Some senior lawyers have reacted to the order of a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, stopping Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State from participating in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship primaries.
Why Port Harcourt?—Olisa Agbakoba(SAN)
I wondered why the action should be in Port Harcourt, as the most natural forum is certainly Benin City in Edo State.
I cannot speculate as to why the action was brought in Port Harcourt, unless the claimant believes there is an advantage. But I must assume the integrity of the presiding Port Harcourt judge will ensure fairness.
Recklessness —Solo Akuma(SAN)
It is clear forum shopping. Besides, the order is, with respect, reckless.
Courts lack jurisdiction in premature and political questions —Sebastine Hon(SAN)
For me, the paramount issue is that of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court has, in some past decisions, nullified orders of Federal High Courts, which were secured outside the states housing those courts, on the ground that such orders were the products of forum shopping.
Now, there is a Federal High Court in Benin, hence the Port Harcourt Division of that court lacks the forum competence to adjudicate on the suit.
Secondly, I strongly believe that the plaintiff’s suit is not only premature, it is predicated on arid politics. The law is well settled that courts of law lack jurisdiction to entertain both premature and political questions.
A cause of action would only arise if the primary election takes place and the plaintiff is aggrieved thereby. That’s the essence of Section 87(10) of the Electoral Act. Those orders should simply be set aside and the suit thrown out on the return date.
It’s interference in parties’ internal affairs — Lawal Pedro(SAN)
A Federal High Court order stopping Godwin Obaseki, Governor of Edo from participating in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship primary, is, in my view, interference in the internal affairs of a political party by the court.
The dispute before the court bothers on conflict between private right of Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, one of the PDP aspirants for the governorship ticket on one hand and the public right of the generality of the party, who had given a waiver to Obaseki and Philip Shuaibu, his deputy, to run on its platform.
The court should have exercised restraint in granting the ex parte injunction and grant accelerated hearing of the application for injunction since Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama is not being prevented form participating in the primary.
Suit filed ahead of primary is mischievous — Abiodun Owonikoko(SAN)
It is strange and beyond accustomed precedents for a court in a far away state to be approached by an aspirant in a state governorship party primary to stop a co-aspirant from participating in the exercise.
Screening, as a I understand it, is a pre-primary exercise. It is an exclusive internal business of a political party different from the party primary itself. Being a political prerogative of the sponsoring party, the courts do not entertain suits seeking to pre-empt or second guess the political party in that behalf.
It’s in the actual party primary that an aspirant cleared to participate has a right to subsequently press the court for redress of any grievances personal to him about the conduct or the outcome.
This may arise from a breach of the party guidelines, the constitution of the party, the Electoral Act or the constitution of the federal republic. Sylva v PDP case oust the jurisdiction of courts in the former as a pre-primary dispute, and Dalhatu’s case also makes clear that one state party primary is not amenable to the jurisdiction of a court in another state — which may implicate forum shopping and abuse of court process.
It should not be confused with a suit challenging qualification of an aspirant to be nominated for the general election after he might have emerged winner of a party primary. Any suit filed ahead of the primary solely to foreclose a co-aspirant from being presented for votes to emerge as potential party candidate will seem to be mischievous, premature and non-justiciable.
Furthermore, Soludo’s case at the Supreme Court, in no uncertain terms, decided that a court should not prevent participation of an aspirant in a party by ex parte order when the effect will be to create irreversible damage to the aspirant should it turn out that the court might lack jurisdiction to entertain the main case; or if its decision in the main case, after the opportunity of fair hearing, leads to a decision on the merit ordinarily favourable to the aspirant pressure prevented from participating in the primary.
Courts shouldn’t get involved in parties’ affairs— Gbenga Ojo, Law lecturer
In a recent decision, the Supreme Court warned that courts should not get involved in domestic affairs of the parties. In the case of APC v Lere (2020)1 NWLR (Pt 1705) 254, Bode Rhodes Vivor said inter alia: The courts will not dabble into how a member of the party is screened or why a member was not cleared by the party to contest the primaries… a dissatisfied member’s remedy is to leave the party and seek his political ambitious elsewhere”.
This pronouncement binds the judge of the Federal High Court. I am sure that he will vacate the interim injunction hopefully within seven days. The judge, with respect, was reckless.
Courts ridiculing judiciary — Monday Ubani, former 2nd Vice-President, NBA
This is very sad and bizarre in the fact that these conflicting judgements are from courts of coordinate jurisdictions. The NJC and NBA are desired to intervene immediately to stop the absurdity. They are embarrassing the people and the country. It is very shameful.
It is high time the NJC stopped courts from ridiculing itself further with these useless interim orders they are issuing right, left and centre over political cases in the last few days. One wonders what has happened to the NBA’s voice in all these absurdities.
Interesting days lie ahead — Kabir Akingbolu, member Ekiti State Judicial Service Commission
I think the order is far reaching and capable of creating a setback for PDP in the smooth conduct of its primaries on one hand and a serious premature abatement of the ambition of Obaseki and Shuaibu on the other hand.
Granted, every party member has the inalienable right to challenge certain steps of the party where the procedures laid down by the constitution of the party are not followed in a given case. However, the spate of obtaining orders and counter-orders from our courts has reached an alarming rate that every reasonable member of the society or stakeholder in the administration of justice ought to get worried.
Except and, of course, there is another order to allow Obaseki participate in the scheduled primary, which cannot be ruled out because he is likely to apply for one in another court of coordinate jurisdiction as soon as possible before the day of the primary, he may have been edged out for good.
As it stands today, he is not qualified to contest until there is another twist to these imbroglio or avoidable quagmire.
It is also hoped that our courts should start identifying the need to uphold the integrity of the judiciary above any other thing as a matter of topmost priority; otherwise, we may be heading for anarchy. In any event, interesting days lies ahead.