NIGERIAN SUPREME COURT AND APC PRIMARY ELECTIONS 1 (ZAMFARA A CASE STUDY)
By Kayode Mogbojuri
Base on prevailing circumstances, we will all agree it is now a notorious fact that The Supreme Court of Nigeria is not treating with levity the ways and manners our political parties do conduct their affairs and whenever the Apex Court has the opportunity to examine the internal affairs of any of the political parties and take decisions subject to the facts brought before it, it has always forced the bitter pill down the throat of a political party or anyone who felt he has become a law unto himself in conducting the affairs of such political party without recourse to the constitution of the party, with the apex court not minding the amount of money, time and other efforts that must have been expended in the process of conducting the internal affairs of such party or other matters incidental to it.
For this reason, we at the New Media Team of Oke (SAN) are always using every opportunity to educate the people of Ondo State that election is a process likewise a matter of law and no matter how well conducted an election is, once it violates the rules, regulations and laws guiding it (no matter the stage of the process where the rules, regulations and laws are violated), it becomes a nullity when adjudicated upon by court of competent jurisdiction.
At this juncture, let us examine what transpired during Zamfara APC primary election so that we can take necessary hints ahead of election coming up in Ondo State.
PARTIES BEFORE THE COURT
Taking a look at the parties before the court (the final stage at The Supreme Court where we have Appellants and Respondents) it will interest us to know that while we have two Appellants viz The All Progressives Congress and Inuwa Abdulkadir the first Vice-Chairman North-west, there were one hundred and eighty respondents.
Analyzing the respondents, the first one hundred and forty respondents were those in court for themselves and on behalf of other aspirants who paid prescribed fees for procurement of nomination forms for the purpose of contesting APC’s numbers of Local Government Executives and state executive committees election held on 5th, 12th and 19th day of June 2018 but were wrongly excluded or prevented from participating by voting or being voted for. Three other set of respondents were suing for themselves and on behalf of all the APC members in Zamfara state, thirty-seven individuals as respondents and last but not the least was INEC.
What this simply implied is that within the statute of limitation, section 36(1) of 1999 constitution of Nigeria can be invoked by any member of a political who felt he or she has been wronged by his party thus, seek remedy of such wrong (Ubi Jus Ibi Remedium) while INEC in exercising its power can as well reject names submitted to it by any political party (APC v Senator Kabiru Marafa SC377/2019, section 31 of the EA 2010 as amended).
CAUSE OFF ACTION
From the facts before the court (remember facts are the fountain head of the law per Pats-Acholonu JSC in Neka B.B.B Manufacturing Co Ltd v A.C.B Ltd), the cause of action which simply means the basis upon which parties were in court can be deduced. So, let us set out the facts of the case as analyzed by the court.
“as part of INEC’s preparation for 2019 general election, it issued a timetable scheduling activities leading to general election. One of the activities was a directive to all political parties to conduct primary elections and submit the names of their respective candidates for general election between 18th August and 7th October, 2018. In obedience to the directive of INEC, the National Working Committee of APC in line with paragraph 20(a)(b) and (c) of APC guidelines for nomination of candidates for 2019 general elections, set up a 7-member election committee…to conduct primary election in Zamfara state…. the election which started successfully in some area was later halted and suspended by the committee due to escalation of protests and violence.
The NWC of APC set up another committee to conduct the rescheduled primary election. Again due to tension and shortage of time the committee could not conduct the election and suspended it. 7TH October, 2018 was the deadline for the submission of names of candidates to INEC and the Governor of Zamfara State been mindful of this directed the state party executives to conduct the primaries at all levels before 12:00 midnight. It was through this process that candidates emerged and were submitted to INEC.
However, INEC rejected the names submitted because of non-compliance with October 7 deadline and so hold that APC has no candidate for the general election in Zamfara state.”
From the facts set out above, the cause of action can be seen to be gross violation of laid down rules, regulations and laws made for APC primary election and non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
DECISION OF THE SUPREME COURT
The decision of the Supreme Court on the fact stated above as represented in the cause of action is that APC did not conduct primary election hence, cannot participate in the general election. Therefore, all votes scored by the party in the general election in the state were voided and the party/candidates with the next highest number of valid votes were declared winner.
REASONS FOR THE COURT DECISION
Remember we have always argued that election is a process and at every stage of the process, there must be strict compliance with all the laws, rules and regulations therefore, let us set out the stages primary election must go through for it to be valid in the eyes of the law.
1 There must be a timetable issued by INEC stating the time and chronicle of activities to be done ahead of the election.
2 There must be a directive to the political parties to conduct their primaries within a stipulated time and submit the names of their respective candidates to INEC
3. Political parties must issue primary election guidelines and in compliance with their respective party constitutions, conduct primary elections.
4. Primary election conducted in line with the parties’ constitution and elections guideline must be in compliance with the Electoral Act.
5 Submission of qualified candidates to INEC within stipulated time.
The Supreme Court in reaching its decision on zamfara’s case (APC v Senator Kabiru Marafa) considered the provisions of sections 31, 87(1) of the Electoral Act as amended and paragraph 14 of Election guidelines of APC 2019.
What actually nailed APC Zamfara state was non-compliance with the guidelines issued for the election. Once the guideline was jettisoned, it automatically led to violation of section 87 of the Electoral Act and section 31 of the same Act was so clear and operated as statute of limitation. The guideline is hereby reproduced:
Paragraph 14 of the guideline
(a)There shall be a seven-member election committee for each state who must be persons of proven integrity
(b)The members of the committee are to be recruited from outside the state of their assignment comprising of a chairman, secretary and five members
(c)The committee shall be responsible for the overall conduct of the process in the state
The committee shall supervise the local government and ward election committees
The committee shall collate results from the local government
(d)The final result of the election shall be collated on the state declaration of results.
Commenting on the implications of parties’ constitution, primary election guidelines and electoral act section 87(1), the Supreme Court has this to say;
“this provision (87(1) of the Electoral Act) is mandatory and it is therefore the only way to sponsor candidate for general elections in this country. Where a political party fails to conduct primary then it is apparent that the political party cannot participate in the general election. For this reason, all political parties have promulgated their constitutions and guidelines where the procedure for selection of candidates for general elections are provided. This court has spoken loud and clear that all political parties are bound by their
constitutions and guidelines Amaechi v INEC.”
Zamfara APC therefore erred to have
1 To have allowed the state executives of the party to take over responsibilities of the NWC
2 Assuming without conceding that the state executives of APC in Zamfara can usurp the powers of NWC, it failed to comply with section 31 of the Electoral Act in submitting the purported list of its candidate and October 7th deadline.
From all that we have said about Zamfara state, Ondo State people can draw inference and must:
1 carefully understand that it is the prerogative of the National Working Committee to conduct primary elections
2 Within the provision of section 87 of Electoral Act, the NWC of APC must issue guidelines for the primary election
3 Party members must ensure that primary election is conducted unlike zamfara that could not conduct election due to tension and violence.
We at Oke (SAN) New media will continue to act professionally and guide the people of Ondo State into the promise land.