Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has directed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Abia State chapter to organize a fresh primary within two weeks following the death of its governorship flag bearer, Professor Uche Ikonne.
Ikonne died at the National Hospital Abuja on Wednesday, January 25, according to a statement from the family.
Festus Okoye, INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, who disclosed the position of the electoral body said that PDP still have ample time to conduct fresh primary since the election is still up one month away.
He explained that the new Electoral Act requires that in the event of the death of a candidate, a fresh primary would be conducted within 14 days to replace the deceased candidate.
“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.”
According to INEC, if PDP fails to conduct fresh primary within 14 days of the death of the candidate, the party would not be able to field a candidate at the poll.
“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.
“It 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 or her and such must be conveyed to the political party not later than 90 days to election.”
INEC insisted that the only constitutional option available to Abia PDP was to conduct a fresh primary.
“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 primaries 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.”
Meanwhile, consultations have commenced on how to get the new PDP flag bearer as individuals and groups have begun some behind-the-scene moves to get the ticket.