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On the 1st day of December, 2010, the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory per the Honourable Justice L.H. Gumi, Chief Judge, delivered its judgment on the Originating Summons filed by one Sani Aminu Dutsinma asking for reliefs consisting of 3 declarations and an order. Sani Aminu Dutsinma is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Katsina State in North Western Nigeria.

In a well reasoned decision, the Honourable court which was moved to declare that the provisions of Article 7.2 (c) is subsisting and binding on the party, its organs and members, so held but refused the prayers to declare that the North is entitled to bear the presidential ticket of the PDP for 2 consecutive terms – 2007 and 2011 respectively as the South did in 1999 and 2003. The court also refused the relief asking for an order compelling the PDP and all its organs to adhere to the provisions of Article 7.2 (c) on the ground that it was a political question within the domestic arena of the PDP.

A major implication of the judgment is that being a declaratory judgment, it has no force of execution. Lawyers have pointed out that on the basis of the Nigerian Supreme Court decision in the case of GOVERNOR OF GONGOLA STATE v. TUKUR it is not a judgment that can be enforced as it merely declared the rights of the parties. In the circumstances, even if there is an appeal, as Mr. Dutsinma has threatened to file, there is nothing for the court to stay and so the party can go on with its primaries as planned.

The Honourable court held on page 22, lines 1 – 6 of the judgment “… that a call upon the court to order the 1st Defendant to sponsor a candidate from the North in the spirit of Article 7.2 (c) is clearly a political question which only the relevant organ of the party can decide either at its primaries or by a decision of any organ of the party so empowered to so choose.”(Emphasis supplied).

The implication of this on the president’s aspiration is that the party is at liberty to decide how and by what means the zoning and rotation of offices will be conducted. The decision by the court which held that zoning and rotation is a domestic matter of the party must therefore be construed in the light of Article 12.72 (j) and Article 12.73 which gives the powers to make electoral regulations to govern conduct of elections to party offices at all levels and regulate procedure for selecting party candidates for elective offices which decision is binding on all organs and members of the party. The guidelines earlier issued by the NEC are therefore binding on all, old, new and returnee members.

The earlier guidelines issued by the National Executive Committee (NEC) throws open the party primaries to all members of the party whether from the States of Northern or Southern Nigeria. This was despite the protestation from some Northern leaders who insisted that the office be zoned to the “North” on the basis of what they claimed was an earlier agreement contained in the minutes of a meeting of an Enlarged National Caucus meeting of the party (PDP) held on 2nd December, 2002. The minutes of the meeting which was presented to the court was rejected as being inadmissible not having been signed and therefore of dubious origin.

The Honourable court went further to declare that even if the minutes of meeting was signed, it would still be worthless as the “Enlarged National Caucus”, which the plaintiff claimed decided took the decision was unknown to the constitution of the party and therefore non-existent. This decision has finally laid to rest the status of the so-called agreement to zone the presidential ticket to the North. The decision is therefore a victory for constitutionality and due process. An important implication of Article 7.2 (c) of the PDP Constitution which recognizes both zoning and rotation on the basis of which Mr. Dutsinma approached the court is that no section is permitted to keep the same position in perpetuity as it must move from one unit to the other (rotation) and the zoning must be on the basis of the units recognized by the constitution in Section 2 (2) and 3(6), that is, States and Local Government Areas and not North and South as that will be a constitutional impossibility. All that said, the indispensable – sectional, religious and regional - has become the insufficient power.

The equity of the contest by President Goodluck Jonathan is therefore glaring as the suffering masses of the people of the Niger Delta who provide more than 80% of Nigeria’s foreign earnings have been denied the opportunity of providing the presidency until the coming of Dr. Jonathan. Denying him the right to contest for the presidency would therefore be unjust and inequitable and would most likely have been violently resisted by the youths of the Niger Delta with grave implications for the unity of Nigeria.

From whichever perspective the decision is considered, it is indeed a victory for Nigeria’s democracy and unity. The judgement embedded the last rites over the Northern, or rightly put the Mallam Adamu Ciroma´s consensus candidate. This is even more so the presiding judge is a Muslim Northerner and not a Southerner or Northern Christian who would have been accused of regional bigotry.

Ekiyorbomode A. Edotimi, writes from Germany.

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