By Umar Ardo
On Friday May 9, 2014 in a unanimous judgement delivered by Justice Kumai Bayang Aka’ahs, Supreme Court of Nigeria dismissed my appeal on the PDP gubernatorial primary election in Adamawa state in 2012. By this judgment, the apex court affirmed that I was not an ‘Aspirant’ for the governorship and therefore had no locus standi to institute a case against whatever irregularities committed in the process of conducting the primaries. Why am I not an aspirant after buying, filling and submitting Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms, and after being screened and cleared by the party, and with my name on the ballot paper, the court said because I did not participate fully in the primaries.
Secondly, in a supporting argument, the court said that I obtained Expression of Interest Form but did not pay for it. Now this is a very serious allegation – if really I did not pay for my forms, then indeed I have no right to raise an issue on the conduct of the primaries. Thirdly, the court raised an issue of court procedure which it ruled that my lawyers did not follow and therefore rendered the case incompetent.
Now these three are issues of facts, law and procedure. As a ‘proverbial lay man’ in the legal profession, I won’t be able to discuss law and court procedure, but I know the facts of my case. It is a fact the court asserted that I did not participate fully in the primaries, and so cannot complain on the primaries. What is ‘participating fully in the primaries’, the court did not say. But in the first place, where did the court get the idea that I did not participate fully in the primaries when all the parties in the suit ab initio are agreed that there were only two contestants in the primary elections – myself and Governor Nyako – and that I was defeated, and the issue of participation was never in contention? The answer is that the trial court brought it suomotu, i.e. all by itself without getting counsels to address it. I appealed against this infraction at the Court of Appeal and won. Yet without any cross-appeal on the matter, the Supreme Court astonishingly reintroduced the matter in which it claimed I did not ‘fully participate’ in and therefore have no right to complain.
Two of us went through the processes from ‘A’ to ‘D’. In the conduct of ‘E’, that is electing the 3 ward Ad hoc delegates, the provision of the Party Guidelines was breached in that Delegates’ Nomination Forms were not sold and the elections did not hold. Rather, the party along with my fellow ‘aspirant’ sad down in the comfort of the Government House and drew up a list of 678 of the Governor’s supporters and submitted as electedAd hoc delegates and asked that in the morning we should assemble at the election venue for the purpose of conducting item ‘G’ – i.e. the Primary Election. I objected, insisting that conducting item ‘E’ in accordance to the Guidelines is a condition–precedent to proceeding to item ‘G’.I then threatened that if they proceeded to ‘G’ without rectifying ‘E’, I will proceed to court. And that was exactly what happened – they proceeded to item ‘G’ and I proceeded to court.
But at the end of the day, with this decision of the Supreme Court, the gamut of our courts refused to entertain my suit. For the trial court, its ground was that I did not participate in the primary election, an issue brought by the court soumotu. For the Court of Appeal, its ground was that I do not qualify as an aspirant as defined by the Supreme Court in other previous cases, and therefore by the doctrine of stare decisis I cannot be imbued with locus standi to be heard by the court. And for the Supreme Court, even with my name on the ballot, I did not ‘fully participate’ in the primaries and therefore lack the right to be heard.
Also, the Supreme Court added that I did not pay for my Expression of Interest Form which further disqualifies me from being a bonafide aspirant. But where did the Supreme Court get the idea that I did not pay for my forms? The answer is from the 1st Respondent’s statement of defense. Other than the fact that this was not an issue in the appeal for determination (because I paid all my fees and the receipts are attached in my petition before the court), how come the court would see this false claim in the Statement of Defense but failed to also see in the same Statement of Defense the averment that only I and the 1st Defendant contested the primaries in which it claimed I was defeated? Clearly, the court merely chose what it wanted to see and left what it did not want to see. In the end, I was not heard.
The Supreme Court’s Judgment in my case is fundamentally faulty. Ithink it was the late Justice Oputa who once commented that the Supreme Court is supreme not because it is infallible; it is supreme because its determination is final. The erudite jurist may well have had my case in mind for making the comment. Although we are bound by this judgment of the Supreme Court, the judgment by itself is not beyond criticism. It fails to address the issues put forth for determination. It is a very poor and confused judgment. It goes against the spirit of the law; it contradicts previous judgments of the court; it is bias and selective; it is low in logic and intellect, and is a huge miscarriage of justice not only against me but also against thousands of PDP members in Adamawa state who were denied the right to participate in the gubernatorial nomination process of their party in the October 2011 Primaries. The judgment unwittingly winds back the hand of the cloak in entrenching internal democracy in Nigeria’s party politics. Its substance is of little value both to jurisprudence and to our polity.
To all intents and purposes, the Supreme Court is a three-in-one-court – first and foremost, a Court of Justice; then a Court of Law; and a Political Court. Ideally (at its best), its judgments should imbed the cause and course of these three elements. However, this judgment is empty in all – it has neither advanced the course of democracy, law nor justice. Instead, by the finality of its decision, it simply compromises democratic nomination process, basically abrogates the provisions of the law and unkindly metes grave public injustice on the society.
Dr. Umar Ardo is on firstname.lastname@example.org