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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Party membership: Alex Otti, LP and irony of disobedience – By Orji Uduma



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Disobedience simply means refusing or neglecting to obey rules and regulations. When Alex Otti and supposed members of the Labour Party (LP) in Abia State were busy shouting: “We are obedient”, little did they know that, on the contrary, they were obediently disobedience to the electoral laws.

Even when the electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cautioned them, reminding them of the consequences of not acting obediently, they refused to comply, particularly with Section 77 of the Electoral Act 2022.

In April 2022, INEC warned political parties wishing to conduct primaries for nomination of candidates for the 2023 elections, to submit their membership registers to the Commission or risk running foul of the law.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who gave the warning said: “Let me also seize this opportunity to remind political parties that by the provision of Section 77 of the Electoral Act 2022, each party is required to maintain a membership register in hard and soft copy and to make such register available to the Commission not later than 30 days before the date fixed for primaries, congresses and conventions.”

Section 77 of the Electoral Act 2022, is a new law that tends to cure the attitude of politicians jumping from one party to another after party primaries. The framers of the law, in their wisdom, saw the need to maintain decorum in the political and electoral system, with a view of ensuring that politicians who failed nominations in their political parties, do not constitute themselves into a nuisance, causing indecorum and disorder in the political and electoral process.

Section 77 (2) & (3) of the Electoral Act 2022 reads: “Every registered political party SHALL maintain a register of its members in both hard and soft copy” and that “Each political party SHALL make such register available to the Commission not later than 30 days before the date fixed for the party primaries, congresses or convention”.

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According to INEC, the Abia State chapter of the Labour Party did not submit any membership register before the 2023 election. This much is revealed in a letter, Ref. No: INEC/DEPM/RC/745, dated 5th April 2023 and signed by Rose Oriaran-Anthony, Secretary to the Commission.

The letter which was a reply to an application by N.B Ugo & Co, seeking the certified true copies of the register of members of the Labour Party Parry, Abia State as submitted to the commission, 30 days before the party’s primaries, reads:

“Please refer to your letter dated 28 March 2023 requesting for the Certified True Copies of the Register of Members of the Labour Party ABIA State as submitted to the Commission.

“This is to advise you that although the Labour Party submitted its Membership Register via letters dated 25 April 2022 and 5 May 2022 respectively, that of Abia State was not included.”

It can therefore be argued that the consequences of this act of disobedience to the law by Alex Otti, and the Labour Party in Abia State, who failed to submit its membership register to INEC as required, means that Alex Otti and all those that purported to have emerged winners on the Labour Party platform are not eligible for the election and the outcome should not be considered in their favor, as such will amount to impunity.

Again, it can be argued correctly that Alex Otti is not a member of the labor party, since his name is not found in the membership register of Labour Party Parry. Also, since the electoral system in Nigeria, does not recognize an Independent Candidate, candidates must be sponsored by a political party, in this case, no political party can claim, in law, to have sponsored Alex Otti.

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It can also be argued correctly that Alex Otti is aware of the fact that he is not a member of the Labour Party, reasoning that at the time political parties were conducting their primaries, Alex Otti was a registered member of the All Progressive Congress (APC) where he was a governorship aspirant and also participated in the primary which he and other aspirants lost to Chief Ikechi Emenike.

Otti purportedly defected from APC to the Labour Party after losing the primary election of the APC conducted on 26th May 2022. He later participated in a purported Labour Party’s Governorship primary election in Abia State held on 8th June 2022 without INEC monitoring.

What can be indisputably underlined from the above is that Otti was not qualified to contest the election on the platform of the Labour Party (LP) under the law, from the point of view that his name was not in the register of members of the Labour Party.

Also, assuming without conceding that he got a waiver to join the party, the Abia State chapter of the Labour Party did not submit any membership register to INEC 30 days before it purportedly conducted its Governorship Primary election in Abia State for 2022.

*…Orji Uduma, a Public Affairs analyst, writes from Umuahia, Abia State*

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