By Patrick Obia
The 2022 Electoral Act in its section 84(12) warns that “No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.”
The political appointees this section spells out include anyone holding a political office – ministers, commissioners, special advisers among others – must first resign their positions before they can be eligible to participate in the electoral process either as an aspirant or as a delegate.
Two of Governor Ben Ayade’s appointees – Eric Anderson and Oliver Orok, both Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, and Commissioner for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) who are now Commissioners for Information and Orientation, and Agriculture and Natural Resources (after Governor Ayade’s cabinet reshuffle) respectively, have violated this section 84(12) of the act. They were among the 2,322 delegates during the All Progressives Congress, APC, 2022 National Convention.
The violation of this Act, and the failure of the commissioners to relinquish their positions before voting as delegates affects the integrity of the primaries. In addition, Governor Ayade contested for president in the primaries under the APC.
CrossRiverWatch can affirm that both commissioners were among the 54 national delegates and other stakeholders whom the APC presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu paid a thank-you visit at Transcorp Hotel, Calabar in June 2022.
The three delegates each were selected from the eighteen Local Government Areas of the State and Mr. Eric Anderson was one of the three selected from Calabar Municipal LGA while Oliver Orok was one of the three delegates picked from Calabar South LGA.
No Appointee Was A Delegate, APC Claims
Anderson and his colleague Orok did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
But the APC leadership in the state has continued to insist that no political appointee was a national delegate.
Speaking to CrossRiverWatch during a telephone interview, the Publicity Secretary of the party in the state, Erasmus Ekpang, denied that both commissioners violated the electoral act.
Erasmus said the party was not aware of any political appointee or commissioner that was a delegate. He argued that some of the appointees’ names were included in the list but later removed.
“To the best of my knowledge, there are no appointees that were a delegate,” he said. “They were initially included, and then when they got to know appointees were not supposed to be there, they removed them.”
He added that “I, myself, was supposed to be a delegate but my name was removed. So I’m not aware of any appointee that was a delegate.”
Documents obtained by CrossRiverWatch which carries APC’s ‘summary result sheet of elected delegates’ of 18th May 2022, has a total number of 20,541 voters; 66, 333 accredited voters, 66,333 total votes cast, 66,333 valid votes, and zero invalid votes.
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The document has Eric Anderson, Emmanuel Bassey, and Maria Asumpta Offiong, all selected from Calabar Municipal Local Government Area. The result sheet is signed and dated 18th May 2022 by Usman Magaji as the Chairman, Local Government Area Congress Committee while Emilia U. Okonji as Secretary, LGA Congress Committee.
Similarly, Mensan Offiong Bassey, Mrs. Majoerie Eyo Asuquo, and Oliver Orok are the three delegates selected from Calabar South LGA. Also, the result sheet is signed and dated 18th May 2022 by Usman Magaji as the Chairman, Local Government Area Congress Committee while Emilia U. Okonji as Secretary LGA Congress Committee.
The summary results of elected delegates are as follows: the total number of voters,68, 732; number of accredited voters, 68, 784; number of votes cast, 68, 784; valid votes, 68,784; and zero invalid votes.
INEC Not Spotting Violation
Concerns over the Independent National Electoral Commission’s inability to sanction political parties and candidates flouting the electoral act have dominated public commentary, raising questions on how prepared the electoral umpire is to conduct a free, fair, and credible election in 2023.
INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
However, Anthonia Nwobi, Head of Voter Education and Publicity of INEC in Cross River told CrossRiverWatch that it was not the duty of the commission to go through party’s delegate list for scrutiny, questioning if anyone has petitioned INEC.
But a political analyst and social commentator, Richard Inoyo said it is more of party affairs in the selection of delegates but frowns against flouting section 84(12) and any other section of the electoral act, asking aggrieved members to seek redress.
“If there is any aggrieved aspirant at the primary of APC National Convention, it is up to the aspirant to approach the court of law and seek redress” Inoyo said. “At the end of the day, I don’t see how INEC will present the case against the candidate that emerged during the primary. That will mean INEC will be shooting itself on the foot because INEC representatives were invited and were present during the National Convention.
“There are indeed sections that might have been violated in respect to section 84(12) but if other aspirants within the party refuse to come forward with a case, then the result stands,” he added.
Stakeholders in the State chapter of APC had raised an alarm over the delegates list from the state when the party was preparing for the presidential convention.
Chief Francis Ekpenyong, who spoke on behalf of the Cross Rivers aggrieved “Authentic Adhoc National Delegates” had asked the National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, to take more than personal interest in the list of party faithful from Cross Rivers State to be submitted by the State Chairman, Alphonsus Eba.
The aggrieved members had alleged that the list was doctored to favor perceived cronies of Governor Ayade which included Eric Anderson, Oliver Orok, and Erasmus Ekpang, among others.
This investigation, republished from CrossRiverWatch was supported by Civic Media Lab
This investigation was supported by Civic Media Lab.