By Elempe Dele, Edo.
The much anticipated PDP primaries in Edo State into House of Assembly, House of Representatives, and Senate have come and gone leaving behind sad tales of violence, the mundane, and then actual contenders and pretenders.
Political leaders, whip up rhythmic rhetorics that “I am the winner” in even illegal self-conducted primaries unmonitored by the electoral umpire, INEC.
The followers go into frenzies of mass excitement like a mob under the influence of methamphetamine or its associated recreational drugs and hail Sieg Heil to those fringe and morbid victories that keep one in perpetual laughter and amusement.
I must approach the issue of the primaries obliquely but with equitable dealing. As much as one will not want to accept that there were parallel primaries by followers of Governor Godwin Obaseki, it will be an implicit denial of the fact even when we felt the parallel primaries were illegal, unnecessary, and anti-democratic. It will suffice to say that the group launched an anarchic war in practical terms where a member of the Party died and others were injured with wielded guns and other illegally acquired arms. The violent insurrection started a day or two before the primaries when agents serving the will of the seditionist took upon themselves to attack an Appeal Court in Edo State, carting away materials of one of the lawyers who was involved in the case from the other side of the great divide.
Now, to the legal implication of these parallel primaries. I cannot say specifically what the support or lack of it by the National portends for both the Chief Dan Orbih’s camp and that of the governor, I can only discuss the legal implication of the strategy adopted by the governor’s camp which included flagrant disobedience of a valid court order.
Ad-hoc delegates congresses were held in that state that was monitored by INEC, the Chief Dan Orbih’s camp participated in their wisdom as required by law, but the governor’s camp didn’t because as usual, he is the ‘leader of the party in the state,’ the absolutist who is above the constitution of both the Federal Republic of Nigeria and PDP. He wrote the list of the delegates albeit illegally and took it to the Party headquarters in Abuja to be accepted as the valid list, backing orders on Ayu, the now weak Chairman of the Party. For whatever reason, it was alleged that the Party wanted to oblige him, some special delegates of the party loyal to Dan Orbih got the information and approached the Federal High Court, which has jurisdiction to entertain electoral matters, to stop the Party, INEC, Ayu…from accepting no other list apart from the one duly monitored by INEC. An order was made by Justice I. E. Ekwo on Tuesday, May 17th, 2022. (An Order of Interim mandatory injunction directed PDP and its agents, as well as INEC to recognize those duly elected ad hoc delegates elected on the 10th of May, 2022 to participate fully and vote at the forthcoming Delegates/Primary Elections in Edo State and the Special National Convention) Legally speaking, the court order paved way for the delegates who approached the court to produce the candidates of the party in the general election. The order by the court was never vacated nor was there a stay of execution.
Now, to the conundrum: How could the Governor’s camp partake in the primaries with the said list that the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja forbidden, which only has jurisdiction over such electoral matters as contained in the Electoral Act Section 84 (14): Notwithstanding the provisions of this Act or rules of a political party, an aspirant who complains that any of the provisions of this Act and the guidelines of a political party have not been complied with in the selection or nomination of a candidate of a political party for election, may apply to the Federal High Court for redress.
Instead of the camp loyal to the governor subjecting themselves to this court which has the constitutional jurisdiction to entertain electoral matters, it went to an Edo State High Court to shop for a ruling. And it was on this basis the group had the effrontery to participate, albeit contempt of court and flagrant disobedience of court order, in the primaries even as parallel participants away from the mainstream camp which was monitored by INEC in the entire 18 LGAs as mandated by the constitution. Mr. Festus Okoye, the INEC National Commissioner retaliated this in an interview on Channels TV recently when questioned by Mr. Seun Akinbaloye on the subject matter.
The PDP primaries in Edo State have come and gone, the unfortunate echoes of gunshots have been drowned into the hollow chambers of passages, and what is left in the chambers of our memories are collective regrets as it is now dawning on us that we had fallen on bad hands despite the red flags and warnings before the 2020 amalgamation. We are not dejected however, we shall face the trials of court cases going forward, and we hope and are persuaded that our requests are achieved within the chambers of justice.