Mock primaries and endorsements are not acceptable in Nigeria as a legitimate way of choosing political candidates.
Although there may be political godfathers, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has made it clear that no one has a right to endorse or impose a candidate on the people or his or her party.
INEC described what is going on in Imo State as “pranks” but not backed by INEC.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Leader the resident electoral commissioner for Imo Sate Prof. Francis Chukwuemeka Ezeonu said, any acceptable and legal “primaries” must be conducted according to party constitution and be witnessed and certified officially by INEC. Anything short may lead to disqualification.
“Who are those endorsing the candidate? What is their pedigree and where are they coming from? Sometimes, you hear about people who went to endorse a candidate ending up fighting over money. It is about sharing the booty. There is so much poverty. The people are so impoverished that they are looking for any way to make money. The same thing goes for the so-called mock primaries. I am hearing it for the first time in Imo State,” INEC boss said.
“What we use is the party’s constitution. If a party provided for mock primaries, okay! We don’t know of any political party in Nigeria that has a provision for mock primaries. Politicians are getting agitated but what we are telling people is that these things are pranks being played by politicians. When you schedule your primaries we have to be informed because there is a procedure for bringing out your candidates and we have to observe your election and at the end of the day, if it does not meet the tenets of your constitutional provision, we turn it down, we have a way of regulating what is happening at the back end”, he said.
He described what is going on as political gimmicks and intimidation and emphasised that “at the end of the day, any party that does not conduct true primaries; we will not recognise whomever they are bringing out as a candidate.”
Speaking about the challenges INEC is experiencing in Imo State, in the ongoing voter registration, the electoral boss said the primary problem was voter apathy. He said although a lot people had started to register since the commission started its sensitisation campaign with the churches, there were 370,000 uncollected voter’s cards (PVC) in INEC’s possession.
He urged the people involved to go and pick up their cards to avoid being disenfranchised.
On the issue of “child” registration and voting alleged and also witnessed in the north, in the last election, the commissioner appealed to Imolites to do the right thing first. He said eligible voter’s should ensure they register and possess valid voter’s card.
Also, fielding questions on the discovery of voter’s cards in the private homes of politicians and their supporters, the INEC chief explained that those were ‘cloned cards,’ politicians use to rig election on the day of voting.
He explained that some unscrupulous politicians ask those accessing the numerous services they render, in the various charities and empowerment programmes they set up, prior to election, to provide photocopies of their voter’s card, which they clone for use on Election Day.
“They ask you to attach photocopies of your PVCs and they clone them. But these cards do not have biometric recording. But they keep it because they want to use it to rig election,” he said.
According to INEC, the politicians and their surrogates go to the polls early and use the cards to vote long before the original owners arrive. But because the cloned cards are not recognised by the card reader, the fake owners fill “incident forms” suggesting a malfunction of the card reader or any other irregularity. When the true owners arrive, they too would vote normally but the number of voters would be far more than those registered to vote.
INEC said, however, that the commission has plans to beat the frauds at their own game.