Category: Sunday politics Written by Ismail Mudashir, Kaduna Hits: 1251
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, yesterday opened up on the controversy trailing the acronym APC, saying the merging political parties being promoted by General Muhammadu Buhari and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, notified the commission of its intention to use the acronym only five days ago.
Sunday Trust reports that there have been controversies over the acronym as several groups are claiming its ownership. Opposition political parties including the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a faction of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), in their bids to merge, came up with All Progressive Congress (APC) as their new identity. Weeks later, another group came up with African People’s Congress (APC). This was followed by All Patriotic Citizens (APC). All these groups are using APC acronym.
Featuring on Radio Nigeria, Kaduna Hausa phone-in programme, Hanu Da Yawa, Professor Jega said one group had applied to use the acronym before the merging political parties did so.
According to the INEC Chairman, “This issue has generated controversy in the past few weeks. Firstly, the truth is that no political party has written to notify us that it is planning to merge with some other political parties until the past five days or so. Therefore, it is not true that we have been notified. The issue became serious when one group came out to seek for registration. I guess that was what made them to write and notify us.
“But, that is not the issue. The main issue is that there are guidelines for registered political parties who want to merge to become a new party. There are also guidelines for individuals or groups who want to form a political party for registration. The guideline for registering a new political party is different from that of registered political parties who want to merge.
“For registered political parties who want to merge, they must have agreed to merge and each of the political parties in the merger must hold a convention and agreed to withdraw their registration as political parties in order to become part of the new party to be formed through the merger. After their conventions, they are expected to write and request INEC to withdraw their former registration and say they want to join a new party,” Professor Jega explained.
According to him, in spite of all the controversies, none of these political parties who want to merge has held their conventions.
“We only read in the newspapers that they have the intention of merging and nobody wrote to us until about five or six days ago. If anybody wants to register a political party, you are expected to tell INEC of your intention by saying that you want to register a party with so and so name and you want to know the procedure for doing so.
“Only one group came. The group asked one lawyer to write INEC, saying they wanted to form a political party with a particular name and they wanted to know the rules and procedures for registration as a political party. If this other group has done so, we would have replied them and told them the rules and the procedures they are supposed to follow to be registered.
“The issue of whether we have collected the name of this other group and whether we have agreed to register it does not even arise because we just replied to their letter by telling them the procedure. While this was going on, some people started making noise, saying that they wanted to merge with so, so name. Some of them were even saying that we have registered the other group with that name. It is not done like that.
“People are just making noise over the name which is in the market, while we have not even reached that stage. While all these noises were going on, another group came up seeking for registration with the same name. We have rules and guidelines for this and we are determined to follow the rules to avoid any confusion. But we have not reached a stage where we can say a group has registered with so, so name. So all these noises is just our politics in Nigeria.
Professor Jega added that “We have explained these to them. They wrote back, insisting that they followed the guideline. But we have not screened them yet because the procedures are step by step.
Except INEC comes out to announce that it has registered so and so party, the bickering is unnecessary. We have written to them that a group has come to seek for registration with that name and if they want us to look at their application, they will have to look for another name.
Making allusion to company registration, the INEC chairman explained that “If you want to register a company, before the company is registered, you would have to apply for a name which the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) will take some time to search. We don’t operate like this in INEC, but because of this controversy, we have learnt a lesson. I think at the end of the day, we will also adopt the same system to avoid this problem. We must operate according to the rules and we will work with anybody who fulfils the provisions of the law.
“Somebody first came with the name and we have explained that we are already screening the person who first came with the name. So if you want your application to be considered, go and change your name because it is not possible to register three groups with the same name. We have not even reached the stage of registering any group. When we reach that stage, we will take the appropriate decisions,” he said.
On the 2015 elections, Professor Jega said INEC was working hard to ensure that 2015 elections are more credible than those of 2011: “We have been working hard towards this. We have reviewed the past and we are looking at what we can do to improve on our performances. Our challenges are accumulation of problems over the years. We came within eight months and there was no way we could have overcome the rot that happened for over 20 years back. But we did our best without fear or favour. We have been transparent. I can swear that I have been transparent and truthful.
“I have never tolerated unholy attitudes that came to my knowledge. If there are too much destruction, it takes time to repair and make things work and for people to appreciate the repairs. In 2011, we conducted the elections within just eight months after I was appointed. It was an election that you cannot say everything was 100 per cent alright. We know that many people were not happy about the outcome of the elections because of different reasons. But I know that we did our best and we were transparent and honest and we adhered to the guidelines regarding the conduct of the election.
“We are doing our best to ensure that the mistakes we made in the past are corrected. We are trying to introduce new things to bring about change in the system. If we want to make progress in this country and ensure good governance, then we must improve the electoral process. If you compare the 2011 elections with the elections in 1999, 2003 and 2007, you will agree that there was a remarkable improvement. So by the grace of God, we will do our best in 2015,” he said.
The INEC chairman ruled out electronic voting in the 2015 elections, saying the constitution has prohibited electronic voting. “We have never said we will conduct electronic voting. What we said we will do is to use technology to improve on the registration of voters and improve on the electoral processes,” he explained.