Zamfara State has continued on a very controversial path, following the inability of the ruling All Progressives Congress to produce a candidate for the gubernatorial and legislative elections billed for February and March 2019. The Independent National Electoral Commission had instructed that all parties in the country conclude primaries and have final candidates for elective positions on or before October 7, 2018.
Solomon Soyebi, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, had said: “The conduct of primaries and resolution of all disputes arising therefrom must be concluded on or before October 7 as earlier published in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2019 general election.” However, the APC was unable to submit candidates, following bouts of violence in its multiple attempts at a conducting primary elections in the state.
The road to controversy
The ruling party in the state initially scheduled its primary elections for September 29, 2018, eight days from the INEC deadline. The elections however could not hold on the said date and was moved to the next day because election materials and the electoral committee were not around to conduct primaries.
In order to maintain order in the state, all the governorship aspirants had a meeting on September 30 at the Zamfara State Police Command headquarters, where they agreed on the modalities of the primaries. The meeting, which had the Commissioner of Police and other party stakeholders in attendance, took the whole day. Therefore, the primary had to be moved to the next day, which coincided with the national independence day, October 1.
For the Zamfara people, October 1 was a day of seemingly independent demonstrations. The elections did not hold as expected, and this led the people to the streets in droves. They protested the continued shift in elections, and an attempt to scuttle the will of party members. Videos from the protests took over social media, showing the grievances of the people who expected to pick who would represent the ruling party in the state. It was then reported that there was violence being perpetrated by thugs deployed by the state Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, who has a lot at stake in the said primaries. The violence was perpetrated by thugs in the governor’s hometown, Mafara.
Finally, on October 2, 2018, all was eventually set for the conduct of one of the most anticipated northern gubernatorial primary elections. All eyes set on Zamfara, but the state still could not throw up a candidate for the APC.
Election materials did not get to some wards because some thugs, alleged to be loyal to Yari, had hijacked some of the materials. It was also alleged that the governor, who is desperately seeking to have his finance commissioner succeed him, had made fake materials available for his foot soldiers in the state.
Ballot boxes were snatched, cases of voter intimidation were reported, and to cap it all, the Osun State style was repeated here too. APC members seeking to cast their ballot were asked to shout Alhaji Mukhtar Idris, the name of Yari’s Commissioner of Finance, before they were allowed into Sambo Secondary School, Tudun Wada and Stadium, the venue of the voting. “You’re either with Alhaji Idris or you are not voting,” one of the party members said on social media.
Following the violence and other electoral malpractice recorded in the primaries, the All Progressives Congress National Working Committee cancelled the primaries, dissolved the party executive council at the state level, and set up a committee to conduct fresh primaries in the state.
Yari, Oshiomhole and the graveyard
After the cancellation, Yari alleged that Adams Oshiomhole, the National Chairman of the APC, had personal interests in the state elections, calling him a “mini-god” and a “dictator”.
Yari said at a press conference that the committee set up by Oshiomhole should not step feet in the state. “I want to say it categorically, they should never step into Zamfara for one minute,” he threatened. “I, Abdulaziz Yari, governor of Zamfara state, head of government and security, I am saying that the committee sent by Oshiomhole to come and do a dirty job should not dare come into Zamfara state. We are ready, including myself, to be taken to the graveyard tomorrow. If he knows that his father and mother gave birth to him, he should send those people and see and it is fight to finish.”
Clearly, Yari wants his candidate to win the primaries, and he would not mind going to the “graveyard” with the APC NWC and Adams Oshiomhole, to see that happen. To avoid grave situations, the primaries were not eventually conducted till the INEC window for submission closed on October 7, 2018.
INEC vs. Oshiomhole
In a letter signed by the acting Secretary of the commission, Okechukwu Ndeche, INEC said the APC will not be fielding candidates from Zamfara State for the 2019 elections. “For clarity, our position is that the All Progressives Congress (APC), will not be fielding candidates for the governorship, National Assembly and State Assembly Elections in Zamfara state for the 2019 for the general elections,” INEC wrote to APC.
In his response to INEC, Oshiomhole said INEC was wrong to make the assertion that primaries were not conducted in the state. He said primaries were conducted on October 6 and October 7, but admitted that there was “high level of friction, disagreements and threatened violence by various political camps before the primaries”.
He added that “all the aspirants met at City King Hotel, Gusau, to find a truce”. Oshiomhole further stated that all the aspirants agreed to choose a consensus candidate — a method also permitted by the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The former governor of Edo state also noted that “the Peoples Democratic Party did not also hold primaries in Kano, but no such similar letter was written to the PDP in relation to Kano State”, accusing INEC of being unfair to the APC.
Why INEC is wrong about Zamfara
Whilst stating the October 7 deadline for “the conduct of primaries and resolution of all disputes arising therefrom,” Soyebi said: “The last day for submission of lists of sponsored candidates (Form CFOO2) and personal particulars (Form CF001) remains October 18 for Presidential and National Assembly and November 2 for Governorship and State Houses of Assembly.”
This therefore means that parties must have conducted and concluded primaries and all disputes arising therefrom on or before October 7, but had till October 18 to submit lists of sponsored candidates. Conclusively, the electoral law does not bar any party – PDP, APC, SDP, AD, any at all – from fielding consensus candidates. In fact, precedence abounds in INEC’s history, showing the submission of consensus candidates at various elections in the country. Therefore, INEC will be so wrong to stop the APC from submitting its consensus candidate.
However if the APC in Zamfara fails to submit the list before the scheduled date, October 18, then INEC will be right to deny the party a chance at the 2019 elections.
*Ahmed is the Publicity Secretary of Zamfara Redemption Movement.