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

Dictum

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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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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IT IS ONLY THE NATIONAL WORKING COMMITTEE OF A POLITICAL PARTY THAT IS SADDLED WITH CONDUCTING PRIMARY ELECTION

‘In the instant case, the Appellant herein clearly stated in the affidavit in support of his originating summons that he took part in the primary election held at St. Paul University, Awka in obedience to the judgment of Adeniyi J of the Federal Capital Territory High Court and that the said election was conducted by Sir Chukwudi Umeaba who authored and signed the alleged result of the primary election. He is said to be the leader of the State Executive of the 3rd Respondent. That Appellant emerged winner of that contraption he called party primary election. But from the authorities of this Court cited above, that assemblage at St. Paul University was nothing other than an illegal and an unlawful gathering of party delinquents. The outcome therefore was a sham and a farce. See Emenike v PDP (supra). Not having been conducted by the National Executive Committee 3rd Respondent, the primary election held at St. Paul University on 26th June, 2021 which the Appellant took part is unknown to law and is a nullity. The law is very clear that a State executive of a political party has no vires to conduct party primaries. It is only the National Executive Committee of the party that is recognized as the proper organ of the party saddled with the responsibility of conducting party primaries.’

‘Party primaries are conducted by the National Executive Committee of political parties. Definitely, not by the State executive of the party. The Appellant lacked the locus standi to incept the suit giving birth to this appeal. Counsel ought to advise their clients when requested to file such frivolous suits in Court.’

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

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SPONSORSHIP OF A CANDIDATE FOR AN ELECTION IS AN INTERNAL AFFAIR OF THE PARTY

The courts have held in a plethora of cases that the issue of membership of a political party is an internal affair of the political party. It has been consistently held, that it is only the party (in this case, the 3 rd Respondent), that has the prerogative of determining who are its members and the 3 rd Respondent, having sponsored the 2 nd Respondent as its candidate for the Governorship Election in Kano State on the 18 th of March 2023, the 2 nd Respondent has satisfied the requirement of being a member of the 3 rd Respondent as provided for in S134 (1) (a) of the Electoral Act 2022. Consequently, it has been held, that is not within the right of the Petitioner at this stage and after the nomination, sponsorship of the 2 nd Respondent by the 3 rd Respondent as its candidate, to question the 2 nd Respondents membership of the 3 rd Respondent, as it is an internal affair of the party.

— A. Osadebay, J. APC v INEC & Ors. (EPT/KN/GOV/01/2023, 20th Day of September, 2023)

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

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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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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