The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, risks not participating in the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State if it does not put its house in order.
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The main opposition party is presently enmeshed in an internal crisis occasioned by the leadership tussle between its sacked national chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee appointed by the party’s governors and other major stakeholders pending when another national convention is organized to elect substantive members of its national working committee.
The leadership tussle between the two factions in the party is presently a subject of litigation as Mr. Sheriff rejected his removal in the May 21 national convention of the PDP in Port Harcourt, Rivers State insisting that he was still the national chairman of the party.
The disagreement over who is the authentic national chairman and recourse to legal battle by the contending forces led to the closure of the party’s national secretariat in Abuja by the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, until Wednesday when members of the Board of Trustees took over the running of the party.
Reacting to the development on Ray Power FM Radio Station programme “Political Platform” on Thursday in Abuja, INEC’s Deputy Director for Public affairs, Nick Dazang, said the PDP may not take part in the September 10 Edo governorship polls if the leadership crisis was not resolved soon.
The INEC official explained that in line with the timetable and the schedule of the governorship election unfolded by the commission, parties participating in the election were expected to hold their primary elections between June 2 and July 4 to pick their candidates.
“I expect that a very responsible party, a formidable party for that matter like the PDP will put its acts together in time for it particularly to collect the forms for those that will conduct the elections in Edo and Ondo and also to conduct the primaries that will lead up to who will now be their standard bearer for Edo governorship election to be conducted on Saturday 10 September”, Mr. Dazang said.
He added that “The primaries are supposed to take place between 2nd June and 4th July. So, we expect that between now and then the PDP should be able to resolve some of these issues in the interest of that election”.
When asked if, in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act, the Markarfi-led Caretaker Committee was competent to conduct primaries with a view to selecting the party’s candidate for the election, the official was not forthcoming, choosing to be diplomatic in his choice of words.
According to him, INEC “always encourage the parties to sort themselves amicably rather than resorting to the court”.
Stressing that the electoral umpire did not have the luxury of time, Mr. Dazang advised the disputing groups not to resort to court to resolve their differences because such would be time consuming.
He said, “In this instance when we are pressed for time if the parties in the dispute resort to court, it is going to take long it before the issues are resolved and they collect these forms.
“So we advise that they resolve some of these issues in good time to collect the forms so that they can hold the primaries and the candidates that will contest under their platform can emerge. They have between now and 4th July to do that.
“We normally encourage them. We have a department that relates particularly with the political parties to ensure the processes we laid out and articulated in the timetable and schedule of activities are strictly and religiously followed and we expect them to that”.