Political parties in Nigeria have been accused of often acting in desperation and devising various means of circumventing the Electoral Act and the constitution in a bid to have their way during the last general elections.
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, who made the accusation at a media chat, disclosed that apart from the general malaise of lack of internal democracy leading to imposition of candidates on the electorate, certain political parties were in the habit of seeking to alter the list of their candidates even after the mandatory period allowed by the law.
Yakubu said that in the build up to the 2015 elections, some political parties went as far as deploying fraudulent tactics in a desperate move to substitute the candidates whose names had already been submitted to the election management body.
He said that at least in two instances, a certain political party had to declare some of its candidates dead and provided every necessary documentary evidence to support its claim only for the alleged “dead candidates” to resurface at the headquarters of the electoral commission like ghosts. “I will give you an example, but I won’t mention the state.
In one of the states, before the last general elections, a political party wanted to substitute its candidate after the expiration of the 40-day window for substitution and knowing full well that the only provision under the law is in the event of death.
So INEC received a letter from that party, the letter was accompanied by the following documents: a certificate of death for their candidate, testifying to the fact that that person was dead; the second one was a letter from the family of the deceased addressed to the political party to confirm that the person was dead.
“Based on the letter from the deceased’s family, the party approached the court and swore to an affidavit that the candidate was dead.
A few weeks later, the man appeared here to say, “I’m alive”. “In another state, a political party wrote to INEC claiming that four of their candidates were driving in a vehicle to a campaign rally, had an accident and all four of them died in the accident.
Later, one of them came and said “we never even travelled in the same vehicle, let alone dying together,” Yakubu said.
The INEC boss also admitted that the phenomenon of under-aged voters participating in elections in certain parts of the country was still a challenge to the commission. He said the commission will continue to explore avenues to eliminate the challenge of under-aged voters through the cleaning up of the voters’ register.
According to him, there was not only the need to clean up the voters’ register to ensure that Nigerians who have come of age since the last election got themselves duly registered to make them eligible to vote during the next election.
He, however, disclosed that the commission has also identified another challenge, which is the phenomenon of underaged candidates in certain elections.
Yakubu said that until recently when he came to INEC, he did not know that there was also another known as under-aged candidates.
He explained that though the constitution was very clear that you have to attain a certain age before being eligible to seek election into public office, there had been cases where people below the mandatory age have beat the checks in the electoral system to contest and even win an election.
In one of the instances, he recalled a candidate who was under-aged, contested and won. But his opponent went to court to challenge the election on the grounds that the winner ought not to have contested the election.