The two leading political parties in Nigeria, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Monday boycotted a special meeting planned by the Delta state branch of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The meeting which was scheduled under the auspices of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in Delta state, an umbrella body covering all registered political parties had all parties including Labour Party, Young Democratic Party, Social Democratic Party, Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), Accord Party and others in attendance.
But the PDP and APC, the ruling and opposition parties in Delta state were conspicuously absent from the meeting which Emeraldng.com learnt was aimed at brainstorming and preparing the political parties towards the forthcoming 2019 general elections.
Investigations made by this medium revealed that all the registered parties including the PDP and APC were duly invited by INEC officials for the meeting but the two ruling parties conspicuously stayed away from the meeting.
IPAC chairman in the state, Fred Obi, in an interview with journalists, said it was unfortunate that the two major parties failed to turn up for the meeting, saying his team would reach out to the leadership of the parties to ascertain the reasons for their failure to attend the meeting.
According to him: “We are here for interactive session and to rub minds with INEC officials on the way to partner towards 2019 general elections. The discussion was a fruitful one and we hope to continue after the election in 2019.
“It’s unforutnate that APC and PDP are not here. They have their reasons for not coming. We will call their chairmen and those in charge to find out why they did not show up.”
Also, INEC administrative secretary, Mrs. Rose Oriaran-Anthony, said all the political parties in the state were invited for the meeting, noting that APC and PDP were not excluded from the meeting.
She told journalists at the meeting that all the parties in attendance had assured INEC that they would work in line with the guideline of INEC to make sure the forthcoming general election was a huge success.
“The parties have assured us that they will do the right thing. This is because we have to work together. They have to help us to do our work. If they do not do their work, it will be difficult for us as a commission to do our work. Am happy that they recognise the fact that we need to work together,” she said.
But when contacted, publicity secretaries of the two leading parties, APC and PDP, Paul Dunkwu and Ifeanyi Mike Osuoza, denied receiving invitations for the meeting.
Osuoza told Emeraldng.com that the party did not receive invitation letter and was not informed of the meeting.
His words: “I’m not aware of such meeting. Maybe the invitation was sent to the secretary or somebdy else. They did not inform us. I will find out please. Nobody informed me about it.”
Dunkwu of APC also said his party was not aware of the meeting. He said: “They did not tell us, if they invited us I will know. There would have been a letter to that effect. Our party was not given invitation letter from INEC.”
In an address presented by the INEC administrative secretary, she said the meeting was a tradition of INEC to rub minds with stakeholders whenever the need arose for such following the release of election timetable for the election.
In the meeting, she called on political parties to assist in mobilising eligible Nigerians of voting age to register as the continuous voter registration is still in progress.
The INEC secretary that the efforts of the commission to drive the parties to achieve its goals has not yieldede any tangible result when it comes to times of party congresses and party primaries or with internal affairs of political parties.
She said: “For instance the issue of party congresses, convetions, meetings require 21 days notice, stating the venue, time and date as required by the electoral act. The letter of notification must be signed by the national chairman or authorised party signatories.
“In most cases, none of these requirements are met and the INEC monitoring teams travel from one local government to the other without witnessing any congress even when notifications have been to that effect. This is disheartening since a constitutional duty is left undone not due to INEC’s unwillingness.
“There are parties who flaunt their own party constitution on congresses and primaries, internal wranglings and rife. Invariably, all these hurt the electoral process.
“There are also some parties who constantly change their chairmen or trying to change the existing status quo without the expiry date of their tenures. The list could grow but it is our hope that you will help us stem the flow and ease the pressure so we can focus on salient issues facing us in the dispensation of our duties going towards 2018.”
She said the Delta state branch of INEC will commence a verification exercise to ascertain the physical state offices and executives of political parties in the state.
She said the exercise would commence on the 30th of January, noting that all state offices are to be in Asaba, the Delta state capital.
Meanwhile, the representative of the factional chairman of Labour Party in Delta state, Emeka Nkwoala, was barred from entering the premises of INEC for the meeting on the fact that Tony Ezeagwu, the second factional chairman was already seated in the hall for the conference.
In a swift reaction, Nkwoala faulted the representation of Ezeagwu, saying he outsmarted his representation and deliberately went to the meeting far earlier than the scheduled time, hence beating Nkwoala and gaining the recognition of INEC before his man came.
According to him: “INEC didn’t send the text to us. They wrongly sent the text to Ezeagwu. Ezeagwu came there at about 7 or 8am when the meeting was supposed to commence at about 11am. He came in earlier before my man came and you know INEC, they said Labour Party somebody had come to represent you already.
“Ezeagwu overtook us. When my representative got there, INEC told my representative that Labour Party was already represented. But we faulted that representation because Ezeagwu is not the chairman of Labour Party as at today. We have given INEC all the necessary requirements from us. And they have also told us they will liaise with their national office in Abuja and will correct the anomaly.”