This may be the end of Governor Dave Umahi, an article written by Barrister First Baba Isa itemizing key issues in the Justice Ekwo, READ ON…
We know the facts already. We have read several legal commentaries already. Even if you are not a lawyer, you should be well versed already with the facts and law of this particular case.
It seems to me that many lawyers are already so certain that the Supreme Court will throw away the judgment of the Federal High Court ordering Governor David Umahi and his deputy to vacate their offices immediately for defecting from the PDP, the party that sponsored them to become Governor and Deputy, to the ruling APC.
Well, I’m not so sure, and I will point out why, presently.
1. First, most of the legal commentaries I have read tend to ignore the Supreme Court decision in Yahaya Bello’s case, or at best just gloss over it. But the Supreme Court will certainly not gloss over this decision.
Here, the Supreme Court made it abundantly clear that votes belong to a political party. In fact, this principle was so forcefully enunciated that Faleke, the late Audu’s running mate was not allowed to inherit the votes; even when Falake argued strenuously that the votes belonged to the late Audu and himself as candidate and running mate in that election.
2. The present case has nothing to do with Amechi’s case, a case which has been overtaken by the amendment of the Electoral Act 2010. The Yahaya Bello’s case was decided in 2016 when the Amechi’s scenario was no longer applicable. So, don’t mix up the two.
The Supreme Court decided in 2016 that votes belonged to a political party when the Electoral Act was already amended and without recourse to the Amechi’s case. So, the Bello’s case is still good and reliable precedent for the Umahi’s case. I expect the Supreme Court, when it finally gets there, to look at it.
3. In the case of NWANKWO & ANOR v. INEC & ORS (2019) LPELR-48862(CA) the Court of Appeal held that:
“… It is trite that it is only a natural person that can be lawfully declared and returned as a winner of an election. The Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) only contemplates the declaration and return of a candidate in an election and not a political party”.
I agree. But I don’t see how this negates the principle that votes belong to a Political Party. A political party cannot be declared Governor but a natural person nominated by a Political Party will be.
4. A political party cannot win election as Governor without a natural person and a natural person cannot win election without a political party. It is a political marriage solemnised by the constitution. You cannot forcefully divorce yourself from the marriage and still want to enjoy benefits accruing therefrom. This is the reasoning of the trial judge and it makes a lot of sense.
Section 177 (c) of the Constitution states clearly that one of the requirements for being qualified to be elected Governor is that a person must be “a member of A political party and is sponsored by THAT political party.”
You must be sponsored by a political party. “A POLITICAL PARTY”. Not all political parties. So, it is reasonable that once you leave that POLITICAL PARTY that sponsored you to become Governor, you have lost a key aspect of your qualification as Governor and you cannot be properly so called anymore.
5. A very very heavy weather has been made of the case of AG, Federation v. Atiku Abubakar (2007) 10 NWLR (Pt.1041) 1, 29. But in this case, the issue of who owns the votes cast in an election never came up. This is a new issue and those who think the Supreme Court will blindly follow its decision in AG, Federation v. Atiku Abubakar, might be in for a rude shock.
This time around, the Supreme Court will not just be looking at the issue of the legality of an elected member of the Executive defecting or cross carpeting but the issue of who owns the votes cast in an election will come to the fore; and if the Supreme Court holds that votes belong to a political party, as they held in the Yahaya Bello’s case, the Law Lords will very likely come to a different conclusion than the one held in Atiku Abubakar’s case; after all, the court held in this same case that defecting is “is painful, unconscionable, and immoral…”
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