By Ejimnkeonye Nnamani
The intention of the legislature is that the affairs of registered political parties are to be regulated by the Electoral Act. A stiff penalty is provided for registered political parties whose affairs are conducted in violation of the provisions of the Electoral Act. See Adejoh v. Olofu & ors (2004), LPELR – 22347 (CA). It is for that reason that Section 84(13) of the Electoral Act of 2022 provides that:
“(13) Where a political party fails to comply with the provisions of this Act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate for election shall not be included in the election for the particular position in the issue.”
Section 77(2) of the Act supra requires every political party to maintain a register of its members in both hard and soft copy, while Section 77(3) thereof requires that such a register must be made available to INEC not later than 30 days before the date fixed for the party’s primaries, congresses, or conventions. Section 77 (3) of the Act supra provides:
“77. (3) Each political party shall make such register available to the Commission not later than 30 days before the date fixed for the party primaries, congresses or convention.”
The Supreme Court in EFCC v. Akingbola (2015) 14 NWLR (Pt. 1478) 1 said that the word “before” means “in advance of.” It follows that the word “before” in Section 77 (3) of the Act supra means that each political party is required to make available to INEC its register of members not less than 30 days “before” or “in advance of” its primaries, congresses or convention.
In purporting to comply with the provisions of Section 77 (3) of the Act supra, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), by a letter dated the 6th of May, 2022, submitted its register of members in Enugu and three other States to INEC, and referred to its letter of the 28th of April, 2022. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Enugu State thereafter began the conduct of its congresses, culminating in its gubernatorial primary on the 25th of May, 2022.
The period between the 6th of May, 2022 and the 25th of May, 2022, is 19 days. In other words, the gubernatorial primary election of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Enugu State was conducted within a period less than 30 days after the submission of its register of members to INEC. It is to be noted that the congresses that produced the House of Assembly, House of Representatives and Senatorial candidates of the party were conducted earlier than the 25th of May, 2022, when the party’s gubernatorial primary election took place. It follows without equivocation that the congresses were also conducted before the expiration of 30 days after the submission of the register of members of the party in the state to INEC.
Having conducted the congresses and primary election that produced its candidates in Enugu State for the 2023 general election before the expiration of 30 days after the submission of its register of members in the state to INEC, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), clearly acted in contravention of the provisions of Section 77 (3) of the Act supra. The consequence, as provided in Section 84 (13) of the Act supra, is that candidates of the party in Enugu State shall not be included in the 2023 general election. The words of Section 84 (13) of the Act supra are clear and unambiguous, and effect must be given to them irrespective of whether or not it would lead to a harsh or inconvenient result. See Dangana v. Usman (2013) 6 NWLR (pt. 1349) 50.
The submission of the register of members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Enugu State to INEC 30 days before its congresses and primary election to choose its candidates for the 2023 general election is a condition – precedent for the inclusion of candidates of the party for the election in the state. Congress, primaries or convention of a political party held before the expiration of 30 days after submission of the register of its members to INEC cannot validly produce candidates for such political parties to contest in an election, as the provisions of Section 77 (3) of the Act supra, would have been clearly violated.
Having realized the futility of its May 2022 congresses and primary election in Enugu State, and given the obvious strength of Mr Chika Emmanuel Idoko’s action, challenging the charade and travesty of justice, which is before the Federal High Court in Enugu, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Enugu State and its officials have begun to make frantic efforts in virtually all directions to circumvent the law and compromise the course of justice.
The lid has been blown off the nocturnal meetings of officials of the party in Enugu State and their candidates, including their telephone calls to highly placed and connected individuals within and outside judicial circles for purposes of making overtures to Hon. Justice F. O. G Ogunbanjo, before whom the matter is pending. Thankfully, the Judge has a rich background of being unnoticeable and is generally known for the quality of her character, incorruptibility and sound knowledge of the law.
Ejimnkeonye Nnamani writes from Lagos