It is no longer news that a Federal High Court presided over by Justice M N Yunusa has nullified the candidature of all the Candidates of the Labour Party in Nigeria for failing to comply with the provisions of the 2022 electoral act, including Dr. Alex Otti, the Labour Party Governorship Candidate and other Labour Party Candidates in other positions.
The Court had in Suit No FHC/KN/CS/107/2023 filed by Mr Ibrahim Haruna Ibrahim against the Labour Party and the Independent National Electoral Commission ruled that the failure of the Labour Party to submit it’s membership register to the Independent National electoral commission within 30 days before their Primaries renders the process invalid.
“The party that has not complied with the provisions of the electoral act cannot be said to have candidate in an election and cannot be declared winner of an election this being so, the votes credited to the 1st defendant is a wasted Vote as the the decision of the Supreme court” the Judge ruled.
The Real Reason for the annulment
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) has posited few months ago that Peter Obi is not the Presidential candidate of Labour Party in the just concluded 2023 general elections. To buttress his point, he quoted section 77 (2&3) of the electoral act 2022, to support his stand that Peter Obi is not a member of Labour party and as a result, not qualified to contest the February 25,2023 presidential election.
According to Ebun Onagoruwa, Section 77 (2) says every political party must have/maintain a register of its member in soft and hard copy. 77(3) says each party SHALL MAKE THAT REGISTER AVAILABLE TO INEC NOT LATER THAN 30 DAYS BEFORE THE DATE FIXED FOR PRIMARIES, CONGRESSES OR CONVENTION. PDP screened all presidential candidates on April 29th,2022. Peter Obi participated in that screening and was cleared. Obi even displayed his provisional clearance on social media. He resigned from PDP on Thursday May 26th,2022 to join Labour party on April 27th,2022. Labour party conducted her presidential primary on May 30th, 2022 and it produced Obi after Prof. Pat Utomi voluntary withdrawal for Obi.
According to the section 77(3), Labour party ought to have submitted the party register to INEC 30 days before the presidential primary. By calculation, 30 days to May,30th,2022 was April 30,2022. As at April 30th,2022 when labour party had submitted the party register to INEC, Peter Obi was a member of PDP. So, Obi name was not part of those in the party comprehensive register that was submitted to INEC. The Kano state judgement, sacking Labour Party Candidates followed that trajectory as provided by the Electoral Act
In his reaction to the court verdict, Abia state Chairman of Labour Party, Chief Ceekay Igara has dismissed the court judgment sacking the Abia state governor elect, Dr Alex Otti and other elected candidates of the party, noting that the said judgment is dead on arrival and cannot stand.
Igara maintained that it is only the Tribunal that has the jurisdiction to handle election matters, adding that the Labour Party was not served with the motion before the judgement.
He charged all Labour Party members elect, and party faithfuls to remain calm and not panic as the party’s lawyers are already on top of the matter, adding that “we have not lost any of our candidates”.
He also noted that the May 29 inauguration of the Abia state governor elect, Dr. Alex Otti, will hold as scheduled.
As it is now, uneasy calm has pervaded the Labour party camp across Nigeria as the party has the right of Appeal even as the election tribunal cases are still on – going.