The chairman called on the electorate to vote for candidate that have articulated the numerous economic, social and political problems. And proffer solutions.
However, the state government has declared tomorrow as Public Holiday to enable workers prepare for Saturday’s governorship election.
This was contained in a statement issued by the state Head of Service, Toyin Akinkuotu, who directed all heads of MDAs to inform workers in their offices.