No preparation for polls — PDP, APC We are hopeful — INEC

From all indications, the conduct of this year’s governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states is being threatened by the coronavirus pandemic that has forced political parties to suspend commencement of preparations for the exercise, our correspondents report.

Political pundits argue that if the scourge is not nipped in the bud any time soon, the Edo and Ondo governorship elections slated for September 19, 2020, and October 10, 2020 respectively by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), would be threatened. Unlike other polls, INEC has not postponed governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states, and political parties are expected to conduct their primary elections and field candidates for the exercise.

In Edo, political parties are expected to conduct their primaries between June 2 and 27, while the exercise is expected to be held between July 2 and 25, in Ondo. But investigations by Daily Trust revealed that political parties, including the mega parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – have not commenced preparations for the polls as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Top sources in the various political parties said there were no preparations yet regarding the date for the sale of expression of interest and nomination forms and constitution of electoral and appeal committees for the primaries among others.

No preparation for polls – PDP, APC

In a phone interview, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, told Daily Trust that it would be incongruous for anyone to be talking about elections in a period of lockdown. “We can’t be talking about elections when the nation is locked down. It’s insensitive,” he said.

Recently, both PDP and APC shut down their national secretariats in Abuja, and state chapters nationwide, thus crippling political activities in the country. The National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP also approved the reconstitution of its Ondo State executive into the state caretaker committee with effect from April 5, 2020, when its tenure elapsed.

The NWC said its decision was predicated on the party’s inability to conduct the state congress scheduled for Tuesday, March 24, 2020, due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home and social distancing directives issued by the federal government to curtail the spread of the virus. PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan, said by the approval, the state executive had been empowered to act as a state caretaker committee until it was possible to conduct state congress for the election of state officials.

When contacted, APC Acting National Secretary Chief Victor Giadom confirmed via telephone yesterday that the party was yet to commence serious preparations as no date has been fixed for the primaries in the two states.

“The party is within time so we are preparing to work with the given date. Our date will be in line with the INEC proposed date for the election,” he said. But an elder statesman and former presidential candidate, Chief Chekwas Okorie, said if the current situation continued, INEC would have to review and adjust its timetable.

“Elections come with social gathering; political rallies. So if this continues, the only reasonable thing for INEC to do would be to re-adjust the date; have a review of the timetable which they have already issued. Because we are yet to learn how to campaign online,” he said. However, tongues are wagging as no one knows when things would stabilise and normal political activities restart following the COVID-19 lockdown with politicians and political activities also forced to standstill.

We are hopeful -INEC

Contacted, INEC’s Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu expressed hope that the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states later in the year would still hold despite the global pandemic. Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman  told Daily Trust with efforts being made by all stakeholders, the pandemic would end soon.

When asked if the situation would not results to constitution logjam given that there is a constitutional requirement of number of days that the election must hold before the occupier leaves office, Oyekanmi said, “there is still sufficient time to hold the elections within the timeframe given by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

“The tenure of the governors of Edo and Ondo states will end on 12th November 2020 and 24th February 2021 respectively. According to the extant laws, elections cannot hold earlier than 150 days and later than 30 days before the expiration of the term of office of an incumbent Governor. Therefore, we do not foresee any constitutional logjam at this point.”

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