After various parties defied its orders not to resume campaigs following the postponement of the general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has succumbed. The commission has now reversed its earlier decision which banned further campaigns ahead of the rescheduled elections.
Backstory: Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, made this known on Monday, after the commission had held an extensive meeting in preparation for the polls.
“In the meantime, after consultations with political parties, the Commission has approved that campaigns by parties and candidates can resume forthwith ending by midnight of Thursday, 21st February 2019,” he said.
The Commission at a press conference held in its headquarters in Abuja, had previously banned all parties and its candidates from campaigning regardless of the shift in election date by one week.
Defiance from Political Parties: However, this decision was not taken lightly by some of the parties involved in the elections with main opposition, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) out rightly stating its decision to resume campaigns, citing the electoral act which stipulates that campaigns are to begin 90 days prior to the polls, and end 24 hours to the elections.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu, All Progressive Congress (APC) leader, in a statement made in Abuja yesterday, had criticized the Commission’s decision to ban further campaigns.
“By law we should continue to energize our people. It depends on our resources because the Electoral Act allows us to continue to campaign and ask us to stop campaigning only 24 hours before the actual election.
“And once INEC changed the election date to Feb. 23, they have given us the opening to campaign and energize our people. If you have a garden and you don’t nourish it with water, the grass will remain dormant. We don’t want our party to remain dormant.”
He further stated that the party had every intention of campaigning, saying “This is ability of leadership to convert adversity to opportunity and prosperity and that’s it; that’s what we must do.”
The new directive from the Commission says that, “media organizations are at liberty to accept, publish, broadcast and circulate campaign materials up till midnight of Thursday 21st February 2019. Political Parties and their candidates are enjoined to abide by the extant laws governing campaigns.”
Bottom Line: The decision to go against INEC banning campaigns marked the first time the PDP and APC actually agreed on something. The Electoral Act is specific, and the INEC ban was unlawful, so it was only right that the electoral body made an about-turn.