The Supreme Court on Wednesday gave recognition to a faction belonging to Governor Godwin Obaseki as the authentic candidates of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the forthcoming general elections.
Both Governor Obaseki and a National Vice Chairman of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih have been locked in a leadership battle for the soul of the party in Edo State.
While a Federal High Court in Abuja had in May last year recognized Orbih’s faction as the authentic candidates, another in Benin City, gave recognition to Obaseki’s faction.
Both have appealed the judgment of the trial court entered against them at the Court of Appeal.
The crux of the matter is who has the power to conduct the primary election for the selection of party flag bearers for the National Assembly and State House of Assembly elections slated for February 25 and March 11, this year.
The judgment which arose from a consolidation of all cases relating to the leadership tussle has put to rest anxiety as to the right persons to represent the party in the elections.
Delivering judgment in the appeal filed by Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama and others against Hon. Mathew Iduoriyekemwen and others, the apex court held that the case of the appellant was faulty as it did not emanate from the judgment of the appellate court.
In the appeal marked SC/CV/1575/2022, the appellants had sought a reversal of the judgment of the lower Court claiming it erred in law when it failed to declare them rightful candidates of the PDP in the elections.
But the apex court in its judgment delivered by Justice Centus Nweze, dismissed the appeal on the grounds that it was incompetent.
According to the judgment, an appeal must be based on issues contended at the lower court to qualify for review.
“Any ground of appeal that does not challenge issues raised at the lower court is incompetent. I enter judgment in favour of the respondents “, the apex court held.
Speaking with journalists, shortly after the judgment was delivered, Shuaibu was in court to witness the proceedings and expressed joy that the matter has been finally put to rest.
He called on all PDP members to join hands to deliver for the party in all the elections, stating that there is no winner or loser as the victory is for the PDP.
Shuaibu in urging aggrieved parties to embrace peace said that the umbrella is now widen to accommodate all.
Recall that a Federal High Court in Benin-city, Edo State, had ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to recognise and publish the names of candidates produced by Obaseki’s faction as PDP’s candidates in the 2023 elections.
Earlier, Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, in a related suit ordered INEC to recognise the candidates of Chief Dan Orbih faction as authentic candidates of the PDP for the forthcoming elections.
The parties in their various suits had asked the court for an order compelling INEC, to publish their names as the validly elected candidates of the Edo State PDP for the 2023 general election.
In his judgment, Justice S. M. Shuaibu of the Federal High Court, Benin, relying on past decisions by the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, held that only the National Working Committee (NWC) of a political party has the power to conduct party primaries.
According to him, “There is nothing before the court to show that the primaries in which the 4th to 39th defendants participated was conducted by the National Working Committee of the PDP. Rather, their primaries were conducted by the Edo State chapter of the PDP.”
The Judge further held that, “In my view, the power of INEC under Section 84 of the Electoral Act is limited to monitoring of party primary elections and does not extend to preparing or declaring the results of that election. This remains the law.
“In the light of the foregoing, the 4th defendant, INEC, cannot rely on results prepared by the first defendant, Edo State PDP.”
Dissatisfied, the Orbih’s faction appealed the judgment up to the Supreme Court, where judgment was today entered against them.
Deputy Governor of Edo State, Philip Shuaibu in his reaction, described the judgement as “no winner no loser’”.