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‘No Transparency’: Olumide Akpata Petitions INEC Over Labour Party’s ‘Lack of Preparation’ for Edo Guber Primary 

He said all of the aspirants, without exception, who had withdrawn from the LP primaries had sited indications of substantial manipulation of the process.

Former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and a governorship aspirant in the Edo State governorship election on the platform of the Labour Party, Olumide Akpata, has petitioned the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over lack of preparation for the election by the party.

He also alleged that there was no transparency by the Labour Party over the primary election.

In the petition, he signed, Akpata said, “the purpose of this letter is to bring to your attention and petition you about the lack of preparedness and transparency surrounding the Labour Party’s planned primary elections to produce a gubernatorial candidate for the forthcoming elections in Edo State.”

According to Akpata, “As you are aware, the Electoral Act 2022 mandates political parties to conduct transparent primaries to produce candidates and mandates the INEC to stipulate timelines for conducting these primaries.

“Less than 48 hours to the Edo State Ward Congresses of the Labour Party and about 96 hours to the gubernatorial primary elections of the Labour Party itself, I am constrained to inform you that as of today, Sunday, February 18, 2024, the Labour Party has exhibited little preparedness for the Ward Congresses scheduled for February 20, 2024, to elect delegates who will vote in the primaries slated for February 23, 2024, which is the last possible day for political parties to conduct primary elections before the INEC mandated date of 24th of February 2024 for all political parties to upload names of gubernatorial candidates who emerged from party primaries.”

He further said, “as of the date of writing this letter, the dearth of information and transparency surrounding the primary election process has cast serious doubts on the sincerity of the Labour Party in conducting a fair, credible, and democratic primary to produce a gubernatorial candidate.

“Numerous aspirants, including myself, have observed with dismay the conspicuous absence of transparency, which has led to a mass exodus of aspirants from the race.

“This departure of aspirants is not merely a loss to the democratic process, but also a testament to the erosion of trust and confidence in the integrity of the Party’s leadership.”

He said all of the aspirants, without exception, who had withdrawn from the LP primaries had sited indications of substantial manipulation of the process.

According to him, the party failed to provide critical information to aspirants.

The following issues highlight the lack of preparedness of the LP for the primary elections and the statutory Congresses leading up to the primary elections, he added.

Akpata, said there was complete blackout of specific information on venues for the 192 Ward Congresses scheduled to hold on Tuesday.

“If the party has not made arrangements to communicate venues to aspirants who need to mobilise agents and supporters to monitor the process, how does it expect INEC officials to deploy to these Wards and play their statutory role?” he added.

He further stated that they failed to publish any specific guidelines detailing a step-by-step process governing the Ward Congress and primary elections. This, according to Akpata, had led to various interpretations of the process by party officials.

Accordingly, he said, “I have been inundated with calls from aspirants and Party officials alike asking for clarification on guidelines for delegates, procedures for voting, accreditation of voters, etc. “As of today, just two days before the Ward Congresses, these critical guidelines are unknown to aspirants.

“The party has yet to officially communicate the list of screened delegates-aspirants who will stand for elections in the Ward Congress. The credentials of the delegates determine the legitimacy of the primaries.

“As a key stakeholder, I am up to this moment not privy to any list of screened delegates-aspirants. To make matters even worse, forms for those aspiring to be delegates were sold by both the national headquarters of the party and the state chapter of the party, with arguments ensuing on which of the two forms or if both forms would be accepted.

“Also, the party is yet to reveal the appointed electoral officers to conduct the planned congresses. The independence and neutrality of the appointed officials are key to a transparent outcome.

“Their identities and credentials should be communicated to all aspirants for vetting ahead of the exercise. But we remain totally in the dark.

“Our fears have been magnified by the reluctance of the party to convene a stakeholder meeting to brief aspirants on preparations, despite repeated appeals to the party hierarchy to do the same.

“The venue and logistics arrangements for transporting election materials across the 192 Wards also remain unknown to aspirants to date.

“I have also personally confirmed from the leadership of all law enforcement and security agencies, including the Nigeria Police Force and Department of State Security (DSS), who have stated unequivocally that they have not received any formal or informal notification from the party that it intends to hold Ward Congresses and/or party primaries in Edo State on the 20th and 23rd of February respectively.

“They also confirmed they are unaware of any security arrangements made by the party for the Ward Congresses and primaries as they have yet to receive official communication on venues, materials, etc.

“Mr. Chairman, you will agree with me that this is a recipe for potential chaos, as there is already palpable tension in the party and an absence of security to nip any threat of violence in the bud, does not augur well for the party or successful conduct of free, fair and transparent primaries.”

He stated further: “I have become constrained to speak out at this point because my repeated attempts to get the party leadership to see reason and provide transparency around preparations for the primaries have failed to elicit any positive response.

“Rather, my candid inquiries have been met with disdain and an attempt to bully me into silence.”

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