Re: INEC: Opposition Parties Will Need new Identity for APC

The Editor,
ThisDay Newspaper,
Apapa, Lagos.

Dear Editor,

Re: INEC: Opposition Parties Will Need new Identity for APC

I write in regard of the Lead story in your newspaper edition for Tuesday, March 12, 2013, which reported me as having stated that a proposed merger by some political parties will need a new name different from the one they intend to file with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Among sundry claims, the story reported me copiously as suggesting that INEC would not want to register two parties with similar acronyms; and that, hence, I advised the proposed merger group to find a new name. The reporter further cited me as drawing an analogy with APGA and previously proposed UPGA that failed registration last year (2012), to illustrate INEC’s alleged resolve not to register the proposed merger group with the name presently contemplated by its promoters.

Sir, nothing can be further from the truth than these attributions to me in the said story. The fact is that your reporter, Mr. Chucks Okocha, had enquired about the veracity of a report that one group had applied to INEC to be registered as the African Peoples Congress, and I responded in the affirmative. He prodded me for implications of the said application for the proposed All Progressives Congress; but I firmly declined drawing any inference, pointing out that it would be premature to do so.

On the issue of APGA and UPGA, he asked me if the reason INEC declined the application for registration of UPGA was because a party with that acronym had existed in Nigeria’s political history, and I explained that it was rather because the proposed acronym sounded too close to an already existing party, namely APGA. This was, in fact, one of the reasons officially cited by INEC for declining the promoters of UPGA their application for registration. It was entirely his creation that this case was cited as a parallel for the APC issue.

You can imagine my distraught and shock when I read in your paper – the Lead story to boot – that I, on behalf of INEC, advised the promoters of the proposed All Progressives Congress to seek a new name. I never could have offered such advice since the Commission is yet to even process the application for the proposed African Peoples Congress. Besides, it is obviously not in INEC’s place to advise promoters on the names to choose for their parties. Rather, the Commission’s duty is to subject all applications for registration to explicit provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended); and to take dispassionate decisions concerning such applications on the strict basis of compliance with, or default from those legal provisions.

If your reporter, however, has any evidence of my having made those assertions attributed to me, he should fell very free to produce such.

You will have noticed that the reckless report by your newspaper gave the fodder to politicians to needlessly and unjustly attack the Commission through public statements – which, curiously, your paper also gave ample space. Yet, I protested the report early to your reporter who had spoken with me. Perhaps the damage might have been limited if your paper obliged me the basic journalistic ethic of the right to a rejoinder. But your newspaper edition of Wednesday, March 13, 2013, did nothing of such, as the rejoinder I sent to the reporter when the story was published Tuesday was simply ignored. Informal engagements with your organisation since then to get redress have also yielded little result.

These leave me with no option than to conclude that the false attributions to me were deliberate and maliciously made; and that they were intended to hurt the public image – not just of my person but the entire Commission. The consequent attacks on the Commission and on my person by politicians has severely injured the corporate image of INEC, that of the Hon. Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, OFR, and my humble self.

I hereby demand a prominent retraction of the story you published and an apology to INEC and myself in your newspaper within seven days. This will be without prejudice to any decision the Commission (or, indeed, myself) may take to seek legal redress for the gross and severely injurious libel. Be advised that this protest will also be filed with the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) for industry adjudication.

May you find the courage to do the right thing in the interest of the noble profession, sir.

Kayode R. Idowu

Cc: Managing Director, ThisDay Newspapers

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