The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has reacted to the death of Abia PDP’s governorship candidate, Prof Uche Ikonne, directing the party to a conduct a fresh gubernatorial primary poll within the next 14 days.
Festus Okoye, INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, told Daily Sun that since the election was still one month away, the State’s ruling party still had the window to conduct fresh primary within 14 days of Ikonne’s death.
He further explained that; “if the candidate dies when polls have commenced, section 34(3)(b) of the Act provides that the running mate shall continue with the election and nominate a new running mate.”
The commission further warned that should the PDP fail to conduct fresh primary poll within 14 days of the death of the candidate, it would be assumed that they would not have a candidate in the election.
“Section 33 of the Electoral Act, 2022 is clear, unambiguous, and unequivocal that a political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted to the commission under section 29 of the Electoral Act except in the case of death or withdrawal,” Okoye explained.
Okoye said that; “provided that in the case of such withdrawal or death of a candidate, the political party affected shall, within 14 days of the occurrence of the event, hold a fresh primary to produce and submit a fresh candidate to the commission for the election concerned.
“The period, slated in the timetable and schedule of activities for the withdrawal of candidates has lapsed. In the said timetable, the last days for withdrawal by governorship and State Assembly candidates was August 12, 2022.
“Moreover, section 31 of the Act makes it clear that a candidate can only withdraw his or her candidature by notice in writing submitted to the political party that nominated him and such must be conveyed to the political party not later than 90 days to election,” the commission explained.
On the particular case involving Abia governorship candidate, Okoye said: “the case in hand is different from the issue of withdrawal of candidates. The issue at hand is death and the candidate died when the period of election is still a month away. The Electoral Act permits the party that nominated him to conduct fresh primary poll for the purpose of replacing him.
“If they fail to conduct fresh primaries within 14 days of the death of the candidate, they will not have a candidate in the election. The situation is different if the candidate dies just when polls are about to commence but has not commenced.
“In such instances, the Chief Electoral Commissioner being satisfied of the death can countermand the poll and appoint some other convenient date for the election within 14 days.
“However, If the candidate dies when polls have commenced, section 34(3)(b) of the Act provides that the running mate shall continue with the election and nominate a new running mate.
“Section 34(3)(b) of the Act does not apply in this instance. The operative provision herein is section 33 of the Act since the period for the conduct of polls is still almost a month away,” he explained.