S’Court Declines To Order PDP To Zone Presidential Ticket To South East
The Supreme Court, on Friday, dismissed a suit that sought to compel the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to zone its ticket for the 2023 presidential election, to the South East region.
The apex court, in a unanimous decision by a five-man panel of justices, threw away the suit which was filed by an aggrieved aspirant in the party, Mr. Cosmas Ndukwe, for want of jurisdiction to entertain the case.
The court, in its lead judgement that was read by Justice Adamu Jauro, held that the issue of nomination of candidates for any election, is within the domestic affairs of political parties.
It held that no court is allowed to meddle in the internal affairs of a political party, except where such party is found to have acted in breach of the Constitution.
Consequently, the apex court affirmed the decisions of the lower courts that equally dismissed the suit for want of jurisdiction.
It will be recalled that the Appellant, Ndukwe, who is a former Deputy Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, had shortly after the PDP slated May 28 for its presidential primary election, approached the Federal High Court in Abuja with a suit seeking to halt the process.
Ndukwu’s suit came after the party screened 17 aspirants that obtained its presidential form to contest in the 2023 election.
He challenged the scheduled presidential primary on the premise that PDP was planning to act in breach of its own zoning formula.
According to him, the party, had in place, an arrangement that allowed for the rotation of elective offices.
He contended that by that arrangement, it ought to be the turn of the Southern part of the country, especially the South East geopolitical zone, to produce the next president.
Therefore, Ndukwe, filed an application for an order of injunction to restrain his party from proceeding with the primary election, pending the hearing and determination of his suit.
Though the trial court declined to issue a restraining order as it was prayed, it, however, directed the plaintiff to put all the defendants on notice to enable them to appear before it to show cause why the primary election should not be halted.
Aside from the PDP, other defendant in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/508/2022, were its National Chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, Chairman of its Primary Election Planning Committee/National Secretary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, as well as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Meanwhile, before the trial court could determine the suit on its merit, the PDP and its Chairman, Dr. Ayu, through their lawyer, Mr. Aliyu M. Aliyu, SAN, took the case to the Court of Appeal.
The party contended that the trial court was bereft of the requisite jurisdiction to handle the matter.
Aliyu, further persuaded the trial court presided by Justice Donatus Okorowo, to temporarily hands-off the case since the appellate court was already seized of the facts in dispute.
Besides, he drew attention of the court to the fact that the plaintiff lacked the locus standi to institute the action, stressing that he was not one of the presidential aspirants of the party.
Other defendants in the case also aligned with Aliyu’s position and urged the court to adjourn the matter sine-die (indefinitely).
Though counsel to the plaintiff, Mr. Paul Erokoro, SAN, urged the court to refuse the request for adjournment, however, in a bench ruling, Justice Okorowo said he was minded to grant it.
The matter was still pending, when the PDP held its primary election that produced Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as its flag-bearer for the 2023 presidential election.
Subsequently, Atiku, approached the court to be joined as an interested party in the suit.
The 3rd defendant in the matter, Senator Anyanwu, had earlier in the proceedings, petitioned the Chief Judge of the Court, Justice John Tsoho, accusing Justice Okorowo of being biased.
The PDP scribe, through his lawyer, Mr. Kalu Agu, urged the CJ to transfer the case to another judge of the high court for fair adjudication of the matter.
He alleged that Justice Okorowo granted ex-parte orders against the party, notwithstanding the fact that PDP already had a legal representative before the court.
Anyanwu, contended that processes the trial judge relied up to summon PDP to appear before him to show cause why reliefs sought by the plaintiff should not be granted, was not ripe for hearing as at the time the order was made.
He, therefore, maintained that the judge, had by his actions, exhibited “manifest bias”, insisting that allowing him to continue with the case, would lead “to a breach of fair hearing.”
Meantime, following the dismissal of the suit by the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, Ndukwe, took the matter before the Supreme Court, where he also lost on Friday.