The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it would maintain its position to recognise Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as the flag-bearer of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the Edo state governorship elections scheduled for Saturday, September 10.
INEC’s insistence came against the background of fresh move by a faction of the PDP loyal to the ousted national chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, to replace Ize-Iyamu, the governorship candidate of the Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee, with its own man, Mathew Iduoriyekwemwen.
A member of the Federal House of Representatives, representing Egor/Kpoba-Okha Federal Constituency, Hon. Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonayinma had led other Sheriff’s loyalists to the INEC on Friday to submit a court ruling ordering the commission to accept Iduoriyekwemwen as the PDP candidate for the election in Edo state.
The lawmaker said the commission’s decision to publish the name of Ize-Iyamu who emerged from a primary election conducted by the PDP National Caretaker Committee led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi as PDP candidate for the election was illegal.
“There was a court order given recently by Justice Adeniyi of the FCT High Court. There was a case filed by Ize-Iyamu at the same court that has brought us to where we are now but INEC decided to place Ize-Iyamu as candidate of PDP; which is the Makarfi group,” he said.
However, the commission said yesterday that it would go ahead to recognise Pastor Ize-Iyamu for the Edo state governorship based on the judgment of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt which validated the leadership of the Makarfi-led caretaker committee.
The INEC Director in-charge of Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Osaze Uzzi said the commission will not change its position unless there is an order from a superior court in the land invalidating the judgment of the Port Harcourt Federal High Court.
“It is the same court order that made us recognise Pastor Ize-Iyamu in the first place and unless there is an order from a superior court, INEC will continue to stick to its position,” he said. Following the leadership crisis that is rocking the PDP at the national level, the party’s feuding factions had organised two separate primaries resulting in two contending governorship candidates for the Edo state poll.
Both the National Caretaker Committee headed by Senator Ahmed Makarfi and the faction led by former national chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff had taken the matter to the courts for adjudication, leading to several rulings.
But after reviewing the legal positions, INEC said it has recognised the Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee based on the judgment of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt and that it would henceforth work with it for all its activities.
In the same vein, the commission said it has approved the governorship candidate of the Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee, Ize-Iyamu as the PDP flag-bearer for the Edo election.
In a document signed and issued by the Secretary to the Commission, Mrs. Augusta C. Ogakwu, 19 political parties and their candidates have been cleared by the Commission to contest the election.
Ize-Iyamu was among the candidates on the INEC approved list, thus putting paid the controversy over which of the candidates thrown up by the leadership crisis in the PDP would receive the blessing of the commission.
INEC confirmed its recognition for Makarfi in an extract issued on July 14 and signed by a Director in the Commission’s Secretariat, Ishiaku A. Gali saying that it would henceforth recognise the National Caretaker committee’s activities such “as the conduct of primaries of political officers; and the submission of the plaintiff’s list of the candidate for any election to be conducted by the Commission.”
Meanwhile, INEC has also given assurances of a hitch-free governorship election in Edo state on Saturday just as 19 political parties are now on the last lap of their campaigns for the governorship poll.
Speaking on the level of preparations for election, Uzzi said the commission has mobilised adequately for the exercise, adding that it has conducted series of training workshops for ad hoc staff members that will be deployed for the election on Saturday.
According to INEC, it will be deploying 18,511 personnel to conduct the Edo Governorship election. Uzzi said apart from publishing the list of approved candidates INEC has also published the voters list as well assigned various officers that will take charge of the poll.
The list of candidates and their parties shows that for the PDP, the recognised governorship candidate is Pastor Ize-Iyamu while his deputy is John Ehibhatoman Yakubu. For the All Progressives Congress (APC), Godwin Obaseki is to fly the party’s flag for the Governorship election while his deputy is Hon. Philip Shuaibu. The governorship candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) is Onaiwu Osaze with Okpebholo Oyemen Gladys as his deputy.
The list also shows the Governorship candidate of the Action Alliance is Ishaka Paul Ofemile (Comrade) while the deputy is Ewemade Nancy Osagie. Action Congress of Democrats has Andrew Igewmo as Governorship candidate while his deputy is Osagie Egharevba Andrew.
Others are Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) Thomas Amanesi Sadoh – (governor), Onaiwu V. Ogbeide (Deputy), Social Democratic Party (SDP) Omorogieva Gbajumo (governor), Isaac P.E. Ogona (Deputy) and United Progressives Party (UPP) Adviser Shadrach Nowamagbe Efogie (governor) and Okosun Davies Roseline (deputy).
Edo state, which is made up of 18 Local Government Areas, has a total of 1,925,105 registered voters; 192 Registration Areas (RAs); 2,627 Polling Units (PUs); and 4,011 Voting Points (VPs).
The Commission also said it would deploy one Returning Officer; 18 Local Government Area Collation Officers; 192 Registration Area Collation Officers; 263 Supervisory Presiding Officers; 2,627 Presiding Officers 12,036 Assistant Presiding Officers (APOs) I, II and III; 2,530 Assistant Presiding Officers (VP); 728 Reserve APOs (5 per cent); 19 LGA Supervisors and one Head Quarter Reserve; and 97 RA Cluster Supervisors and Headquarter1 Reserve (2RAs /Supervisor).