By Munir Umar
In advanced democracies, issues relating to political parties and members are handled internally without recourse to litigations. This is because the party leadership and members obey party constitution. In the emergence of candidates for elections, there is internal democracy; there is no imposition of candidates by the party leadership.
Since 1999 when Nigeria returned to democratic governance, lack of internal democracy has become endemic. The PDP was largely guilty of this. It was so bad that, by a judgment of the Supreme Court, Rotimi Amaechi became the governor of Rivers State because he was wrongly substituted as the governorship candidate after winning the primaries. Celestine Omeha, who was presented as the party’s candidate and campaigned and won the election, was sacked by the Supreme Court.
This was just one of the many cases of disrespect for the party’s constitution, disregard for the rule of law and contempt for the rights of members, which eventually led to the implosion that made the PDP perform woefully in the 2015 general elections.
When the APC emerged on the nation’s political landscape, it promised Nigerians to do things differently. Everything would change for the better! I cannot remember that the party had any major problem during the party primaries preceding the 2015 General Elections.
However, the primaries conducted by the party for the 2019 General Elections were far below the expectation of members, particularly the aspirants. The exercise was mostly not transparent. The PDP might have performed better than the APC this time round as regards adherence to internal democracy. Consequently, the APC faced litigations before and after the primaries. There are still cases in court even after the elections in some states have been won and lost.
Considering the crises that bedeviled his party primaries across the states under the watch of the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, in the conduct of the primaries, he appeared to have failed to demonstrate credible leadership expected of a party that came to change the country.
In Rivers State, his party had no candidates for the Governorship and National Assembly Elections. The party only fielded candidates in Zamfara State just because the elections were postponed and the party was able to get a favourable court judgment three days before the elections. The party has lost Imo State governorship elections because of internal crisis. It won the governorship election in Ogun State only because of the crisis within the PDP.
Particularly sad about the leadership style of Comrade Oshiomhole is his disobedience of court order. How can the National Chairman of a political party that is a beneficiary of judicial decisions disregard an order of a court of competent jurisdiction duly served on him?
On February 12, 2019, in the suit between Hon. Ibrahim Zailani and Senator Lawal Y. Gumau, the All Progressive Congress and the Independent National Electoral Commission, His Lordship, Justice B. F. M. Nyako of the Federal High court, Abuja directed the second defendant, APC, to forward only the name of the applicant, Hon. Ibrahim Zailani, to INEC as its Senatorial candidate and directed the third defendant, INEC, to accept the name as the APC Senatorial candidates for the 2019 General Elections.
The Court upheld the decision of the Appeal Committee of the APC delivered on 17th October, upon the plaintiff’s appeal against the illegal conduct of the Bauchi South Senatorial District primary elections and ordered that the decision was binding on all persons, authorities, organs and bodies of the APC.
The Appeal Committee had upheld the prayers of Hon. Zailani for the nullification of the selection process of the 1st defendant as the candidate of the 2nd Defendant for the Bauchi South Senatorial District General elections but returned him as the winner of the election.
This order dated February 13, 2019 and signed by the Registrar, Yahaya Shuaibu, was duly served on the National Chairman of the APC. Unfortunately he has refused to obey the order. The party failed to forward the name of Hon. Zailani to INEC as the party’s only Senatorial candidate as ordered by the court. Nevertheless, Hon. Zailaini, on the strength of the court order, contested and clearly won the Senatorial election but INEC is yet to issue him the Certificate of Return. This is because of the failure of the National Headquarters of APC to forward his name as the party’s candidate for the Bauchi South Senatorial District.
As I said earlier, if not for the judiciary, the APC would not have been able to field candidates in Zamfara State for the governorship and legislative elections. As a law-abiding institution, INEC complied with the court order that favoured the APC. Comrade Oshiomhole had always insisted that INEC must comply with court orders so that the party could field candidates for the elections in Zamfara and Rivers States.
Even last Tuesday, INEC suspended the resumption of collation of results of the Tafawa Balewa Local Government for the governorship election in Bauchi State following a court order on the morning the exercise was supposed to commence. This followed a court action by the APC candidate, Governor Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi State. Again the beneficiary of obedience of court order by INEC was the APC. The national headquarters of the party commended INEC for this.
It is, therefore, worrisome, ludicrous and unfair that whereas the APC which has benefitted substantially from respect for court order by INEC, the National Chairman of the party could show utter contempt for a court order duly served on him. This does not speak well of his character or the image of the party.
In the particular court order he has flagrantly disobeyed, the applicant, Hon. Zailani, is an APC member in Bauchi State, not a member of the opposition party! The APC National Chairman’s decision to treat with disdain an order that is in favour of a party member, and does not in any way put the party at a disadvantage, is not the right way to treat a leading member of the party who served Bauchi State and his country in different capacities in the past.
The said party member approached the court for justice having explored the party’s internal grievance mechanism for redress, which outcome favoured him, but which the national chairman of the party ignored. The national chairman set up the Appeal Committee, which many party members, especially aspirants for the party primaries, had hoped was intended to give justice to all members. But he failed to consider the recommendations submitted. It was therefore proper for an aggrieved party to approach the court for justice.
It’s high time the APC national chairman realised that he’s holding his position in trust for all the members, and not a section of people within the party whose interest he must do everything to protect. He should understand that his disobedience of court order does not portray him as a democrat. His position as the national chairman of the party does not place him above the courts. It doesn’t confer on him the power to ignore court orders or select the court order to obey. Party politics is not the same a labour unionism where he used to force his demands on government.
Nigerians didn’t expect that the APC would indulge in repulsive practices similar to that of the PDP before it was voted out of power at the federal level. Nigerians and the opposition in particular, including Comrade Oshiomhole, used to virulently criticize the PDP then for impunity. Oshiomhole is blatantly guilty of same today.
The APC national chairman is not a lawyer, but the party has a National Legal Adviser who should advise the party on legal matters. I don’t think any legal practitioner worth his salt would give any official of his party advice to disobey a court order. It is most likely that the APC national chairman disregarded the legal Adviser or did not see even any reason to consult him.
Comrade Oshiomhole should remember that if not for the judiciary he would not have been sworn in as Governor of Edo state in 2008. The court nullified the election of Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor of the PDP and declared him the winner of the election. How easily some people forget their past! Except Oshiomhole retraces his steps, one would have no option but to conclude that he has abandoned the noble ideal of fighting for what is right. Oshiomhole, prior to joining politics, would not support injustice or disobedience of court orders by any government or its agency.
Those who are close to him need to remind him of his past and bring him back to the path of rectitude. He should forthwith obey the court order in question or any other outstanding court order.
*Barrister Munir Umar, legal practitioner and a chieftain of the APC, is based in Bauchi