By Osehobo Ofure
The countdown to the Edo APC primaries scheduled for June 22, 2020 has begun across the length and breath of the state, as party stakeholders try to fish out and safeguard their membership cards that will work for them to pick the flagbearer for the main elections in September.
With the date of the party primaries fast approaching, naturally, concern has also heightened with the many law suits about the conduct of the primaries and the role of some of the main actors.
The major public concern though is how far the gazette of the state governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, now disqualified from the APC primaries, can go to disrupt some political parties from conducting their lawful primaries.
But a gazette is not a law as such but an official publication of a law. Lawyers have said that
Gazette officially publicise a law or other material by the state in its government gazette. The argument is that there is a difference between a Law and a gazette and this is the procedure for their coming to be.
For a law they say the procedure details who can propose a law, to who, when and why. This procedure is limited to the parliament and for Edo, it is the House of Assembly. The law starts as a bill introduced in parliament where lawmakers debate it and pass it into law. When a bill is passed by the Parliament, it becomes a law with the Governor signing it.
They say when the Governor has signed the bill into law, it is now an Act of Parliament, meaning that a law has been enacted. The Edo State government Gazette will thereafter officially publicise the law. A law that is published in a gazette is that which was enacted as an Act of Parliament.
In Nigeria, the Governor as the executive does not have the powers ro enact a law and gazette it in a democracy. This is because the gazette is a government newspaper or the official publication of the government for purposes of disseminating information. It is a way of officially informing the general public that the state has passed a law and its contents.
Observers have also looked at the sundry litigations which now litter the judicial landscape and wonder if they will not impact on the timing of primaries. Ironically, the courts are treating the cases this week.
There is the pending case marked FHC/B/CS/48/2020 which is filed by two expelled members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Kenneth Asekhome and Matthew Iduoriyeknmwen who was also a governorship aspirant against the APC, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Inspector General of Police.
Three guber aspirants of the party, namely Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Dr Pius Odubu, and Mr Osaro Obazee sought to join the suit as the fifth, sixth and seventh defendants through a motion on notice.
As a result, the court at the resumed hearing last week restrained itself from further hearing of the case and ordered the transfer of all court processes to the Court of Appeal for hearing due to the application for stay of proceeding filed by the APC. It hopes to resume our June 17, 2020, though Iduoriyekwmhen is no longer a member of the APC.
There is also the suit No. HAB/05/1/20 at the Edo State High Court sitting in Benin City, which also comes up on Tuesday 17th June 2020, to determine whether Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is a member of the All Progressives Congress or not.
The suit was also filed by a former APC member Pastor Kenneth O Asekhomhe, with three others and is asking the court to determine if the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu (defendants) have not breached the party’s constitution for giving Ize-Iyamu waiver to contest in the forthcoming governorship primaries in the state. And the same Asekhomhe has ceased to be a member of the APC.
Nevertheless, stakeholders are also confident that none of these schemes can stop the APC from picking it’s flag bearer for Edo 2020. They refer to similar episodes before now like in Kogi state where the State High Court dismissed an ex-parte application to stop the governorship primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The court at Lokoja held that it cannot stop the primaries by order after hearing the suit by a governorship aspirant with Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the National Chairman of the APC; Chairman of the Kogi Governorship Primary Election see committee, Chairman of the APC Governorship Primary Election Appeal Committee and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as defendants.
In the originating summons of the suit No HCL/34/2019 the applicant argued that the exclusion of his name from the governorship aspirants’ list of the APC was a breach of his right and that the conduct of the screening exercise by the party was in breach of the party’s constitution.
He, therefore, urged the court to direct that he be included as one of the aspirants, contesting the primary election and an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from conducting the primary without including his name.
But the Judge at the court after listening to the applicant declined the application to stop the conduct of the governorship primary election. He said, “I have perused the application vis-à-vis the affidavits in support and of urgency along with the written address of counsel. I have refrained from raising the issue of jurisdiction suo moto at this stage to prevent an entry into the arena. Let me save that until the motion on notice”.
“However, the issue to resolve is whether a court can restrain by an order of injunction the holding of a primary election by a political party. This is my view and I so hold that the holding or conducting primary election by a political party cannot be stopped by an order of injunction.
The judge supported his position with a decision of the Court of Appeal where it was held that, “Courts have no power to grant orders of injunction restraining the conduct of party primaries. Also, Section 87(10) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, provides as follows: “nothing in this section shall empower the courts to stop the holding of primaries or general election or the processes thereof under this Act pending the determination of a suit”.
From this vantage point, it is almost certain that the APC will not be having any hurdle to deal with as June 22, 2020, the date it has since approved for the event draw near. The party is ready and so are its members. The die is cast!#