Controversial writer and Professor of Journalism Farooq Kperogi has said that facts uncovered from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) allegedly show that Labour Party’s Peter Obi may become Nigeria’s president next year by default.
In an essay released on Saturday, Kperogi stated that Peter Obi might be ‘gifted’ the presidency because Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar, candidates for the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) respectively, have violated the Electoral Act 2022, which may cause them to be disqualified if Obi or his Labour Party decides to them.
According to the academic scholar, the Electoral Act requires political parties to notify INEC of their intent to conduct primary elections at least 21 days before the date of their convention and also requires parties to submit their membership registers to it at least 30 days before their primary election. He stated that the APC didn’t meet the first requirement, and the PDP failed the second requirement. The Labour Party met both.
Documents an INEC insider shared with him allegedly showed that the APC didn’t notify INEC of its intent to conduct its primary election 21 days before its convention.
Section 82 of the Electoral Act says the penalty for this infraction is outright disqualifying the candidates of the political parties.
Section 82 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022 says, “Every political party shall give the Commission at least 21 days’ notice of any convention, congress, conference, or meeting which is convened for the purpose of ‘merger’ and electing members of its executive committees, other governing bodies or nominating candidates for any of the positions specified under this Act.”
Subsection (5) then says, “Failure of a political party to notify the Commission as stated in subsection (1) shall render the convention, congress, conference, or meeting invalid.” An invalid convention can’t produce a valid candidate.
Kperogi said records at INEC show that the APC notified INEC of its intent to hold its convention on May 23, 2022, and had its convention on June 8, that is 17 days’ notice, which falls short of the 21 days’ notice the Electoral Act 2022 requires.
He said that based on the APC’s May 23 letter to INEC of its schedule of primaries, the party’s June 8 primary election is invalid in the eye of the Electoral Act 2022, and Bola Tinubu may be disqualified if he’s sued.
Unlike the APC, he said the PDP gave INEC more than 21 days’ notice before its presidential primaries.
He also stated that the Labour Party complied with the requirements of Section 82(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 as it notified INEC of its intent to conduct its primaries on March 9, 2022, and held its convention on May 30.
Meanwhile, the professor of journalism noted that Section 77 (2) of the Electoral Act 2022 mandates political parties to submit their membership registers to INEC at least 30 days before the conduct of their primary elections.
It says, “Every political party shall maintain a register of its members in both hard and soft copy.” Subsection 3 also says, “Each political party shall make such register available to the Commission not later than 30 days before the date fixed for the party primaries, congresses or convention.”
According to the Electoral Act, the penalty for failure to abide by this provision is exclusion from participation in elections of the candidates of the political parties that infract the provision.
Kperogi disclosed that the APC and Labour Party adhered to the provision of the Electoral Act.
While stating that the APC submitted its membership register to INEC on April 25 and conducted its primary election on June 8, he said the Labour Party also submitted its membership register to INEC on April 25, which is more than 30 days before its convention, which was held on May 30.
He said although an INEC document titled “Table of Submission by 18 Political Parties” shows that the PDP submitted its membership register to INEC on April 29, which would make it exactly 30 days since it conducted its convention on May 28, the PDP’s series of correspondence with INEC that an insider shared with him indicates that the party submitted its register in four installments, with the earliest being May 3. May 3 to May 28 is less than 30 days.
He said the PDP’s last correspondence with INEC over its membership register is dated May 18, adding that technically the PDP didn’t turn in its complete membership register to INEC until May 18.
The Electoral Act makes no provision for a bit-by-bit submission of the membership register.
“Unfortunately, INEC erred in not notifying the APC and the PDP that their primary elections—and their candidates for election— were invalid because they flouted the Electoral Act. INEC erred even further by going ahead to publish the names of people who emerged from invalid primaries even when the Electoral Act mandates it to not include the names of candidates who run afoul of the Electoral Act.
“Section 29 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022 says, “Every political party shall, not later than 180 days before the date appointed for a general election under this Act, submit to the Commission, in the prescribed Forms, the list of the candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections, who must have emerged from valid primaries conducted by the political party.”
“Subsection 3 says, “The Commission shall, within seven days of receipt of the personal particulars of the candidates, publish same in the constituency where the candidate intends to contest the election.”
He said the candidates for both the APC and the PDP did not emerge “from valid primaries” because they contravened significant provisions of the Electoral Act that rendered their elections void, adding that INEC went ahead to publish the particulars of candidates for president and the National Assembly on June 24.
“If either the APC’s Bola Tinubu or the PDP’s Atiku Abubakar wins the 2023 election, their victory would be invalidated by the courts, and Labour Party’s Peter Obi may be declared president by default since he is likely to be in the top three performers in the presidential contest.
“Of course, either Peter Obi or the Labour Party has to sue first for this to happen. And although the invalidation of Tinubu’s and Atiku’s candidature by the court is a slam dunk, neither INEC, which should supply the evidence nor the judiciary, which will give the judgment, is reliable. But the evidence is reliably strong.”