There are significant signs that the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership is exerting pressure on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to extend the deadline for presidential primaries.
According to sources, the strategy to persuade INEC to extend the deadline was devised during a meeting in Abuja by certain APC heavyweights in order to pave the way for some late entrants into the presidential race.
Yesterday, four politicians — Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Dr Kayode Fayemi, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and Jigawa State Governor Muhammed Badaru Abubakar – entered the presidential contest. More candidates are anticipated to register before the primaries.
Another source privy to the meeting told newsmen that to scale through this plot, the APC has reached out to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to support it.
Although the pressure is being mounted on the INEC chairman, Professor Mahmud Yakubu, to extend the deadline for the primaries, Yakubu, so far, appears resolute in his resistance against the extension.
According to sources, the move to extend the deadline may not be unconnected with President Muhammadu Buhari, who is said not to have made up his mind on which aspirant to support.
The source said: “We were in a meeting and we were told that the APC seeks an extension of the deadline for the presidential primaries.
“You know that the deadline for the APC primaries is no longer feasible and the argument of the party is that they may not meet up with the deadline, hence the call for an extension.
“Also, the APC wants to draft some aspirants like the Senate President into the presidential primaries because President Buhari is yet to make up his mind on who he wants to succeed him.
“There are feelers that the President is yet to make up his mind and pressure is being mounted on him to throw his weight behind a particular aspirant.
“Also, time is running out against the APC and one of the options, which they feel is possible, is to get INEC to extend the deadline for presidential primaries.
“As you know, the APC cannot do it alone and that is why they (APC) want to lobby the PDP into the scheme.
“The APC wants to lobby the PDP with the excuse that they (PDP) have logistics challenges which will give room for the extension of the deadline.”
But the PDP Chairman is said to have turned down the overtures.
Contacted, Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the commission would not be pressured to extend the deadline.
Oyekanmi said: “When INEC releases its timetable and schedule of activities for any election, it becomes a legal document. In other words, INEC cannot change any of those dates without valid reasons and those valid reasons are contained in the Electoral Act.
“For instance, when a date is fixed for an election, INEC cannot postpone that election unless there is an emergency due to natural disaster or likelihood that there will be violence which has to be verifiable. It is not enough to say we are postponing elections in Lagos State because there is violence. You have to explain to us why you say there is going to be violence and it has to be verifiable.
“So, it is not a matter for any political party or any politician to put pressure on INEC to change a date, it is not possible. It is not going to happen.”
Meanwhile, in a bid to allow more aspirants and equally raise funds for the party, the APC has extended the deadline for the sale of its nomination and expression of interest forms.
The development came amid speculations that some party strategists are seeking ways of getting INEC to alter its timetable and shift the June 3 deadline for political parties to conduct their primary elections.
INEC had consistently warned political parties to stick to the electoral timelines, saying it will not adjust the timetable to accommodate the inactions of any party.
The earlier timetable released by the APC showed that the sale of forms would close this Friday but a revised timetable issued yesterday in Abuja has now extended the deadline to May 10.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Felix Morka, the party said congresses to elect Local Government Areas, State and National Delegates will now be held from Thursday, 12th May to Saturday, 14th May 2022.
The statement reads: “The All Progressives Congress National Working Committee, NWC, on Monday extended the Party’s Sale of Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms for the 2023 General Elections to Tuesday, May 10, 2022.
“In a revised timetable issued by the APC National Organizing Secretary, Sulaiman Argungu, the last day for submission of completed forms and accompanying documents is now set for Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
“Also, congresses to elect Local Government Area, State and National Delegates will now be held from Thursday, May 12 to Saturday, May 14, 2022.”