By Nseobong Okon-Ekong
Abuja-based lawyer and former National Secretary of the Labour Party, Mr. Kayode Ajulo has submitted that the disqualification of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Deputy-Governorship Candidate, Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, for the Bayelsa State gubernatorial election on November 16 may not deal a death blow on the party’s quest to contest the governorship of the state.
A Federal High Court in Abuja, had disqualified APC Deputy Governorship candidate on Tuesday for providing false academic information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The suit was filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), accusing Degi-Eremienyo of telling a lie on oath. The court further ordered INEC not to recognize any nomination from the APC.
Advancing his legal opinion, Ajulo argued that, “While agreeing that the APC is in a precarious situation, however, it is important to hint that the ordeal of the APC in Bayelsa State is not a tale of unrelieved woe.”
Citing provions of the Nigerian Constitution and the Electoral Act, Ajulo noted that, “Section 187 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), says that a candidate for the office of the governor of a state shall not be deemed to have been validly nominated for such office unless he nominates another candidate as his associate for his running for the office of governor, who is to occupy the office of deputy governor.”
He further drew attention to the decision of the Supreme Court in PDP & Anor v INEC & Ors (1999) LPELR-24856 (SC) where the Court held that: “It again appears to me that if the running mate suffers the same disabilities, the gubernatorial candidate will have to nominate another running mate as the gubernatorial candidate alone is not qualified as such.”
Having established that a gubernatorial candidate alone is not qualified to participate in an election without a running mate as Deputy, the pertinent question to ask is, whether it is possible for a nomination of another running mate before the November 16 governorship election?
According to Ajulo, “By the provisions of section 31, 33 and 34 of the Electoral Act, the time for nomination of a new running mate has lapsed.
His position is supported by Mr. Joe Ukpong, an Uyo-based lawyer said, ” Disqualification by court, if it finally stands after all appeals, affects the ticket.” He added, “This is quite novel. Our electoral jurisprudence is still evolving.”
Ajulo further that the APC still has a window of opportunity. “The party may appeal against the decision of the trial court being a court of first instance. It would also file an injunction pending the determination of the appeal.
Moreso, it is the usual practice of INEC not to give credence to the decision of the court of first instance in order to give room to appeal and not to occasion loss of fund in conducting double elections.”
The Abuja-based legal practitioner referenced a similar precedence. “It is pertinent to also hint that the current Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello did not nominate a deputy governor until assumption of office.”