CLAIM: Following the conduct of political parties’ primary elections to field candidates for the various positions in the 2023 general elections, there have been several allegations against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), particularly regarding the nomination of Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan and Godswill Akpabio, immediate past Minister of Niger Delta and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
On Friday, July 8, 2022, Sahara Reporters’ story began to trend, largely on WhatsApp with the headline; Nigerian Electoral Body, INEC Succumbs To Pressure From Ruling APC To Recognise Senate President, Lawan As Yobe Senatorial Candidate, Moves To Destroy Electoral Commissioner’s Report. The story claimed that INEC’s leadership and the backers of the Senate President have perfected plans to upturn the outcome of the senatorial election in Yobe State, citing the claims of many lawyers who have applied for CTC of reports of party primaries submitted by INEC state offices particularly CTC for APC have not been given. The story is generating a lot of controversy in the public space.
VERDICT: False and Misleading Headline
FACT CHECK: Fact Checkers at the CDD contacted the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education of INEC, Barr Festus Okoye, who debunked the allegation of INEC succumbing to pressure to upturn its decision. In his words, These are wild and irresponsible speculations. In a press statement released afterwards, on Saturday, July 9, 2022; the INEC scribe said,
The Commission did not publish the personal particulars of any candidate for the two constituencies at variance with the State reports. Right now, the Commission is funtus officio in the two cases. Aggrieved parties are at liberty to approach the Federal High Court and seek redress as provided in section 285 of the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and sections 29(5) and 84(14) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
To verify the claim in the statement, Fact checkers visited the Akwa Ibom and Yobe state offices of INEC and can confirm that the list of candidates published by the Commission did not include the names of the Senate President, Ahmed Lawal, and Godswill Akpabio. In addition, Fact-checkers reviewed relevant electoral laws and regulations regarding the substitution of candidates by political parties. While the substitution window has not elapsed, and INEC is maintaining its decision to stand by its monitoring reports of the party primary elections, it will only be left for the court to decide on the APC nomination in these two instances.
CONCLUSION: Evidence suggests that INEC has not succumbed to pressure to publish the name of Ahmed Lawal as alleged by Sahara Reporters. CDD can independently confirm that while INEC has not published these names (Lawal and Akpabio); political parties still have the opportunity to substitute nominated candidates.
CDD advises the general public that efforts to delegitimize the electoral management body, ahead of the 2023 general elections should be avoided. Disinformation and misinformation are already fragmenting the Nigerian state, we must all work together to verify claims before sharing them. Electoral disinformation is harmful to our democratic and governance space.