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

Dictum

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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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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IT IS A POLITICAL PARTY OR ITS CANDIDATE WHO CAN CHALLENGE AN ELECTION

In the case of ALL PROGRESSIVE CONGRESS V PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY 2019 LPELR-49499 CA, in the interpretation of the provision of S137(1) of the Electoral Act 2010, which provision is in pari material with the extant provisions of S133 (1) (a) and (b) the Electoral Act 2022, the Court of Appeal, Per Ali Abubakar Babandi Gummel JCA, took the stance that: ‘….it is clear from this provision, that either the political party, or its candidate for the election, or both of them jointly can present an election petition….this provision recognizes that a political party, can in its name, present an election petition challenging the election for the benefit of the candidate and itself….’ Ditto, in the lead judgment delivered by per Emmanuel Akomaye Agim JCA, the court reiterated and expounded as follows; ‘….therefore such a petition is a representative action by the political party on behalf of its candidate for the election and its members, the political party’s candidate for the election is an unnamed party for his benefit and that of the political party. An unnamed party in a representative action is a party to the action…….”

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IT IS POLITICAL PARTIES THAT WIN OR LOSE ELECTION, NOT CANDIDATES

It is the political party that participated in the conduct of an election that is the winner or the loser and not the Candidates sponsored by the political parties sometimes, the goodwill of a candidate being sponsored in an election may contribute to the victory of the political party in an election. Section 221 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria does not recognize an Independent candidate contesting in our elections.

– Coomassie JSC. Odedo v. INEC (2008)

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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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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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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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