All eyes are on the legal tussle surrounding the May 25th, 2022, Gubernatorial Primary Election of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Adamawa State, which produced Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri as the winner — unopposed.
Political pundits are observing how the PDP will come out of this thorny issue, while legal experts are watching how the judiciary will steer itself from controversy in handling the case. The latest of intra-party legal skirmishes in Nigeria, the case is similar to many legal tussles that led to the nullification of countless secondary and primary elections in Nigeria, because the political parties wrongfully disqualified aspirants or refused to adhere to their own guidelines, the electoral act or the Constitution.
An aspirant for the Adamawa PDP— 2023 gubernatorial ticket, Ambassador Mohammed Jameel Wazir, a 2014 contestant for the same position and a former chief protocol officer to former president Goodluck Jonathan, has approached the Federal High Court Abuja, to challenge his exclusion from the May 25th, 2022, Adamawa PDP Gubernatorial primary election. Waziri was reportedly disqualified in Bauchi by the Gubernatorial Primaries Screening Committee chaired by Abubakar Sadiq on the premises that the committee has ‘instructions from the party Headquarters not to clear him.’ The aspirant was issued neither a disqualification nor qualification certificate in Bauchi, in contravention of the party’s rules which gives disqualified candidates the fair chance to appeal before the Appeal Panel. Above notwithstanding, the aspirant submitted a petition to the 12-man appeal panel in Abuja. He was appropriately rescreened by the panel, which cleared him to contest the primaries. Still, the National Working Committee (NWC) denied the aspirant the right to contest the gubernatorial primary election, because it was reported that, the NWC said, the party need to enhance the chances of the incumbent governor. But why did the party go ahead to sell nomination & expression forms to its members? The party is prepared for the consequence of its actions?
Justice Obiora Egwuatu of the Federal High Court Abuja has ruled that his court lacks jurisdiction on the case brought by Ambassador Waziri against the PDP, over the former’s unlawful disqualification from the May 25th, 2022 primaries. The Judge further said- ‘It’s a family affair’. But if a son feels his father has cheated him, or a wife feels her husband has cheated on her, didn’t they have the right to seek justice from the courts of law? The law, they say, is blind!
An intriguing aspect of the crisis is the political implications for Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate for the 2023 presidential election, who is from Adamawa state. This implies that Atiku is facing two crises — one on the home front and the other, at the national level — from the Governor Nyesom Wike’s ‘distraction’. Many legal experts believe Wazir’s case has merit, and this may be why the Federal High Court’s only option is to claim no jurisdiction over the case. Section 84(3) of the Electoral Act 2022 and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) are explicit on the disqualification of a candidate or an aspirant. Furthermore, the first article in the PDP electoral guidelines for the gubernatorial primary election says – “in Compliance with section 84(3) of the Electoral Act 2022, the qualification and disqualification criteria shall only be as stated in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). Article 4 said: The decision of the National Executive Committee of the party on all primary election matters shall be final and binding. And, Article 5 section (f) of the same guidelines also stated that: “Only aspirants cleared by the Gubernatorial Screening Committee or whose appeal the Gubernatorial Screening Appeal Panel has upheld shall be qualified to participate in the primary election as contained in the final list of cleared aspirants.
The Court of Appeal will commence proceedings on the case on September 2, 2022. All eyes are on the judiciary and the judges who will preside over the case, because the case is similar to that, which led to Zamfara APC losing all elected seats in the state to the PDP in 2019. The case also has a 2020 antecedent in the governorship position in Bayelsa state which affirmed PDP as the winner against the APC. Another is the Supreme Court nullification of November 6, 2021, APC primaries that produced Andy Uba as the party’s governorship candidate. The apex court, in a unanimous decision by a five-member panel of Justices, held that the gubernatorial primary election that produced Uba was conducted in breach of guidelines that were set by the APC. Equally, on August 29, 2022, The Court of Appeal in Abuja reinstated Sheriff Oborevwori as the duly nominated governorship candidate of the PDP in Delta State, who was disqualified by a Federal High Court.
Political parties should learn to respect their own laws and that of the country. And, all eyes are on the Court of Appeal Judges that will preside over Wazir’s case against the conduct of the Adamawa PDP Gubernatorial primary elections, to do justice to the case. Rule Number 3.1 of the National Judicial Council, states that – ‘A Judicial Officer should be true and faithful to the Constitution and the Law, uphold the course of justice by abiding with provisions of Constitution and the Law and should acquire and maintain professional competence.
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Abuja, 08036070980, firstname.lastname@example.org