Uncertainties surrounding the conduct of the governorship elections in Bayelsa State on Saturday February 11, 2012, were last night laid to rest as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INCEC) said it would go on as planned.
The death of the governorship candidate of Mega Progressives Peoples Party (MPPP), Chief O. Ebakunmo Ogbegetebe, raised concerns and anxiety on whether the election would hold or not. Part IV, section 36 (I) of the electoral act which empowers INEC to put on hold the conduct of any election in the event of the death of a candidate was the whistle blower.
The section states that '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 Officer or the resident Electoral Commission 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.' However, INEC's spokesman, Kayode Idowu, told FACE OF BAYELSA YESTERDAY, that INEC had no justifiable reason to postpone the elections since they were in receipt of letters from the running mate of the deceased, state chairman and National Secretary of the party, stating non-interest in participating in the election.
'We have no reason to postpone the elections. The state chairman and National Secretary of the party wrote us, stating they are no longer willing to go on with the elections. The parties contesting the seat conducted valid primaries. The electoral guidelines are clear and we have to follow them strictly.'
The death of the candidate had thrown the party into a web of intrigues as a group of zonal chairmen threatened to go to court to challenge INEC if it went ahead with the elections. In a letter to INEC signed by the National Chairman Alhaji Rasheed Shitta-Bey and the six zonal Chairmen, the party contested the validity of the position of the running mate to the deceased, the National secretary and the state chairman. The constitution of the party as well as the electoral guideline on the issue however confer authority on the state chairman of the party and the running mate to a deceased candidate in consultation with the National Secretariat.
MPPP's withdrawal, in party's interest -Chairman
Bayelsa State Chairman of Mega Progressive Peoples Party (MPPP), Chief Isaac Eze has said there is no going back on the withdrawal of the party from next Saturday's governorship election in the State. He said the decision was reached after wide consultations with the local chapter and the national headquarters.
In a telephone chat with FACE OF BAYELSA, Eze said: ''We have withdrawn from the race for good and the decision is in the best interest of our party and Bayelsans.
He said INEC has done the right thing by going ahead with the election on February 11 as scheduled.
In a memo to INEC on January 31 Eze said: ''Following the decision taken by the national body of this party, we the above named party, hereby wishes to inform the commission on non-interest to file another candidate for the governorship election coming up on February, 2012 in the Bayelsa State Chapter''
Following the death of its governorship candidate, Chief Ebakumo Ogbgetebe on January 23, this year, the state chapter of the party and the national body wrote separate letters to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), declining to field another candidate for the polls.
Ogbgetebe's running mate, Chief James Osian who should have stood for the election as a result of the vacuum said he was withdrawing too.
The MPPP national secretary, Hon. Hamisu San Turaki had similarly written a memo to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega on the matter. The letter was dated January 30, 2012. It will be recalled that INEC had one week after Ogbgetebe's demise, released time table for the polls.