Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the appeal by a Governorship aspirant on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Ndutimi Alaibe, challenging the declaration of Governor Douye Diri as the winner of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) primaries held on September 3, 2019, for lacking in merit.
Alaibe, a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), is challenging the eligibility, validity and legality of Diri emergence as the PDP flagbearer.
He urged the court to void Diri’s candidature on the grounds that it was illegally, inappropriately and ineligibly procured and to declare him the winner on the ground that he complied with the eligibility and legal requirements known to law and the party guidelines for the emergence of governorship candidates.
Alaibe’s case rests on the premise that the PDP committed electoral and constitutional illegality by allowing local government chairmen, councillors, and ineligible persons to vote during the PDP governorship primaries in violation of the party’s guidelines which do not permit elected chairmen and councillors elected within 90 days to the election to vote during governorship primaries.
However, a five-man panel of the apex court led by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour dismissed the appeal as lacking in merit.
The counsel to Alaibe, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe, SAN, withdrew the appeal after the court drew his attention to the fact that the issues raised in the appeal bordered on the internal affairs of the party.
It was the position of the apex court, after an inquisition into the appeal, that it did not fall within the purview of a pre-election matter but an internal matter of a political party which it has no jurisdiction to entertain.
Adedipe then withdrew the suit and was struck out by the court after counsel to the respondents including that of the People’s Democratic Party, Emmanuel Enoedem and Governor Diri, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, raised no objection to the withdrawal.
Before heading to the Supreme Court, Aliabe had suffered defeat at both the Owerri division as well as the Court of Appeal.
Dissatisfied with the decision of the Appeal Court, Alaibe approached the Supreme Court where he prayed the court to declare him the duly elected governor of Bayelsa State.
Alaibe had earlier filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Yenogoa, seeking, among other things, the cancellation of the results of the PDP primaries that produced Diri, arguing that it was illegal and in violation of all known electoral laws, party guidelines. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was a defendant in the suit.
In the originating suit filed pursuant to Order 3(9) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019, Alaibe sought to void Diri’s emergence as the PDP candidate, saying his election amounted to a breach of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Electoral Act (2010), the PDP Constitution, and the relevant Election Guidelines.
Alaibe argued that going by the conduct of the Bayelsa State chapter of the PDP in the ward congresses with its inclusion of local government council officials in the delegates’ list, and the process for the inclusion of three ad hoc delegates, the primaries which produced Diri as party candidate amounted to illegality, and should, therefore, be voided.