Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has stated that the Peoples Democratic Party, Abia State chapter can conduct a fresh primary within 14 days following the death of its governorship candidate, Prof Uchenna Ikonne.
A statement issued on behalf of the family by his son, Dr Uche-Ikonne Chikezie, revealed that the politician died on Wednesday in Abuja at the age of 67 after a brief illness.
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Reacting to the death, INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said Abia PDP had the window to conduct fresh primary within 14 days of Ikonne’s death.
Speaking to Daily Sun, Okoye said:
If the candidate dies when polls have commenced, Section 34(3)(b) of the Act provides that the running mate shall continue with the election and nominate a new running mate.
The commission, however, warned that should the PDP fail to conduct fresh primary within 14 days of the death of the candidate, the party wouldn’t have a candidate in the election.
Section 33 of the Electoral Act, 2022 is clear, unambiguous, and unequivocal that a political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted to the commission under Section 29 of the Electoral Act except in the case of death of withdrawal.
Provided that in the case of such withdrawal or death of a candidate, the political party affected shall, within 14 days of the occurrence of the event, hold a fresh primary to produce and submit a fresh candidate to the commission for the election concerned.
The period, slated in the timetable and schedule of activities for the withdrawal of candidates has lapsed. In the said timetable, the last days for withdrawal by governorship and State Assembly candidates was August 12, 2022.
Moreover, Section 31 of the Act makes it clear that a candidate can only withdraw his or her candidature by notice in writing submitted to the political party that nominated him and such must be conveyed to the political party not later than 90 days to election.