Kogi State governorship election is about to face the prospect of yet another postponement in the life of the current electoral umpires. If the statement of the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Barrister Natasha Akpoti is to be taken seriously, the election will have to be shifted to another date in the future.
Akpoti, who had her name and the logo of her party excluded from the ballot by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the ground that she fielded an underage running mate, had the decision of the electoral body reversed by the Abuja Federal High Court last Thursday. The court’s decision was, however, coming nine days to the poll. The questions that followed the judgment include: whether INEC would appeal the judgment? What effects could this have on the election? With just nine days to the poll, would Akpoti and her party have time to campaign? Also, it is not immediately known if the INEC materials for the election, especially the ballot papers, had been concluded upon excluding the SDP logo.
At the time of this report, the position of the INEC on whether or not the commission would appeal the judgment was not clear.
Rotimi Lawrence, Press Secretary to INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, in a terse response to our reporter’s inquisition said: “We have not even been served with any judgment yet, so the question of filing an appeal does not arise.”
What is however certain is that the SDP candidate has indicated that she would push for a postponement.
Speaking with The Guardian, Akpoti said although INEC had done more campaign for her through its decision to disqualify her even when it knew such action was illegal, she would certainly push for the postponement of the election to enable her party to have time to sell its programme to the electorate.
She said, “Because I kept on fighting, the irony of it all is that this whole drama has really popularized me. INEC made me become more popular. In the entire Kogi community, the news of my victory in court has gone around like wildfire.
Notwithstanding, we will definitely ask for the postponement of the election to allow us to meet up with our opponents in preparation for the election. We were illegally excluded and not allowed to take our messages of hope to the good people of Kogi State.”
On the possibility of INEC appealing the judgment, she said she doubted if INEC had any grounds for appeal, saying; “even a layman knew INEC acted wrongly unless they want to continue their bias in the Kogi election.”
Spokesman for Engr. Musa Wada, Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Faruk Adejoh-Audu described Akpoti and SDP’s inclusion as a welcome development.
“Very welcome development. She is sure going to be a competition but there is no sure cut to justice. INEC had no right to disqualify her in the first place. But very curiously they did. Thank God the courts upheld obvious legislation and restored her rights. Barrister Natasha Akpoti is welcome back to the race. The more the more democratic”
On whether the inclusion of Akpoti who hails from the same senatorial district as the APC candidate, Governor Yahaya Bello could create an upset for the election, Secretary, Media, and Publicity Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship election campaign, Dr. Tom Ohikere told The Guardian that Akpoti on the ballot would not change anything.
‘I respect her tenacity and courage but not at all. The people of Kogi Central where Natasha Akpoti hails from are wholly behind the re-election quest of Governor Yahaya Bello. The governorship election is different from the senatorial election. The stakes are higher and the dynamics different. The PDP may be using it to score cheap media and propaganda goals. But on the ground it will not change or alter the balance which is in favour of the APC”, said Ohikere.
Earlier, before the last Thursday’s judgment, a member of Amnesty International, United State of America, Comrade Sunday Jatto, predicted that only victory for Natasha Akpoti in court could guarantee an emblem for democratic liberation in Nigeria. Jatto, a human rights lawyer, disclosed this in a statement he signed and made available to journalists in Lokoja. Jatto said that the exclusion of some political parties ahead of the forthcoming governorship election by the INEC called for the attention of the Judicial system in Nigeria and global human rights instrumentalities. According to him, the provisions anchored on Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of relevant sections also enshrined at wider range into the Nigeria Constitution, are meant to protect the fundamental rights of every Nigerian (Chapter 4 section 33 to 43 as amended in 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria) inter alia.