Sunday, June 17, 2012


The most striking disparity between Law and other areas of science is that unlike Mathematics and physics that warrants precise predictability once the hypothesis are correct, Law is a different ball game as the Court in arriving at its judgment is always subsumed in the suffocating intricacies of legal jurisprudence that most time baffles even the best brains in the Legal Profession any time a groundbreaking judgment is handed down by the Courts.
It is the dynamic nature of Law that makes two Law Professors to argue on the same subject matter and arrive at a conclusion that is diametrically antipodal. And this goes a long way in highlighting the dilemma our Judges find themselves on daily basis in the herculean task of interpreting the Law.
The subject matter of today’s discus is a peep into the raging legal battle between Chief Alex Obiechina and Governor Sullivan Chime, as we await the judgment of the Court.
Justice Adamu Bello of Federal High Court sitting in Abuja slated April 23rd 2012 for judgment in a suit challenging the nomination of Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime as the PDP candidate in the April 2011 General Election. The date was fixed after the parties adopted their consolidated written addresses in the suit, and on the 23rd April, the matter was again adjourned sine-die (indefinitely) 
The plaintiff, a governorship aspirant of the party in Enugu State had instituted the lawsuit through his counsel, Oba Maduabuchi, approached the court to nullify the nomination of Governor Chime as the candidate for the April 16, 2011 governorship election in the state and to declare him as the candidate of the party.
Section 85(1) states that “A Registered political party shall give the commission at least 21 days notice of any convention, congress, conference or meeting convened for the purpose of electing members of its executives committee, other governing bodies or nominating candidates for any of the elective offices under this Act” (italics and emphasis mine)
In view of the above provision of the Act, the plaintiff asked the court to declare that the purported primaries held on January 12 which also purportedly produced the 3rd defendant as the governorship candidate of the 2nd defendant for the governorship elections in Enugu State and which was accepted by the 1st defendant [INEC] did not comply with the Electoral Act 2011 as amended and his purported nomination and acceptance by the 2nd defendant is therefore null, void and of no effect and the only date set for the governorship primaries in Enugu State was January 9, 2011 as per exhibit ACO 9 and whoever won same is the valid candidate for the said election.
Chief Obiechina also prayed the Court to determine whether the PDP had the Powers to organize a special congress for the purpose of nominating its Governorship candidate without recourse to the electoral Act. And also for the Court to go ahead and ascertain whether the two-days notice given to the Enugu State Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, of the INEC, for the said special congress or primaries, complied with section 85[1] of the Electoral Act.
On the other hand, PDP represented by its National Legal Adviser, Chief Olusola Oke and Governor Chime filed separate preliminary objection against the suit, they challenged the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain the matter, adding that the plaintiff was bereft of the Locus-Standi to seek such reliefs. And therefore prayed the Court to strike out the suit for want of jurisdiction or alternatively dismiss same for lacking in merit. 
Governor Chime who was represented by Chief Mrs. Justina Offiah, SAN, equally adopted the prayers of the party, insisting in her address that the action is speculative and academic as it discloses no cause of action against the defendant. (…no cause of action? Time will tell)
The suit since inception witnessed an overbearing dramatic pyrotechnics and legal dithering. The most prominent of the setbacks was that Governor Chime wrote a petition to the National Judicial Council and accused the previous judge that presided over the case Justice Gladys Olotu of bias, and it is on the strength of the petition dated April 28 2011, that Justice Olotu disqualified herself from the matter which heralds the reassignment of the case file to Justice Adamu Bello to preside on the matter de novo (afresh)  and this happened when Justice Olotu was at the verge of delivering judgement on the suit.
The genesis of this cut-throat political bifurcation emanated when Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo (Ezeanyanwu) assumed office as the National Chairman of PDP. Dr Nwodo made it clear during his inaugural speech that the central plank of his assignment was to deepen internal democracy within the party and also proposed a reform process to return PDP to the dreams of its founders, which will serve as a cardinal index for our political development.   Dr. Okwesilieze’s apotheoses and his avowed stance on deepening internal democracy within the party sent jitters down the spine of PDP over- lords who never believed in playing by the rules. And therein lies the beginning of Dr. Nwodo’s problem as the National Chairman of the party.
PDP under the leadership of Dr. Nwodo fixed and conducted Governorship primary election in Enugu and other States across the Country on 9th January 2011, in strict compliance with the provisions of the electoral Act 2011. After the election in Enugu State, Chief Alexander Obiechina emerged as the winner.
The PDP over-lords ganged up against Dr. Okwesilieze to a point of even carrying his mock coffin around Enugu Metropolis.  Dr. Nwodo was finally pressurized to resign in a smokescreen arrangement of obeying a Court order even before the order takes effect. Dr.Okwesilieze Nwodo’s traducers were so obsessed in ousting him from office thereby losing focus on the primary election believing that there will always be a way to circumvent the situation at the exit of Nwodo, and in their hysterical effort to turn things round, they staged their own (mock) primary election on the 12th day of January 2011 where Governor Chime emerged as the winner, in outright disregard to the provisions of the Electoral Act 2011.
After the successful outcome of the primaries on 9th of January 2011 which produced Chief Alex Obiechina, other aggrieved members of the party petitioned the National Working Committee on 13th January 2011. The N.W.C, inundated with barrage of petitions from across the Country, met on 14th January 2011 to address issues raised in the petitions. After detailed consideration of all the petitions, the National Working Committee ordered for re-run in several states and constituencies across the Nation, and dismissed others for lack of substance and merit. The exclusion of Enugu Sate in the re-run list shows that the primary election that produced Chief. Alexander Obiechina was not only free and fair but also credible.
To lend credence to the above assertion, INEC usually stand by its result and defend it to logical conclusion, but in this suit, INEC in its written brief filed by Elex Ejeseme and the written address prepared by a consortium of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) and adopted by Nnamdi Nwafor made it clear that they would have disqualified the Governor from contesting for the election if it had such powers.
INEC said “With respect to primary elections said to be conducted on January 11 and 12, 2011, it can be said that what was passed as the “Notice’ was plaintiff’s exhibit addresses to the Resident Electoral Commissioner at Enugu, which most certainly is not the same as the 1st defendant who, by the clear terms of section 85 [1] of the Electoral Act, 2010 must be the Commission itself. This apart, the letter is dated January 10, 2011 and apparently was received on January 11, 2011, the very next day, it gave notice of primaries scheduled for the same day, and urged the court to hold that the Governor was not validly nominated.
If that is the case, why did INEC allow the Governor to contest the election in the first place? This question showcased the dictatorial and brazen selfishness of our Law Makers. Members of the National Assembly amended the electoral act 2010 prior to the election and added a proviso to section 31(1) which completely strips INEC of its powers in the matter of qualification of nominees submitted by political parties. The law states that “Every political party shall not later than 60 days before the date appointed for the General Election under the provision of this bill submit to the Commission in the prescribed form, the list of candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections, provided that the Commission shall not reject or disqualify candidates for any reason whatsoever” It is this blanket provision of the Act that reduced INEC to mere spectator in a game it ought to be the referee.
As if that was not enough, the Law Makers also added in section 87 (10) that “Nothing in this section shall empower a Court to grant order stopping a wrong complained by anybody in relation to party primaries or election”. The Law Makers abridged the powers of the Court to grant an order thereby allowing a wrongful act to run its full course, believing that it will give them the illusory access to unmerited automatic return ticket. But when the chips are down, about 70 percent of the Law Makers got kicked out because the top echelon Stakeholders mostly changed the names of the nominees maybe in front of INEC office during submission. And that amounts to the hunter being hunted with his own gun.
Food for thought; when the Former Governor of Bayelsa State,  Timipre Sylva approached the Federal High Court to stop PDP from conducting primary election to replace him. The PDP legal team led by the same Chief Olusola Oke in its written address submitted inter alia that “Jurisdiction to do became vested and by the virtue of section 87 (9) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, which provides thus: 'Notwithstanding the provisions of the Act or rules of a political party, an aspirant who complains that any of the provisions of this Act and the guidelines of a political party have not been complied with in the selection or nomination of a candidate of a political party for election, may apply to the Federal High Court or High Court of a state or FCT for redress."
The party added in the written response that the relief sought must come after the determination of the suit, adding: "A combined reading of sections 87 (9) and (10) must lead to the conclusion that the redress available to a plaintiff under section 87 (9) must come at the final determination of his suit."
In the instant case, Chief Alex Obiechina is seeking for redress and for the matter to be finally determined on merit, yet PDP led by Oke submitted that Chief Obiechina lacks locus-standi in their preliminary objection and the suit discloses no cause of action. (Legal Double Speak). We are waiting for the judgment anxiously!
Historically, when Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State emerged meritoriously as the PDP candidate in 2007, President Olusegun Obesanjo the emperor General of the party (as he then was) declared during the handover of flags to the party candidates that Gov. Amaechi’s candidacy had “k-leg” and as such his name was substituted by Celestine Omehia. And consequent upon that, EFCC was unleashed against Amaechi which forced him into self imposed exile.
Governor Amaechi later surfaced and approached the court in order to straight the “K-Leg” of his candidature.
Amaechi’s vindication came with the 25th October, 2007 controversial judgment  by the Supreme Court which unanimously declared Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi not only the authentic flag-bearer of PDP but  that he be sworn in to immediately replace Omehia who had previously been sworn in on May 29, 2007 as the Governor of Rivers State.  Thus, he became the first person to occupy the office of governor in the country without technically standing for election. In explaining the judgment, Justice Aloysious Katsina-Alu, stated that it is the party that contests elections and that the PDP won the gubernatorial elections, and that, consequently, Amaechi, being the rightful candidate, should assume power as Governor. (emphasis mine). Today Amaechi is not only the Governor of Rivers State but also the Chairman of the Almighty Governors Forum of Nigeria.
Is the same scenario playing out in Enugu State? Lord Denning (MR) stated in the case of UAC v MCFOY (1962) AC 152 that “you can’t place something on nothing and expect it to stand” Suffices to say that, a purloined primary election cannot sustain an outright victory in the General Election. So can we reasonably say that Gov. Sullivan won the election with the face of Chief Obiechina? (The court will decide). It is obvious that  the Courts have the plenipotentiary powers to overrule itself, therefore, irrespective of where the judicial pendulum eventually tilts in this case, the judgment no doubt will be more than groundbreaking.
Equally of note is that some pro Chime supporters especially those whom their knowledge of the law can fully be accommodated on a pin danced around the city when the Supreme Court sealed the fate of former Bayelsa State Governor Timipre Sylva when it held that " issues of nomination of candidates were essentially the business of political parties and as such the Court had no hand in deciding for them" the main question is "did the Supreme Court said that a political party can freely violate the electoral Act with such compelling  impunity? (The Court will decide).
However, in the case of Hon Aidoko Ali Usman Atai & others Versus Ocheja Emmanuel Dangana & others CA/A/EPT/582/2011, the Court of Appeal ruled among other things that it was wrong for INEC not to have participated in the primaries and voided the primaries. In this case, INEC is not even aware of the primary election that produced Gov Chime and as such never participated. (The Court will still decide)
I really smell a rat with the pace of delay in delivering judgement in this suit but i have the confidence that irrespective of the snail speed of the sun while rising, it must surely set.
Finally, nobody can stop the constant power of change, whether you have the dictatorial instincts of late Gadaffi or rely on sheer luck and happenstance like Mr. Jonathan, there will always be a change sooner or later as those who may pose for Presidential recognition today may as well hide in the prison (Ibori) when the time comes.
I appreciate the developmental activities of Enugu State Government under Gov. Chime, but calling a spade by its true name no matter whose ox is gored will always be a noble course for those that traces’ their origin to God.

1 comment:

  1. Weldon the Learned Man! Politics is and always remain a game of interest. And the winner takes it all. May God strengthen Chief Obiechina for the challenges ahead. I wish him well...