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CANDIDATE MUST BE SPONSORED BY HIS POLITICAL PARTY

Dictum

It is trite that for a person to qualify as a candidate for a general election, he must not only be a member of a political party but he must have been sponsored for the election by his political party. See the cases of Gwede v. INEC & Ors. (2014) LPELR-23763 (SC); and Al-Hassan & Anor v. Ishaku & Ors. (2016) LPELR-40083.

— M.A.A. Adumein JCA. Yusuf Kabir v. APC, INEC, NNPP (CA/KN/EP/GOV/KAN/34/2023, 17TH DAY OF NOVEMBER 2023)

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SUBSTITUTION OF CANDIDATE MUST BE ON A COGENT & VERIFIABLE REASON

In Ugwu & Anor. v. Araraume & Anor [2007] 16 S.C. (pt.1) 88, this Court considered the import and effect of Section 34 of the Electoral Act on the substitution of a candidate where no cogent reason was given for the substitution. At page 134 of the report this Court per Tobi J.S.C. said: “Taking Section 34(2) in the con of primaries in particular, I have no doubt in my mind that the subsection is not only important but has an imperative content; considering the general object intended to be secured by the 2006 Act. It is certainly not the intention of the Act to gamble with an important aspect of the electoral process, such as primaries in the hands of a political party to dictate the pace in anyway it likes, without any corresponding exercise of due process on the part of an aggrieved person…. If a section of a statute contains the mandatory ‘shall’ and it is so construed by, the court, then the consequence of not complying with the provision follows automatically. I do not think I sound clear. Perhaps I will be clearer by taking Section 34(2). The subsection provides that there must be cogent and verifiable reasons for the substitution on the part of the 3rd respondent. This places a burden on the 3rd respondent not only to provide reasons but such reasons must be cogent and verifiable. If no reasons are given, as in this case, not to talk of the cogency and verifiability of the reasons, then the sanction that follows or better that flows automatically is that the subsection was not complied with and therefore interpreted against the 3rd respondent in the way I have done in this judgment. It is as simple as that. It does not need all the jurisdiction of construction of statute. I know of no canon of statutory interpretation which foists on a draftsman a drafting duty to provide for sanction in every section of a statute.”

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DIVISIONS AND FACTIONS IN POLITICAL PARTIES

The mischief which the framers of the Constitution wanted to avoid was carpet-crossing which, from our constitutional history, in the not distant past, had bedevilled the political morality of this country. They had however to allow for a situation where a political party, by reason of internal squabbles, had split into one or more factions. A split or division could arise without any fault of the members of a political party, resulting in a member rightly or wrongly, finding himself in a minority group which may not be big enough, or strong enough, to satisfy the recognition, as a separate political party, of the Federal Electoral Commission. For such a member not to be allowed to join another political party with his faction may be to place him in a position where his right to contest for political office will be lost.

– Aniagolu, J.S.C. FEDECO v. Goni (1983) – SC

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IT IS NOT THE BUSINESS OF THE COURT TO NOMINATE PARTIES FOR ELECTION

It is not the business of any Court to select or nominate candidates for any political party for election. The nomination of a candidate to contest an election is the sole responsibility of the political party concerned. The Courts do not have jurisdiction to decide who should be sponsored by a political party as a candidate in an election. See Onuoha v Okafor (1983) 2 SCNLR 244, Dalhatu v Turaki (2003) 15 NWLR (pt 843) 310, Shinkafi & Anor v Yari & Ors (2016) LPELR – 26050 (SC) page 57 paragraphs A – D, Olofu & Ors v Itodo & Anor (2010) 18 NWLR (pt 1225) 545. The above position has been the law and has not changed because issue of selection and/or nomination of a candidate for an election is strictly within the domestic jurisdiction or power of political parties.

— J.I. Okoro, JSC. Uba v. Ozigbo, INEC, PDP (SC.CV/772/2021, October 21, 2021)

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A POLITICAL PARTY CANNOT CHALLENGE ACTIVITIES OF ANOTHER POLITICAL PARTY VIS-A-VIS INEC

No matter how pained or disgruntled a political party is with the way and manner another political is conducting or has conducted its affairs concerning its nomination of its candidates for any position, it must keep mum and remain an onlooker, for it lacks the locus standi to challenge such nomination in court. A political party equally lacks the locus standi to challenge the actions of INEC in relation to another political party. Section 285(14)(c) only allows a political party to challenge the decisions and activities of INEC disqualifying its own candidate from participating in an election, or to complain that the provisions of the Electoral Act or any other law have not been complied with in respect of the nomination of the party’s own candidates, timetable for an election, registration of voters and other activities of INEC in respect of preparation for an election. A political party is only vested with locus to file a pre election matter when the aforesaid situations affects it or its own candidates. When the actions of INEC relate to the activities of a political party, no court has the jurisdiction to entertain a suit brought by another political party in that regard.

— A. Jauro, JSC. PDP v INEC (2023) – SC/CV/501/2023

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CHALLENGING OR POKING INTO THE AFFAIRS OF ANOTHER POLITICAL PARTY

Paragraph (c) of Section 285(14) of the Constitution is however the only provision that empowers a political party to institute a pre-election matter. The Appellant has latched on to the provision and argued strenuously that it vests it with locus standi to institute its case before the trial court. It should be noted that by the use of the words “…decisions or activities of the Independent National Electoral Commission paragraph…” and “…or any other applicable law has not been complied with by the Independent National Electoral Commission…” paragraph (c) only empowers a political party to challenge the actions of INEC. Anything outside this is beyond the scope of the provision of the paragraph. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the applicability of Section 285(14)(c) is not at large. The provision does not make the filing of pre-election matters by political parties an all-comers affair. It is not the purpose of the provision that a floodgate of pre-election litigation be open to political parties who will hide under it to challenge the actions or inactions of rival political parties under the guise of challenging the decisions or activities of INEC. The application of Section 285(14)(c) of the Constitution does not extend to a political party poking into the affairs of another. The position of the law has always been that no political party can challenge the nomination of the candidate of another political party. The position did not change with Section 285(14)(c) of the Constitution.

— A. Jauro, JSC. PDP v INEC (2023) – SC/CV/501/2023

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DISQUALIFICATION OF A GOVERNOR FOR CHANGING PARTY

Now, for the purpose of disqualifications of a candidate to the office of Governor, the provisions of section 166(1)(a) of the Constitution incorporates the provisions of section 64(1)(g) in the former subsection. The combined effect of the two subsections is that an incumbent Governor whose election to the office of Governor was sponsored by a political party is disqualified for re-election to the office of Governor if he changes his political party which sponsored him and seeks re-election on the sponsorship of his new party unless the circumstances for the change of the political party are covered by the proviso to section 64(1)(g).

– Bello, J.S.C. FEDECO v. Goni (1983) – SC

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