On Tuesday, July 14, 2020, the Supreme Court of Nigeria considered the appeal filed by Chief Ndutimi Alaibe against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and four others challenging the fouled processes that led to his defeat in the last governorship primary of the PDP in Bayelsa State.
In the course of considering the appeal, the apex court observed that the dispute agitating in the appeal was within the exclusive preserve of the political party; hence it could not be challenged by members of such a political party before any court of law.
Thus, the court affirmed the supremacy of the political party to the effect that irrespective of any obvious or perceived irregularity in the processes leading to the nomination and sponsorship of candidates, the party’s decision remains final and that no court of law has the competence to adjudicate on such an issue.
Based on observations and hints by the Supreme Court on this threshold issue, the lead Counsel to Alaibe, Chief I.A Adedipe SAN, in deference to the court, withdrew the appeal and same was accordingly dismissed.
The merits of the appeal and the fundamental issues regarding the eligibility of the delegates that infested the Primary Election process was not determined and thus remained unresolved.
Rather, the unquestionable though unsatisfying position of the apex court is that in accordance with existing laws and precedence, if complaints were outside the scope contemplated under Section 87(9) of the Electoral Act that provides for right of action in pre-election matters.
While our supporters may feel justifiably disappointed by the outcome of the case based on the supremacy of the Court’s pronouncement, we have accepted it in good faith, however painful. We feel justified that from the trial court to the apex court, the repulsive processes that led to the Primary were never endorsed by any of the courts.
Nigerians would recall that after being brazenly robbed of victory at the governorship Primary Election through flawed electoral processes, Chief Alaibe, who was a frontline contestant in the manipulated race, had taken a bold step to seek redress in courts.
On Friday September 13, 2019, Chief Alaibe had approached the Federal High Court in Yenogoa Judicial Division, Bayelsa State, vide an originating summons, for cancellation of the result of the election based on cited illegalities arising from procedural flaws.
The suit initially filed pursuant to Order 3(9) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019, sought answers to questions bordering on obvious non-adherence to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Electoral Act 2010, the Peoples Democratic Party Constitution and Election Guidelines by its endorsement of the flawed Ward Congresses and the inclusion and participation of ineligible local government council officials who were elected less than 90days to the date slated for the primary election and were not authenticated as contemplated under Article 8(10) of the PDP Constitution, into the delegates list.
Citing specific sections of relevant laws and guidelines on each of the controversial subject matter raised in the suit for determination, Alaibe asked the court to examine the entire processes that resulted in the Primaries and rule in his favour because the subsisting laws were undoubtedly violated in desperate moves to impose a pre-determined hand-picked candidate on the people out of 21 duly recognised aspirants.
Prior to this, his Campaign Organisation had raised objections against what it described as crass disrespect for legal procedures and party guidelines in the build-up to the conduct of the governorship Primary Election by the State Chapter of the PDP. The objection covered open disobedience to the Party Constitution and Electoral Guidelines and the manner in which Ward Congresses were conducted; among others.
The protest was principally against the emergence of the 315 ad-hoc delegates elected vide a farce process and inclusion and participation of ineligible statutory delegates which comprised newly elected Local Government officials.
Chief Alaibe therefore beseeched the court seeking an interpretation of the relevant provisions of the PDP Constitution and guidelines to determine the propriety or otherwise of the actions.
From the Federal High Court to the Appeal Court, the case finally reached the Supreme Court where the issue of party supremacy has been applied to override the illegality of the processes and end the legal battle.
In spite of the outcome of the case, we feel satisfied by our action because when criminality is ignored or allowed to continue unchallenged; those responsible for such actions and even the uninformed observers could accept it as a way of life. It also has the capacity to encourage further lawlessness.
To our supporters, we appeal for calm. The Supreme Court has spoken, and as law- abiding citizens, we must at this point move on and draw the curtain on this particular issue. We have followed the due process of the law; and can go no further.
The point must however be made that the court action was not directed at any particular individual or group of persons. It was against a twisted process that tried to confer on or dress lawlessness in legal attire. Our joy is that we refused to keep silence in the face of tyranny.
For avoidance of doubt, our challenge was principally the process leading to the nomination and sponsorship of a candidate of the party, orchestrated deliberately to meet a pre-determined end in favour of a particular person contrary to the express provisions of the PDP Constitution. Our challenge was based on obvious lack of a level-playing ground and the brazen violation of a subsisting court order directing the mode of conduct of the primaries.
Therefore, in the true spirit of political brotherhood and friendship, irrespective of the uncharitable processes and the outcome of our legal action, Chief Ndutimi Alaibe hereby congratulates and extends his unreserved hand of fellowship to Senator Douye Diri on his emergence as the Governor of Bayelsa. CONGRATULATIONS.
PERSONAL ASSISTANT TO CHIEF TIMI ALAIBE