Court rejects suit seeking to sack Osun governor
A Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday dismissed a suit seeking to void the July 20, 2018 governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress party (APC) in Osun State.
The primary was won by Governor Adegboyega Oyetola who went on to emerge victorious in the governorship election held on September 22 and 27 last year.
Delivering judgement in the suit yesterday, Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo held that the plaintiff, Kunle Rasheed Adegoke, could not prove his claim that the primary was held in violation of relevant laws
Adegoke, who came a distant 8th in the primary, filed the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/ CS/804/2018, in which he argued, among others, that the primary was not held in compliance with the relevant provisions of the country’s Constitution, the Electoral Act, the constitution of the APC and its guidelines for the conduct of primaries.
Adegoke prayed the court to, among others, nullify the primary on the grounds that it was conducted in violation of the relevant laws.
Respondents in the case were the APC, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Oyetola and the Deputy Governor, Benedict Olugboyega Alabi.
Justice Ekwo, after analysing parties’ arguments and the documentary evidence tendered, held that the plaintiff failed to establish its case.
The judge said the APC did not violate any law by electing to adopt the direct primary. He said such option was provided for in the party’s constitution.
On Adegoke’s contention that sufficient notice was not afforded the aspirants, the judge noted that there was evidence that, although he was present where the choice of the party’s primary was announced to members on July 16, 2018, he raised no objection.
The judge said the plaintiff’s contention that sufficient notice was not given the INEC about the shift in the date of the primary from July 19 to 20, 2018, was misplaced.
Justice Ekwo noted that the presence of INEC’s officials at the primary speaks volume about its power to waive the requirement for a seven-day notice.
He said if there was any person who should complain of non-compliance with the regulations for the conduct of primaries, it should have been INEC and not the plaintiff.
The judge said: “It is my opinion, upon considering the evidence in this case, that the 1st defendant acted within the power and authority vested in it in the conduct of the governorship primaries in Osun State in the circumstance of the evidence in this case.
“Far be it that primary election of a political party would be annulled simply for the fun of doing so or in sympathy with an aspirant whose aim is just to have the primaries annulled.
“The evidence to warrant the exercise of the power of nullification by the court must be compelling and perhaps overwhelming.
“That being the case, I am unable to see any of the provisions of the Constitution and Guidelines of the 1st defendant, which the plaintiff says, has been contravened, which has the potency of nullifying the primary election of 20th July 2018.
“Indeed, none of the provisions of the Regulations for the Conduct of Political Party Primaries of the 2nd defendant carries the sanctions propounded by the plaintiff.
“The law is that, the court would not and should not read into the law or any statutory instrument that is expressly not stated therein.
“In the same vein, I have seen no evidence that the 1st defendant breached any provisions of the 1999 Constitution so as to make its conduct of the primary election or selection of its governorship candidate unconstitutional or ultra vires.
“I have seen no evidence that the 1st defendant breached the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), as such has not been established in this case, with respect to the adoption of direct primaries for the selection of governorship candidate.
“On the whole, I find no illegal or unconstitutional act on the part of the 1st defendant in the conduct of the governorship primaries in Osun State that would warrant this court to intervene in what can be considered as its (APC’s) internal affairs, either before or on 20th July, 2018 when the said primary was held.
“This case lacks merit and must be dismissed, and I make an order dismissing it,” Justice Ekwo said.
Earlier, the judge dismissed the two motions of preliminary objection filed by APC, Oyetola and Alabi.
As against the arguments by the APC, Oyetola and Alabi, the judge said the plaintiff had the locus standi to file the suit, that the suit was properly commenced through the originating summons procedure and that the court has jurisdiction to enquire into the way a political party exercises its power and whether it complied with its constitution and regulations in its conduct.
On the argument that the plaintiff failed to exhaust internal part mechanism before heading for court, the court held that no party regulation could oust the jurisdiction of the court to determine dispute relating to whether or not it complied with its constitution and regulations.
The judge noted that though the party’s constitution contained measures for internal dispute resolution, he said such provisions cannot oust the jurisdiction of the court.
On the argument by Oyetola and Alabi that the plaintiff lacked the locus standi to institute the suit because he had been expelled from the party, the judge noted that there was no evidence submitted before the court to support the claim that the plaintiff had been expelled.
Also, the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal, sitting in Apo, Abuja, yesterday, struck out the petition by Jumoke Lawal and her party, the National Rescue Movement.
The petitioners had queried the legality of the governorship election on the grounds of alleged unlawful exclusion.
In his ruling , the tribunal, led by Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, struck out the petition after peteitioners’ lawyer, Oluwole Adja applied to withdraw it.
The tribunal awarded N50,000 cost against the petitioners.
Further hearing resumes on January 14 in the petition by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke.