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THE BEST EVIDENCE OF MEMBERSHIP OF A POLITICAL PARTY IS HIS REGISTER OF MEMBERS

Dictum

The appellant relied on the case of Buhari v. Obasanjo (2005) 2 NWLR (Pt. 910) 241 at 500-501, where it was held that the register of members of a political party is not the only proof of who is a member of the party. It is true that it was so decided in that case. However, a political party qualifies as “a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal and may sue and be sued in its corporate name” by virtue of section 77(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022. Being a body corporate, just as a company or body incorporated under the Companies and Allied Matters Act, its best evidence of its members is its register of members as mandated by section 77(2) of the Electoral Act, 2022; just as the relevant register of members of a Company under sections 105, 109, 110, and 111 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 (as amended) constitutes the best legal evidence of membership of a duly incorporated company, association and partnership.

— 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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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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CANDIDATE WHO FAILED TO PARTICIPATE IN PRIMARY ELECTION CANNOT BE HEARD TO COMPLAIN ABOUT THE PRIMARIES

But before a candidate for the primaries can invoke Section 87 (9) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), and thus be imbued with locus standi or the ground to sue, he must have been screened and cleared by his political party and actually participated in the said primaries. Where a candidate who bought nomination form, was screened and cleared to participate in the primaries but failed to actually participate, such a candidate has lost the right to be heard in a Court of law under Section 87 (9) of the Electoral Act (supra). See Emenike v PDP & Ors (2012) 12 NWLR (pt 1315) 556, Alahassan v Ishaku & Ors (2016) LPELR – 40083 (SC), Emeka v Okadigbo (2012) 18 NWLR (pt 1316) 553, Shinkafi v Yari (supra), Jev & Anor v Iyortyom & Ors (2014) 14 NWLR (pt 1428) 575, Emenike v PDP & Ors (2012) 12 NWLR (pt 1315) 556, Eyiboh v Abia & Ors(2012) 16 NWLR (pt 1325) 51, Odedo v PDP & Ors (2015) LPELR – 24738 (SC), Lado v CPC (2011) 18 NWLR (pt 1279) 689, PDP v Sylva & Ors (2012) 13 NWLR (pt 1316) 85.

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

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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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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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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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ONE POLITICAL PARTY CANNOT INTERFERE IN THE AFFAIRS OF THE OTHER POLITICAL PARTY

The decision of this court in the case of PDP V. NGBOR & ORS (2023) LPELR 59930 (SC), delivered on 7th February, 2023 is instructive. In that case, the Appellant (PDP) filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt Division, challenging the decision of INEC to accept the candidates of the 7th Respondent, African Democratic Congress (ADC). The Appellant therein alleged that ADC did not comply with the provisions of the law in the nomination of its candidates for Rivers State House of Assembly elections in that the primary elections from of which its candidates in respect of some state constituencies emerged were held outside the constituencies, contrary to the requirement of the law. The Appellant also alleged that INEC maintained double standards as it insisted that the nomination of the Appellant’s candidates must comply with legal requirements, while overlooking the requirements in respect of the 7th Respondent’s candidates. The trial court granted the reliefs sought by the Appellant. On appeal to the Court of Appeal, the decision of the trial court was set aside and it was held that the trial court lacked jurisdiction owing to the Appellant’s lack of locus standi. The Appellant then appealed to this court. In dismissing the appeal and affirming the judgment of the Court of Appeal, it was held that Section 285(14)(c) of the Constitution does not permit a political party to interfere in the internal affairs of another. My Lord Ogunwumiju, JSC elucidated on the extent of Section 285(14)(c) of the Constitution thus: “While Section 285(14)(c) talks about how the political party can challenge the decision of INEC, it relates to any decision of INEC directly against the interest of that political party. It cannot be stretched to include the inactions/actions of INEC in respect of nomination for an election by another political party. So, pre-election and election matters are governed by laws made specially to regulate proceedings. See NWAOGU v. INEC (2008) LPELR 4644, SA’AD v. MAIFATA (2008) LPELR-4915. In this case, the 2nd Appellant has absolutely no cause of action since the party purportedly in violation of the Electoral Act is not his party. In the case of the political party, no other interpretation can be given to the provision than that the political party has a right of action against INEC where it rejects the nomination of its candidates, where it proposes unsuitable timetable or its registration of voters or register of voters or other activities of INEC are against the interest of that political party. Section 285(14)(c) cannot extend to challenge INEC’s conduct in relation to another political party irrespective of whether such conduct by the other party is wrongful or unlawful. Section 285(14)(c) cannot clothe a party with the locus to dabble into INEC’s treatment or conduct in respect of another political party. No matter how manifestly unlawful an action is, it is the person with the locus standi to sue who can challenge it in a Court of law. See Suit SC/CV/1628/2022 APC & ANOR v. INEC & ORS delivered on 3/2/23.”

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

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