Ondo State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Eyitayo Jegede yesterday led a march on the Akure office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), demanding the shift of tomorrow’s governorship election .
The factional leader of the PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi and the chairman of the state’s chapter, Mr. Clement Faboyede, also demanded a shift.
The INEC rejected the request, insisting that all is set for the election. But the electoral agency agreed to accept a list of party agents from Jegede. It will discard the list given to it by the sacked candidate of the party, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim.
Jegede returned to the ballot on Wednesday after a Court of Appeal panel in Abuja nullified the judgment of the high court which favoured Ibrahim.
Jegede returned to the warm embrace of his supporters and political associates who he addressed at his campaign secretariat at Ijapo in Akure before the march on the INEC office.
He told INEC that his list of party agents had not been received, adding that his faction had also not got a copy of the voter register.
Jegede, resented a letter to Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Segun Agbaje, demanding a postponement.
He said: “ We want INEC to shift the date of the election to enable me enjoy the privileges the candidates of other parties enjoy in the election.
“Before now, my party has written to inform INEC on what is needed to be done in line with the provision of the law. They have not replied the letter. There are three conditions for election postponement, these conditions are, violence, natural disaster or any other emergency. What we have here is a legal emergency; it must be attended to; it is a legal emergency.”
Part of the letter reads: “It follows from the foregoing that any list of agents purportedly forwarded by one Poroye and his fellow pretenders who had been illegally parading themselves as the state executive members of the PDP, Ondo State cannot be regarded as authentic.
“As it is, the Peoples Democratic Party has not forwarded the list of its agents to the commission.
“Whichever way one may look at the situation on ground, the governorship election of Ondo State slated for 26th November, if conducted, will undoubtedly be in breach of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
“It is in light of the foregoing that I request you to defer the governorship election for Ondo State for at least 30 days so as not to conduct the election in flagrant violation of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.”
But the REC said there was no going back on tomorrow’s election. He said the commission was ready for the election and there was no way it could shift it.
Agbaje said:” We are going to conduct the election on Saturday; there is no going back. It is not the fault of the INEC that parties are having intra-party crises. It will cost Nigeria a lot of money if the election is postponed.
“We have prepared well for the election; the sensitive materials are already out and to postpone the election, it will cost the nation a lot of money.”
The materials which were supplied directly from the vault of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in Akure include ballot papers, result sheets and other forms that would be used to collate the results.
Agbaje said adequate security had been provided to escort the materials to the local government areas.
He promised that the commission would defend the party if there was any post-election litigation over the matter
INEC Deputy Director Nick Dazang said the commission would only be working with a list of agents nominated by party, stressing that it is not in INEC’s place to determine the loyalty of such agents.
He said: “ Section 45 of the Electoral Act stipulates that it is the party that shall nominate agents and forward their names and photographs to the commission two weeks before an election. Besides, going by the timetable for this election which was issued six months ago, the notice for the election was served three months.
“ Given the above, it is not INEC’s remit to determine the loyalty of the agents submitted by a party.”
Makarfi said the extension of the election would enable the PDP to “screen and select agents for the exercise”.
He described the Court of Appeal judgment that restored Jegede to the ballot as a “massive step forward”, but argued that the party deserved “a little more time to select its agents in the interest of fair play”.
“Victory comes from God. However, a bit of extension of time will be fair, especially considering the fact that it is only now that the party will begin the process of selecting its agents,” Makarfi told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) yesterday in Jos, Plateau State.
Faboyede told reporters in Akure that the electoral law says political parties must submit names of their agents seven days to the election day, the same law also gave INEC 30 days to the election to give political parties the voter register list.
The chairman said for INEC to conduct an election, the poll should be extended by 30 days to allow PDP receive its voter register and submit names of its agents.
He said if INEC could postpone the Edo State governorship poll “over an invisible security threat, Ondo State election ought to be shifted because they are visible issues”.
“As I’m addressing you now, the INEC is yet to take the list of the party agents from the party. The one earlier submitted has been declared illegal because the imposed executives led by Biyi Poroye have been declared illegal by court.
“Hence all actions carried out by this executive is illegal and what is happening now is the handiwork of INEC by obeying the wrong order of justice Abang which the appellate court described as judicial abuse and rascality.
“We are calling on INEC that PDP in Ondo State has not submitted a list of its party agents”.