Nigeria’s electoral body, INEC, has insisted that the recently appointed Labour Party (LP) Presidential Campaign Director-General (DG), Akin Osuntokun, remains the senatorial candidate for Ekiti Central Senatorial Zone under another political party, the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
Mr Osuntokun was appointed the director-general of Peter Obi and Datti Baba-Ahmed’s campaign following the resignation of the former DG, Doyin Okupe.
Mr Okupe resigned after he was convicted for breaching the Money Laundering Act by a Federal High Court in Abuja.
But the appointment of Mr Osuntokun, a member of the ZLP, has generated questions as to where his loyalty lies between both parties.
In a television interview on Wednesday, Mr Osuntokun stated that he had abandoned his senatorial ambition under ZLP to take up Peter Obi’s campaign DG post.
It is unclear if he has officially defected to the Labour Party but the LP’s spokesperson, Yinusa Tanko, told our reporter on Thursday that Mr Osuntokun, despite being a candidate of the ZLP, had been working with the LP.
He said Mr Osuntokun, who was the campaign coordinator of the South West campaign council of the LP, is now a member of the LP “by implication.”
“There are so many other people working with Peter Obi under the the directorate of campaign council who do not belong to any political party —not even the Labour Party, but they are working independently under the campaign council,” he said in a telephone interview on Thursday.
“And there are also others registered with other political parties who are working directly under the big tent in the Labour Party presidential campaign council. So, that of Akin Osuntokun started when he was a member and a candidate of Zenith Labour Party which he abandoned completely because he listened to the clarion call that all of us have to work together to rescue Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, the electoral commission said neither Mr Osuntokun nor the ZLP can withdraw his candidacy for the Ekiti Central senatorial seat.
INEC Commissioner for Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, told journalists that no individual or political party can at this point withdraw, submit or substitute the name of any candidate taking part in the 2023 general elections, stressing that Mr Oshuntokun remains ZLP’s Ekiti Central Senatorial candidate.
“The law is very clear,” he said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “The period for substitution and the period for withdrawal in our (INEC) timetable and schedule of activities as well as in the electoral act, has elapsed.”
For INEC to amend the names of candidates already submitted at this point, he said, it must be through the order of a court of law.
He added that the legality or otherwise of Mr Oshuntokun’s appointment as LP’s presidential campaign DG is not within
INEC’s purview as it is an internal political party matter.
ZLP’s Party Leader and Presidential Candidate, Dan Nwanyanwu, did not respond to our reporter’s calls and text message requests for comment.