The Independent National Electoral Commission has released the final list of candidates that will contest the governorship and houses of assembly election in 28 states of the federation in the 2023 elections.
In a statement signed on Wednesday by the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, the list contained 18 political parties that fielded 837 candidates and their running mates for the 28 governorship elections.
Also, the statement indicated that 10,231 candidates would vie for 993 seats in the state assembly elections.
The list also included the names of the running mates to the governorship candidates from the 18 political parties billed to participate in the poll.
Findings by The PUNCH indicate that no fewer than 14 candidates in 12 states have been knocked off the INEC list on account of the litigation and controversies that dogged the parties’ primary elections.
This is against the backdrop of ongoing litigations in Ebonyi, Akwa-Ibom, Enugu, Rivers, Ogun, and four other states.
According to the elections timetable for the 2023 general elections, the governorship and state houses of assembly elections will take place on March 11, 2023.
But the poll will not be held in Anambra, Bayelsa, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Kogi, Ondo, and Osun states which are no longer part of the general elections circle.
Those cleared for the governorship race include; Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State; Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun; Ovie Omo-Agege of Delta State, and 833 others.
In Delta, Omo-Agege of APC would be competing with the state House of Assembly Speaker, Sheriff Oborevwori of the Peoples Democratic Party; Great Ogboru of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, and Kenneth Gbagi of the Social Democratic Party.
Also cleared for the governorship are former Minister of State for Education; Agbi Goodnews Goodman of NNPP; Ogba Emmanuel Samuel of ADP; Ekure Efeoghene Shedrack of ADC; Gwede Jerkins Giane of AA; and America Emmanuel of NRM.
Checks showed that the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party will not field governorship candidates in Akwa Ibom and Ogun states respectively.
In addition, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Booth Party, Labour Party, Young Peoples Party, and Zenith Labour Party will also not contest in Ogun State as they have no candidates.
The APC candidate in Akwa Ibom State, Akanimo Udofia, was missing from the list following the crisis in the state chapter of the party and the refusal of INEC to monitor the primary which produced him. It, therefore, rejected his candidacy in line with the Electoral Act 2022.
At least four suits had been filed against the Ogun State governorship candidate of the PDP, Ladi Adebutu.
Two of the suits were filed by former aspirants – Segun Showunmi and Jimi Lawal, while three PDP members – Taiwo Olabode Idris, Kehinde Akala, and Alhaji Ayinde Monsuru, also filed another suit challenging the delegates’ list used in the conduct of the party primaries.
Last Tuesday, a Federal High court sitting in Abeokuta, nullified all the primaries conducted by the PDP in the state.
The court also barred INEC from recognizing Adebutu as the governorship candidate of the party in the state. Reports said Adebutu had filed an appeal against the Federal Court judgment.
In Gombe State, the Peoples Redemption, Young People’s Party, and All Progressives Grand Alliance had no governorship candidates as the space for them was blank.
In Jigawa, the African Action Congress, Allied Peoples Movement, Action Peoples Party, and the Zenith Labour Party had no candidates.
Similarly in Kaduna State, the AAC, Booth Party and ZLP will not field governorship candidates while the AAC, APP, APM, and APGA would also not participate in the governorship poll.
Further checks also confirmed that the AAC, APP, APM, YPP, and APGA have no governorship candidates in Katsina.
Also, the AAC, APGA, and New Nigeria Peoples Party will not contest the Kebbi governorship election.
According to the INEC list, APGA, BP, and NRM will not feature in Kwara State.
The ZLP will not contest the Oyo governorship poll while the PRP does not have a candidate in Rivers State.
Only the Accord Party has no governorship candidate in Sokoto; however, the party will also be missing on the ballot in Yobe alongside AAC, APGA, BP, NRM, PRP, and ZLP.
Abia State has 18 governorship candidates cleared by the Commission. They include Ikechi Emenike of APC; Eleazar Ikonne of PDP; Alex Otti of LP; Enyinnaya Nwafor of YPP, Bishop Onuoha of ADC, and Greg Ibe of APGA.
No fewer than 16 parties are contesting the governorship election in Lagos. Besides Governor Sanwo-Olu of the APC, others are Abdulazeez Adediran of the PDP; and Funso Doherty of the African Democratic Congress.
Other parties contesting for the governorship of the state include Accord Party with Dickson Olaogun as a candidate; Balogun Abdulrazaq, AA; Layiwola Olajide, AAC; Bamidele Ishola, ADP; Kupoliyi Funmilayo, APM; Adeyemi Roseline, APP; Oluwo Wasiu. BP; Jim-Kamal Olalekan, NNPP; Braithwaite Ishola, NRM, and others.
In Kaduna State, the APC, PDP, and NNPP governorship candidates; Uba Sani, Isa Ashiru, and Suleiman Hunkuyi made the list.
However, the candidate of LP, Jonathan Asake, was missing as Alhaji UmaruIbrahim was recognized as the party’s governorship candidate.
In Kano, Shaaban Sharada made the list for ADP; Aishatu Mahmud for NRM, Nasiru Gawuna for APC, and Abba Yusuf for NNPP.
In Ebonyi State, Francis Nwifuru, Speaker of the Ebonyi House of Assembly and APC candidate, and Bernard Odoh, a former Secretary to State Government of APGA made the list.
Also, Ifeanyichukwuma Odii of PDP, Edward Nkwegu of LP, Chukwuma Nwandugo of AA, Sunday Opoke of YPP, and Anthony Usulor of NRM were among those that made the governorship list, as well.
In Ogun, some of the candidates listed by INEC include Governor Dapo Abiodun of the APC; Biyi Otegbeye, ADC; Ojeshina Olawunmi for SDP; Ogunronbi Oludayo for NRM; and Oguntoyinbo Femi Ajadi for NNPP.
In Plateau, Gosh we Yilwatda of APC, Abashe Nwakpak of APGA, Dakum Sunday of LP, Abdullahi Ango of NNPP, Mutfwang Manasseh of PDP; Binchak Pony of SDP; and Gontori Butdangman of YPP were among candidates cleared for the governorship race.
In Rivers State, INEC cleared 16 governorship candidates. Among those cleared are Similanayi Fubara of PDP, Tonye Cole of APC, Magnus Abe of SDP, Dumo Lulu-Briggs of Accord Party, and Dr. Dawari George of African Alliance.
Senator Magnus Abe of the Social Democratic Party and Dr. Dawaro George of the Action Alliance, both of whom are former aspirants of the All Progressives Congress for the 2023 governorship election in the state, made the list.
Abe and George secured the ticket of the SDP and AA respectively through substitution primaries.
Meanwhile, the duo is still facing litigation from aggrieved party members who are faulting their emergence.
Also intact on the INEC list are top contenders and governorship candidates of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, Siminialaye Fubara, and his counterpart in the All Progressives Congress, Tonye Cole, and Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs of the Accord Party.
Meanwhile, in Enugu State, 17 parties will contest in the 2023 governorship poll in the state.
Notable among the parties and their candidates are the governorship candidate of the Labour Party, Chijioke Erdogan. This may have put to rest the confusion over the authentic candidate of the party in the state, following Capt Everest Nnaji’s insistence that he is the candidate of the party.
Erdogan however has some hurdles to cross, as the Federal High Court in Abuja has continued the hearing on the case instituted by Nnaji challenging his exclusion from the repeat primary election that produced Edeoga as the candidate.
In the list, Edeoga’s name appeared as number 19, with his running mate, Dr. John Nwokeabia.
Speaking on the list, Okoye in the statement said, ‘’The publication of the full names of candidates standing nominated for state elections follows the political parties’ conduct of primaries and completion of the nomination exercise.
’’It will be recalled that at the end of the process, political parties that conducted valid primaries uploaded the list and personal particulars of all nominated candidates to the Commission’s candidate nomination portal and the subsequent display in their constituencies nationwide as provided by Section 29(3) of the Electoral Act.’
“Subsequently, validly nominated candidates had the opportunity to voluntarily withdraw their candidature by notice in writing and personally delivered such notice to the political party that nominated them for the election. Thereafter, political parties substituted such candidates under section 31 of the Electoral Act for which the last day was 12th August 2022 for State Elections as clearly provided in item 6 of the Commission’s Timetable and Schedule of Activities.
“Thereafter, no withdrawal or substitution of candidates is allowed except in the event of death as provided in section 34(1) of the Electoral Act or under an order of a Court of competent jurisdiction.’’
The National Publicity Chairman of the Labour Party, Abayomi Arabambi, explained that six of the party’s candidates in Ogun, Bayelsa and four other states were affected as a result of a glitch on the INEC portal.
“It was because the INEC portal crashed. The volume of the information and images on the site was too enormous. People are supposed to do physical submissions instead of the forms they are passing to parties to fill, which is not even in the Electoral Act. This was even the reason we went to court in the first place,” he said.
He, however, expressed confidence that INEC would soon upload their names and profiles.
The APC National Publicity, Felix Morka could not be reached for comment on the absence of the party’s governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State.
Commenting, the PDP Legal Adviser, Kamaludeen Ajibade SN, observed that INEC would not list a candidate where there is litigation, adding that the party has appealed the judgment concerning its party in Ogun State.
Meanwhile, commenting on the litigation over the party primaries in some states, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN, said, “I don’t think court intervention will in any way truncate the fielding of candidates for the next election by political parties.
“We have seen this again and again. We have passed this route before. It’s a well-beaten path. It is not a new route that is being taken. That is why I said we are not practicing democracy. We are practicing electionocracy.
“Now, why I said this may not be of much worry is that under the Constitution there are up to 180 days to commence and finish all election petition-related matters.”