Ahead of next week’s deadline for sale of nomination forms of the All Progressives Congress (APC), there is growing apprehension in the ruling party over a controversial Form 18 ‘Letter of Withdrawal’ attached to the Expression of Interest and Nomination forms sold to aspirants to fill and submit along with other forms and their credentials.
The withdrawal letter addressed to the National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdulahi Adamu, must also be signed before a Commissioner of Oath/Public Notary before submission.
Tagged Form 18, it states that: “I hereby voluntarily withdraw my candidacy from the contest. My withdrawal is in the best interest of our great party, the All Progressives Congress.”
It was gathered, yesterday, that some of the aspirants are not comfortable with appending their signatures to the letter, which they consider a bobby trap to force consensus option on them.
Party sources told The Guardian that about three presidential aspirants from the South have approached their legal teams for interpretation and implication of signing the Withdrawal Form in the presence of a Commissioner of Oath, which makes it legal.
While two aspirants are still waiting for the positions of their legal teams, the other was said to have vowed not to sign such a form and will exclude the controversial Form 18 from other documents to be returned to the National Secretariat of the party for submission.
An aspirant, who has purchased the nomination form, told The Guardian that: “This is the first time we are seeing this kind of form for aspirants and we see it as an attempt to enforce consensus option through the back door. This is unconstitutional.
“Signing that letter means the party leaders can impose any candidate and you will not have any right to challenge them in court. Something is fishy and we must be very careful because there are surreptitious moves not to allow delegates to decide the fate of aspirants.”
Another source said it is only political appointees that could sign such a form, because their appointment is at the mercy of the President or governor, but not an aspirant.
A party source described the withdrawal letter as an indemnity to prevent members from taking legal action against the party.
A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Patrick Gongou, advised aspirants to be careful in signing the letter, which he said has grave implications to their aspirations, and to enforce free and fair primary. “This is an attempt to box them into a corner. A political party cannot approbate and reprobate,” he said.
But Barrister Abubakar Sani said the intention of the withdrawal letter may not be as bad as politicians are thinking, adding that it must be tested to see if it either violates the APC Constitution or 2022 Electoral Act or the 1999 Constitution.
He said: “We should not be sentimental about it, a political party is a voluntary association, which you can join or leave at your own volition but it is good to test the withdrawal letter to know if it violates any constitution.”
When contacted last night, the National Secretary of the party, Senator Iyiola Omisore, said filling the controversial form is optional, as the party has not decided on which option to use in picking its candidates.
Explaining why the ruling party inserted a withdrawal sheet for aspirants that procured nomination and expression of interest forms, APC’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Felix Morka, in a chat with The Guardian argued that the measure was in tandem with the party’s constitution and the Electoral Amendment Act 2022.
He explained that aspirants are obliged to fill the withdrawal sheet if they decide to withdraw from the race on their own volition.
“Yes, the sheet is part of the form. Our constitution and the Electoral Act recognised three modes for the election of our candidates – direct, indirect and consensus.
“Now, the aspirants are not required as they complete the form to fill that page. The page is there only for those who make the decision at some point to withdraw from the race.”