VEXED ABSURDITIES AND COMPLEXITIES IN THE EVOLVING POLITICAL AND LEGAL DRAMA BY THE INEC IN IMO STATE:
The global village has remained stunned and shocked and worried on the dangerous and disastrous legal and political drama involving the Okigwe South Federal Constituency of Imo State. It is thoroughly shocking because the ELECTORAL COMMISSION ( THE INEC) , had in a well televised live programme, issued to the Hon. Chike Okafor, the current Hon. Member with a CERTIFICATE OF RETURN after a prolonged silence occasioned by the confusion resulting from dubiously flawed electioneering processes in the affected Constituency.
And it has become bewildering and debasingly ridiculous as the same ELECTORAL COMMISSION ( THE INEC ) yet again , issued a fresh CERTIFICATE OF RETURN to the Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba, the candidate of the ACCORD PARTY in the said election for the same Constituency.
This has remained a legal and political puzzle until the deserving revelation that one of the ASPIRANTS in the disputed APC primary election for the House of Representatives for the affected Constituency, had gone to Court, obviously questioning the propriety or otherwise of the said primary election, citing constitutional and statutory breaches. This was before the privilege of AUTOMATIC TICKETS to all the APC returning Distinguished and Honourable Members of the National Assembly, Abuja Nigeria, which the Hon. Chike Okafor had benefited from leading to his overwhelming endorsement through the ballot box for a re-election.
It is noteworthy that the second beneficiary in the confusion, the Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba was amongst the array of candidates declared defeated by the INEC in favour of the Hon. Chike Okafor. What happened thereafter?
It was established that the APC upon the successful prosecution of the challenge of the defective primary, had no valid candidate. The Court held that from the records and facts grounding the judgement, the APC had no candidate for the said election deserving of political advantages. And consequently, the Court held that the next person with the highest number of valid votes be issued with the CERTIFICATE of RETURN. This is the puzzle about the Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba!!!
Furthermore, it should be emphasized that the Hon. Chike Okafor was not part of this suit ; was not joined as a party up till judgement except even the surprise winner currently, the Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba ( former winner and holder of the APC ticket before Automatic return tickets ) and the APC as the first and second Defendants / Respondents. This revelation entangles the confusion much more!
1). The original suit leading to these chains of actions was against the APC in the presumed return in favour of the Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba.
2) The substance of the injury was the purported defective primary organized by the party against the lady litigant.
3). The litigation affected the aspirants of the APC, excluding none, involved in the primary election been complained against or challenged. And therefore, replacement or substitution flowing from the purportedly defective primary remains inconsequential.
4). The Hon. Chike Okafor was not directly involved in the dispute, but he is indirectly affected as a participant in the activity for which the action was predicated.
5) . The APC was purportedly alleged in the challenge as not having conducted a primary election in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended as well as the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended. The APC inherits the trauma and disaster associated with any declared defective primary, including the innocent beneficiary.
6). The primary election, including the return therefrom, becomes the res ( subject matter) at all times, whether it is in favour of the Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba or the Hon. Chike Okafor. This is the foundation as a pre-election matter, simpliciter!!!
7). And if the primary election as allegedly raised becomes established as defective, all rights and privileges drawing therefrom, remain invalid in law.
8). The victory or success in an election remains for the political party, not the candidate. This suggests negatively, that a candidate cannot benefit from the loss and defeat or default or disadvantage of a political party in any circumstance as the candidate draw existence, rights and privileges from the political party.
JURISDICTION / COMPETENCE OF THE TRIAL COURT IN THE CHALLENGE:
The Constitution, supra and the Electoral Act, supra established that in all challenges pertaining to the internal activities and actions of a Political Party , including the conduct of primaries, an aggrieved person, on grounds of procedure or infringement on his/her fundamental rights, can conveniently and competently challenge such infraction or infringement or violations in a litigation either at the Federal High Court or a State High Court.
This therefore , represents that either of the High Courts as classified, can competently adjudicate on the dispute. The challenge of the jurisdiction and competence of the High Court of the FCT cannot succeed therefore!
REMEDY FOR THE HON. CHIKE OKAFOR:
RIGHT OF APPEAL , INCLUDING THE BENEFITS OF TEMPORARY RELIEFS:
The appreciation of the confusing circumstances has been offered through the uncommon industry and research and dexterity and brilliance and commitment of Barr. Kissinger Ikeokwu, with the greatest respect and sense of responsibility.
It has become established that the legal challenge is a pre – election matter with dangerously pre-meditated end purposes in wicked conspiracy against the Hon. Chike Okafor.
Drawing from avalanche of records, including the erudite submissions of Kissinger Ikeokwu Esq, the political quagmire is redeemable through the right of appeal or leave to appeal by the Hon. Chike Okafor. Productively, it would be advisable in the most safest approach, to seek the intervention of the Court of Appeal through leave to appeal since the Hon. Chike Okafor was not originally involved, but seeking inclusion as a necessary party. The law is that all necessary parties ought to be joined in a dispute in Court where the ultimate position of the Court ( judgement) would affect their interests negatively, however remote.
And upon a successful filing of the appeal, the applicant / appellant can seek for temporary reliefs in STAY OF EXECUTION pending the determination of the appeal. It should be noted further that the leave for appeal can be filed together with the application for reliefs without violating or running against the rules.
Obviously, the Hon. Chike Okafor, with the greatest respect and sense of responsibility, goofed in not carefully applying from the beginning, to be joined as a necessary party through a Joinder application. This is thoroughly unpardonable!!!
The arrogance of political party leadership in defrauding members through dubiously machined system has been exposed and ridiculed.
The obvious criminality and dishonesty involved in the administration and management of the political parties in Nigeria is alarming. And therefore, responsible and credible personalities should be recruited for the business and activities of the political parties.
Morestill, not minding the self-centeredness and other selfish political purposes, including the sustenance and defence of social prejudices and inherent deficiencies, these chains of negative activities constitute potent threat to the fledgling democracy in Nigeria. This is, no doubts, a sad commentary, sour revelation and indeed,sore note on the democratic experiment in Africa generally, and particularly in Nigeria. And therefore, the challenge calls for the vigilance and defence of democrats beyond Imo State, globally!!!
And therefore, the next dispensation would experience much more transparent and credible processes of the selection or election of candidates across the political parties in Nigeria.
Conclusively, the evolving political drama, will no doubts, enlarge and beautify the jurisprudential and constitutional development of the legal system. This will gloriously advance the recourse to Constitutionalism in the fledgling democracy in Nigeria.
Let Truth and Constitutionalism prevail always !!!!
Temple Okonji Esq.
May 15 , 2019.