The controversies surrounding the conduct of the 2015 General Elections have refused to abate even with nine months into the life of the current political dispensation. Several cases concerning the conduct of the elections at various levels got as far as the Supreme Court. They involved the conduct of the Governorship and National Assembly elections in various states of the federation.
As at press time, the Supreme Court has started winding up many of these cases especially with regard to governorship tussles in the states. Just last week, the Supreme Court resolved the pending disputes in Yobe, Delta, Oyo, Akwa Ibom and Abia States.
There are still some cases pending for determination by the Supreme Court. One of such cases is the tussle over the rightful claimant to the Nsukka/Igbo Eze South Federal Constituency seat between the incumbent, Dr. Pat Asadu and his challenger, Mr. Ikechukwu Ugwuegede.
Ugwuegede is presently at the Supreme Court seeking to be declared the winner of the National Assembly election into the Nsukka/Igbo Eze South Federal Constituency, having been the authentic candidate nominated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to contest the election.
Ugwuegede had contested and won the primary election conducted on December 6, 2014 by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for Nsukka/Igbo Eze South Federal Constituency of Enugu State with 83 votes and was duly declared by the Senator Anthony Manzo-led Electoral Panel that was sent by the National Headquarters of PDP to conduct primaries in Enugu State.
The National Working Committee (NWC) of PDP, acting on behalf of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of PDP, duly forwarded the appellant’s name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The appellant participated fully in all the stages of the election and was declared winner of the March 28, 2015 National Assembly election by INEC.
Meanwhile, the first respondent, Dr. Pat Asadu, had filed a suit at the Federal High Court Abuja challenging the victory of the appellant at the primary election.
At the trial, the appellant and PDP contended that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because the first respondent (Asadu) did not participate in the primary election which he was challenging and was therefore not an aspirant under Section 87 (9) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
Instead, what the first respondent did was that having purchased the PDP nomination form, he showed up at the venue of the primary, exchanged pleasantries and left. Sensing defeat, he went to a different venue to conduct a parallel primary where he proclaimed himself winner.
At the approved venue where the PDP held its primary, Asadu scored only one vote. In his petition to the PDP Appeal Panel, the first respondent had clearly admitted that there were two primaries. The said petition was exhibited by the appellant and PDP, both at the trial court and court of appeal. But curiously, the trial court and the court of appeal decided to ignore this clear admission of two primaries by the first respondent and held that it was only one primary won by the first respondent.
Also at the trial court and court of appeal, two result sheets with the same serial and code numbers but produced two different winners were exhibited. PDP affidavit evidence showed that the result sheet that produced the appellant as the winner of the said primary was the one it issued while that of the first respondent was forged. But curiously, the trial court and court of appeal decided to uphold the result sheet that produced the first respondent even when PDP, the purported author, disclaimed it.
The PDP had earlier set up a National Assembly Appeal Panel to review the National Assembly primaries held in Enugu State. The appeal panel which did not invite the appellant surprisingly ruled in favour of the first respondent. But after due consideration, the ruling was overturned by the National Working Committee of PDP, acting on behalf of NEC, and the appellant’s name was submitted to INEC as the duly nominated candidate of PDP.
In its previous settled cases, the Supreme Court had ruled that the decision of the National Working Committee acting on behalf of NEC is final on all matters relating to party primaries. But curiously the trial court and court of appeal insisted that PDP must accept the recommendations of its appeal panel.
INEC, which is statutorily empowered to monitor all primary elections tendered a report at the trial court and court of appeal that it was the appellant that won the said primary which it monitored. But curiously, the trial court ruled that INEC was biased and colluded with PDP and the court of appeal concurred.
It is this untoward development that has compelled Ugwuegede to go to Supreme Court to seek redress in what clearly appears to be a travesty of justice. The action of the court of appeal in rejecting the nomination of Ugwuegede as submitted by the NWC of the PDP, acting on behalf the party`s National Executive Committee, amounts to a breach of a legal precedent already established by the Supreme Court.
It is only the National Executive Committee of a party through its NWC that has the powers to organise primaries for the purpose of nominating candidates for election and also submitting same to INEC. To this extent, any primary conducted without the knowledge and permission of NWC or NEC is complete nullity.
Onyekachi Chukwu, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Enugu
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