By Lateef Ibrahim
Hundreds of supporters of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, on Tuesday, stormed the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in Abuja, protesting the alleged move to disqualify the governorship candidate of the party, for the November 16 governorship election on Kogi State, Hajiya Natasha Hadiza Akpoti from contesting the election.
The protesters, who stormed the INEC office in Zambezi crescent, Mataima, Abuja, as early 8am, carrying placards with various inscriptions.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards read, “Natasha must contest, we no go gree’, “ Natasha is Kogi’s hope”, “Say No to intimidation, Natasha is our choice”, “We are for peace” and “It is Natasha or nobody” among others.
Checks by our correspondent revealed that the person whose name SDP initially submitted as it governorship running mate for the governorship election, Mr Muhammad Bashiru Yakubu is less than 35 years of age as prescribed by the electoral law, following which the party sought to replace him with Engr. Khalid Adam.
The letter written by SDP to INEC to that effect on Monday, which was the deadline set for replacement of names of candidates, was reportedly turned down by the Prof Mahmood Yakubu-led commission.
The development, which impliedly means that SDP will not field candidate for the election, it was gathered, was the reason why the protesters stormed the INEC office yesterday, to ensure that such thing did not happen.
The SDP protesters, who were similarly joined by some leaders of the Young Progressive Party, YPP, and Allied Peoples Movement, APM, vowed not to vacate the INEC premises until their issue was addressed formally.
Attempts by security personnel attached to the INEC headquarters, made up of mobile and regular policemen as well as operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, to disperse the protesters however proved abortive , as they (the protesters) stood their ground.
While speaking with journalists at the venue, the SDP governorship candidate, Natasha declared that they will not sit back, fold their arms and allow INEC disenfranchise them.
According to her, “I am a bonafide Nigerian. We will not sit back and allow INEC to disenfranchise us and derail our democracy”.
She expressed dismay as to why the commission was making it difficult for SDP to make a replacement within the stipulated period set by the same INEC.
The National Chairman of the YPP, Mr. Bishop Amakiri , while also speaking at the venue, maintained that the judiciary should be allowed to interprete the law, stressing that it is not for INEC to do so.
In the words of Amakiri, “It is the judiciary that will interpret the law and not INEC that will Interpret the law for us.
“We are contesting this governorship election in Kogi and Bayelsa by the special grace of God, and we will win.
“INEC will be put into shame in Kogi and Bayelsa States”, he said.
Similarly, the governorship candidate of the Allied Peoples Movement, APM, Mr Yusuf Dantale, accused INEC of acting the script of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
Dantale said that INEC was deliberately out to disqualify parties and candidates who are considered as threat to the second term bid of Governor Yahaya Bello of the APC.
The SDP candidate and two others, who were later allowed into the INEC office to meet some officials of the commission, were still holding talks with the commission as at the time of filling this report.
The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, in response to enquiries on the matter, said, “The Commission has not yet taken a decision on the disqualification or otherwise of Political Parties or their candidates”.
He added, “You cannot tell a political party that its nominated candidate has been rejected without valid reasons, if at all a letter was indeed written to that effect”.