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Audu remains APC’s candidate, but… – INEC

ABUJA — The anti-climax arising from the death of Prince Abubakar Audu in the Kogi State governorship election continued yesterday after the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC affirmed that the dead Audu remained the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC.

The assertion came as a meeting of senior INEC officials in Abuja called to ponder possible options on the issue was temporarily aborted after news emerged that Audu had 'resurrected'.

Abubakar Audu

Abubakar Audu

The dispersal of the meeting coincided with jubilations in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital that Audu had been revived.

The news of Audu's 'revival' about midday followed insistence of some prophets who stormed the late Audu's country home in Ogbonicha, that they would revive him. The prophets, who were initially rebuffed by Audu's family members, however, got passage into the room where the corpse was kept after desperate sympathisers overwhelmed the family members and broke the door to the room.

While they prayed, the grave diggers who all along had been busy at one section of Audu's expansive country home relaxed. The relaxation in part gave fillip to rumours that Audu was being revived, a development that spread far and wide, even to INEC headquarters.

When they reconvened after the initial disruption, senior INEC officials affirmed that the commission was ignorant of Audu's death.

INEC, however, said although it heard the news of Audu's passing just like most other Nigerians, it was nevertheless meticulously studying the situation with a view to coming up with an appropriate position that would be fair, lawful and acceptable to all. Director of Voter Education, Publicity, Civil Society and Gender Liaison at the Commission, Mr Oluwole Osaze-Uzi  told Vanguard yesterday that INEC would make its position public as soon as it was addressed by APC on the issue.

Last night APC officials were still contemplating the nature of address to be presented to the electoral commission. Contacted on assertions by INEC, APC deputy national publicity secretary, Timi Frank promised to call back after further consultations. He, however, did not call back or respond to calls to his mobile phone at press time.

It is expected that whenever the APC addresses the commission that the principal officials of the body would meet with its consortium of lawyers and its in-house legal team to decide on the issue.

APC has to notify us  — INEC

Also speaking, Deputy Director, Publicity at the commission, Mr Nick Dazang, said yesterday: "APC has to do proper notification, and accompany it with the certificate of death issued by a medical doctor.

"When something like this happens, the party on which platform the candidate contested will need to notify the commission; of course, we have heard and read like everyone else but we need to be notified.

"Once the commission is notified, it will look at relevant clauses of the 1999 Constitution as amended, the Electoral Act 2010 as amended and also the Constitution of APC itself.

"All these relevant laws will be looked at with a view to determining what to be done to ensure that whatever is done subsequently is done within the ambit of the law.

"INEC as a law-abiding body will do everything prescribed by the law.

"Thankfully we have a consortium of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) that provide counsel to the commission. We also have a very vibrant legal service department, headed by a SAN," Dazang said.

The Electoral Act prescribes 14 days for the conduct of a supplementary poll. INEC was, however, silent on whether it would go ahead with the supplementary polls but said it would not rely on mere opinions of people or sentiments to take a position. INEC added that the situation in Kogi would not affect the conduct of the December 5 governorship election in Bayelsa state.

We'll be within the law — APC

Meanwhile, the APC has promised to act within the confines of the law in resolving issues concerning the replacement of its governorship candidate in the election and the pursuit of the supplementary elections as announced by INEC. In a statement issued by its national secretary, Mai Mala Buni, the party said:

"On INEC's position that the November 21, 2015, governorship poll in Kogi State was inconclusive, APC is studying the declaration of the Returning Officer, Prof. Emmanuel Kucha, who is the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, based on Section M, Paragraph 4(Page 22) of INEC Approved Guidelines and Regulations for the Conduct of the 2015 General Elections.

"APC believes in the rule of law, strict adherence to 1999 Constitution and Electoral Act 2010(as Amended).

"Our government is a product of the rule of law. We have absolute faith in the nation's law, and we will not in any manner undermine the law. Our observations and position will be within the laws of the land.

"The situation in Kogi State is a test case for the rule of law and our growing democracy. APC is committed to its pledge to ensure a sustainable democracy in the country", it said.

The declaration to explore all options available to it on the matter was contained in a press statement issued by the party's deputy national publicity secretary, Mr. Timi Frank.

He said: "We are exploring all known choices and alternatives to us in line with our party's dictates and respect of the rule of law as is in conformity with laid down laws and rules of our country.

"To say that we are shocked and dumbfounded at Audu's death is to scratch our pains on the surface as the Kogi Prince typified what a real democrat radiates. A politician who chose to remain in opposition after losing his governorship in 2003 despite the intimidations on him but rather chose to see the nation get its deserved change in leadership", Frank said.

Audu buried

Ogbonicha in Ofu Local government area of Kogi State, where Audu died in his country home was an unusual place as people flooded the community from all walks of life. Associates of the late political icon  were among the mammoth crowd that witnessed the burial. Among others present were his former colleagues including Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso, former governor Lucky Igbinedion and Senator Saminu Turaki.

The state government delegation to the burial was led by the Deputy Governor of the state, Arc. Abayomi Awoniyi. Senator Dino Melaye, a strong associate of the late politician and Rep. James Faleke, his running mate in the inconclusive election, were very visible at the burial yesterday.

The burial ceremony commenced about 1.50 p.m. yesterday after the prophets failed to revive the dead Audu. The burial was supervised by Islamic religious leaders from all over Igala land.

Following the burial, Faleke declined to speak with Vanguard,saying he was too devastated to speak on his late boss. Senator Melaye, however, described late Audu as an irreplaceable hero who was a dogged fighter and a lover of his people. He said the progressive community would miss its icon.

At about 2:00 pm, the body of Prince Abubakar Audu was finally laid to mother earth amid uncontrollable wailing by people who have come to mourn with Audu's family. Earlier in the day, the governor of Kogi State declared a three-day public holiday and seven-day mourning period to honour "the man who laid the foundation for the development of Kogi State".

Prince Abubakar Audu was on the verge of emerging as the next democratically elected governor of Kogi State as his party, having polled 240,827 votes to top the election with Wada, the incumbent governor scoring 199, 514 votes.

The election was, however, declared inconclusive upon the fact that the number of cancelled votes was more than the difference in the votes between the late Audu and Wada.

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