March 28, 2022
Lawyers are prone to confusing laymen and the general public by using their technical language of the profession, best of which is eloquently delivered in Latin. So let me table this in simple plain English even though I am a lawyer.
Not very often does the highest court of the land get decisions wrong but it’s becoming the trend in Nigeria where political or election matters are involved.
Jegede -v- Akeredolu on the governorship elections in Ondo State was decided today the 28th day of July 2021. The main issue before the Apex court was to interprete the Constitution of the Federal of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) as to whether there had been a breach, which was beyond the power of the Election Tribunal and skirted around by the Court of Appeal sitting in Akure.
Quite a simple question, did the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the ruling party, breach the Constitution when a sitting governor acting in capacity as the APC interim/acting Chairman formally sponsor the APC candidate Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and his deputy for Governor and Deputy Governor, in accordance with the law?
All seven judges seem to have agreed that indeed there was a clear violation of the Constitution.
However, four judges insisted that the said sitting Governor and interim Chairman should have been made a party to the proceedings and since he wasn’t, they dismissed the Appeal.
On the other hand, three judges were of the view that there was a violation of the Constitution and consequently the action of the political party in breach (APC) made the sponsorship a nullity in spite of the absence of the sitting governor being joined as a party, and therefore the Appeal should have been allowed.
The case is now over and a final decision has been reached, so that is the end of the legal battle. But the argument will continue to linger for years to come on whether the sitting governor who doubled as the interim/acting chairman ought to have been joined as a party or not.
Argument in favour – because the Supreme Court by a majority of 4 against 3 said so.
Arguments against joining – there are quite a few:
- A sitting governor is under immunity under the Constitution and could not have been joined.
- The APC agreed that the sitting governor was acting (as agent) for the political party who were already joined as a party and they accepted the alleged acts he commissioned on their behalf.
- What could the agent have told the Court that Principal was unable to disclose? How could the agent have assisted the Court further that made his absence the pivotal point of deciding a landmark constitutional matter?
- The Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) expressly states the parties who are to be included in an Election Petition and it does not include all agents of the principal.
It is the Supreme Court of the land from which finality emanates. However in my humble submission as an ordinary concerned citizen, I can only conclude that law was turned on it’s head.
As a politician, I conclude that if the Appeal had succeeded the ramifications for the ruling party APC would have been catastrophic, because it would potentially affect all previous and current sponsorships made by the sitting governor & interim/acting Chairman.
As a lawyer, the judgement is an absurdity and cannot stand the test of time. Yet again another sad day in our democratic experiment.
Gbenga Akinmoyo (Barr.)
writes from Idanre