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Abia: Who becomes PDP governorship candidate?

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The death on Wednesday of the Abia State governorship of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has thrown up legal concerns. With 39 days to the governorship election, what is PDP’s fate in the 11 March poll?

Former Vice Chancellor of Abia State University, Prof. Eleazar Uchenna Ikonne emerged the candidate of the PDP in the primary conducted last 25 May. He secured 468 out of 536 votes to defeat his closest rival, Mayor Lucky Igbokwe who had 45 votes, while Mrs Ezenwanyi Jonah got five votes.

Seven other aspirants including the Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon. Ude Oko Chukwu; Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe; and Senator Emma Nwaka had earlier withdrawn from the race, citing the use of fake news and non-compliance with due process.

But the returning office, former Ekiti State governor Ayo Fayose announced six votes for Chukwu; five votes each for Abaribe, who had defected to the All Progressives Grand Alliance; and Chief Sampson Orji; four votes each for Nana Nwafor and Nwaka; Chief Ncheta Omerekpe secured three votes; and two votes for Prof. Gregory Ibe, who had also joined APGA.

By the provisions of Sections 33 and 34 of the Electoral Act 2022, all the aspirants are eligible to contest a fresh primary to be conducted in the next 14 days; in effect, latest 8 March.

Section 33 provides: “A political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted under Section 29 of this Act, except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate: Provided that in the case of such withdrawal or death of a candidate, the political party affected shall, within 14 days of the occurrence of the event, hold a fresh primary election to produce and submit a fresh candidate to the Commission for the election concerned”.

Aspirants who were not included in the initial primary are not eligible for the fresh primary.

Section 34 of the Elctoral Act 2022 states: (1) If after the time for the delivery of nomination paper and before the commencement of the poll, a nominated candidate dies, the Chief National Electoral Commissioner shall, being satisfied of the fact of the death, countermand the poll in which the deceased candidate was to participate and the Commission shall appoint some other convenient date for the election within 14 days.

(2) The list of voters to be used at a postponed election shall be the official voters register which was to be used if the election had not been postponed.

(3) If after the commencement of polls and before the announcement of the final result and declaration of a winner, a candidate dies—
(a) the Commission shall, being satisfied of the fact of the death, suspend the election for a period not more than 21 days; and
(b) in the case of election into a legislative House, the election shall start afresh and the political party whose candidate died may, if it intends to continue to participate in the election, conduct a fresh primary within 14 days of the death of its candidate and submit the name of a new candidate to the Commission to replace the dead candidate

Provided that in the case of presidential or gubernatorialor Federal Capital Territory Area Council election, the running mate shall continue with the election and nominate a new running mate.

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