Onuigbo: I Still Hold Senate Ticket
…Says Electoral Act 2022 Enacted to Check Political Gangsterism
Rep Sam Onuigbo, one of the Senatorial candidates whose name was wrongfully substituted by his party, the All Progressive Congress has disclosed that inspite of the initial conspiracy, the party has finally issued me with Form EC9, which is from INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission), which is given to only successful candidates.
Speaking in an interview on Saturday, Onuigbo treated with disdain all doubts and controversies over who is APC’s Senatorial candidate for Abia Central Senatorial district, saying “I am”
“And, as a confirmation of the fact that I was the candidate of the party, they issued me with Form EC9, which is from INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission), which is given to only successful candidates.
“They asked me to complete that form and I completed the form and returned it on June 14. And, after returning it, it was acknowledged by one of the officers there, Emmanuel or so. After that, I was required to sign in a column where my name was already indicated as a candidate, where, after signing, you were also required to put in your phone number.
“On that document, my name was listed as number one, Senator Orji Uzo Kalu was number two. He signed before me and then Blessing Nwagba and I also signed and put my phone number. So, I believed everything was going well, until June 16th, when they issued the list of candidates for the election to represent APC”.
Rep Onuigbo explained in an exclusive interview with The Guardian on Saturday where he narrated how he emerged APC’s Senatorial candidate.
He further proffered that the painstaking detailed Electoral Act, 2022 makes it virtually impossible for his name or that of any candidate who emerged through primary to be substituted for another person who ab-initio was never part of the Senatorial Primary Election for Abia Central Senatorial Ticket or elsewhere. To do such would be displaying political gangsterism which the Electoral Act 2022 would not tolerate. “This is pure political gangsterism. They hijack a position that they never contested for and then, after the election, they now sit in and use resources that they are getting from their loots, from their fraudulent conduct to now fighting the genuine individual. So, it is important for this to be stopped before the general election and that is why we did it”, referring to the enactment of the Electoral Act, 2022
According to the member representing Ikwuano/Umuahia North and South Federal Constituency, “…the Electoral Act 2022 is explicit in its provisions either in section 29, whereas you read towards the end of that 29, you will find that it is a requirement that parties must hold valid primaries for their candidates to emerge.
“If you go to section 84, sub-section 1, it also states that any political party seeking to nominate a candidate to stand for election, such party shall conduct primaries for the aspirants for any elective position and that such primary election shall be monitored by the commission, in this case, INEC.
“So, to now see that one, this individual did not participate in a valid primary as provided in section 29 or that this individual was not part of the primaries completely, this individual, Chief Emeka Atuma, stood for the gubernatorial election in the two factions of APC in Abia; in the one conducted by Ikechi Emenike, he came second, in the gubernatorial primary won by Chief Uche Ogah, he came third. So, to see that he is now a senatorial candidate is one of the strangest things. It is one strange development that we should not be talking about in this day and age, especially with all the improvements that we have made. So, I think it is now up to INEC and the party to correct this grievous mistake”, he argued.
The soft spoken lawmaker in an emotion laden voice said he finds it strange for his names to be substituted in a most bizarre manner. “It is therefore so strange to us that someone who did not buy nomination forms for the Senate, never participated in the preliminary processes, that is completing your form, submitting, participating in screening and being cleared by the party, from nowhere had his name listed to substitute my own name. It is one of the strangest things I have ever seen. It is so shocking”
Onuigbo, in response to a question explained that the election was held on Sunday, May 29 due to some bottlenecks which forced the chairman of the Senate primary election panel from Abuja, Hon. Izu Okeke to reschedule the election for that day:
” I defeated my closest opponent, Chief Ikoh by 157 to 152 votes. That was it. The panel submitted their report to the office of the National Organising Secretary, which was signed by five of them.
“They listed those of us who were returned or elected as candidates for the three senatorial zones, namely, Chief Sam Onuigbo for Abia Central; Senator Orji Uzo Kalu, Abia North and Blessing Nwagba for Abia South. The office of the National Organising Secretary received the result and acknowledge it.
On June 6, 2022, according to the letter given to me, it was received by one Sabiru Bello, who I believe is an Assistant Director. I recall that they didn’t give me that document immediately; it was when I went there severally to get the document to show that they have finished with the election, that they gave me a copy showing that it has been acknowledged”
Taken up on the question whether the provisions of Electoral Act, 2022 are not vitiated when put side by side with the 1999 constitution, the lawmaker who was a member of NASS Joint Technical Committee on the Electoral Act 2022 affirmed that “..the Constitution is the grundnorm. We draw all powers from the constitution; We draw powers either to act in the executive or to legislate. So, the constitution always is superior”.
Getting down to specifics, Onuigbo dismissed insinuations that INEC is empowered by the 1999 Constitution not to reject candidates submitted by a political party, and that the party leadership could resort to it to shortcircuit the provisions of the Electoral Act.
He gave an insight in the making of the Act thus: “The Electoral Act 2022 was enacted by the legislature, the National Assembly. By His grace, I was lucky to have participated, when we had a retreat in Lagos with critical players. We had that retreat during which the chairman of INEC, Prof. Yakubu, was emphatic in his appeal to us. He urged us to look at the Electoral Act holistically. That was when we agreed to repeal all those other amendments and enact a new Electoral Act. He appealed to us to eliminate all loopholes that political parties used to carry out impunity.
“…we worked on these things line by line and tried to eliminate all those loopholes. That is why if you read the Electoral Act 2022 very well, you will find that INEC is equipped to do the right things. You could say that the Constitution is a superior legislation, but these laws were actually enacted to enhance their powers.
“INEC has been armed to be able to terminate this act of impunity with precision and clear guidance. So, if they are talking about, maybe the challenge of not doing this, then the question arises, why did we load them with all these powers in trying to define better what powers the constitution has given them? What we have done is to enhance their powers and give them teeth to bite.
“But, one other thing that has happened is that with these provisions that are put in place, even the talk about withdrawal, if you go to section 33, check 29, and read 84(1), you will then find that everything is geared towards safeguarding the actions of INEC.
“I do believe that INEC did not seek for these enhanced powers for the fun of it; they sought these powers and they got them to enable them to perform better. I do not have any doubt that somewhere down the line, they should be able to do some comparison, some analysis of what they saw in the field and maybe what the party submitted.
“I am not speaking for INEC, but I just believe that this was the reason they asked for these extra powers because where they see manifest impunity or illegality they straighten out things. In a civilised place, I do not think that such a critical institution will allow that to happen, because if that happens then their powers are immediately eroded.
“The legislation has given them powers; nobody is contesting the position of the law, otherwise, why do we have these three arms of government; the legislature to make laws, to enact laws as instructed in section 4 of the constitution and laws enacted by the legislature are executed by the executive arm as in section 5 and when there is any conflict or anything that needs definition or proper interpretation, that is handled by the judiciary as in section 6.
“So, it is not as if it is intended for the legislature to take away the powers of the court, no, nobody wants that encroachment and that is the essence of checks and balances.
“Therefore, if INEC didn’t want these powers, they should not have asked for them and then got the powers. But, that is not to say that INEC, which is an arm of the executive should now take over the functions of the judiciary. Well, if it becomes difficult, people can seek redress.
“You don’t invest all the energy and achieve the result only to have it immediately eroded or undermined. Once it is successful that you can shred the law and do whatever you like, what is the essence of, one, going to do primary elections; two, the Electoral Act if you don’t want to abide by it?’.
Onuigbo, who chairs the House Committee on Climate Change further added that he does not think that the laws made by the National Assembly were intended to undermine the constitution, but rather “… to define it better and enhance the functions of such critical institutions like INEC. Democracy that we are talking about, without INEC, you don’t have an election.
” The election is a critical process for selecting leaders to give them powers for authoritative administration and application of resources because without being elected you cannot sit down there and begin to say, I will do this and that. So, the election is key and INEC is a very critical national institution that you have to really build up their powers and help them to function well.
“Why we enact laws and amend laws is that when you find mischief or you find areas being exploited, you bring the law for amendment. Or, if you need an enhancement you can bring laws and increase powers to get a just and peaceful society because as it is said, a society without laws and laws being implemented is a contradiction in terms”, he maintained.