Illegality of PDP's Disqualification of Timipre Sylva


In recent weeks, the Nigerian nation â€' space has been beleaguered by brazen intrigues and a suffocating obsession of a section of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with the eerie connivance and covert encouragement and inducement of the Presidency)

 with what was, hitherto, a hidden agenda behind the breakneck speed with which the anti-Sylva faction wants to prevent incumbent Governor Timipre Sylva from contesting the Bayelsa State gubernatorial elections on the platform of the PDP.

Following a gale of unconfirmed reports on President Goodluck Jonathan's alleged surreptitious bid to remove Gov. Sylva from office, Nigerian at home and in the diaspora expressed horror about the incredible rumors that the President of Nigeria should make himself a party to, or allow his high office to be associated with, such dishonorable manipulations and subversions of the Electoral Act and the Nigerian constitution which, by his oath of office, he solemnly swore to preserve, protect and defend.

Jonathan's role in the unfolding Bayelsa gubernatorial election saga is nothing but shameless. Enjoined by his oath of office to uphold the laws of the land, Jonathan is expected to hold the scale even between the contending political forces and interests within his own party. That he has decided to abuse that role by picking a cheap quarrel with Governor Sylva, smacks of a betrayal of trust and shows the extent to which even the PDP constitution has been subverted.

After petitioning the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to stop the primaries scheduled for next Saturday, November 19, 2011, Sylva filed a motion ex parte against the PDP in the Federal High Court in Abuja seeking injunctive reliefs. As at the last instance, Justice G.O. Kolawole fixed Tuesday, November 22 nd as the next court date and extended an invitation to the PDP, which the party must honour within 72 hours of being served with the said motion, or show such reasonable and just cause why the plaintiff should not be entitled to the reliefs sought in the motion.

The facts of the case are easy to understand. The governorship primaries were duly held in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State on 9th January, 2011 and at the end of that exercise (which was observed by INEC officials), Timipre Sylva emerged the winner, having scored majority of the valid votes cast. understands that in a letter dated January 24, 2011, the PDP subsequently submitted Sylva's name to INEC as its governorship candidate in Bayelsa State as required by Section 31(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010.

The gubernatorial election which was scheduled to hold on 15th April, 2011 was later postponed in five states - Bayelsa, Cross River, Kogi, Adamawa and Sokoto. INEC eventually announced that the governorship election in Bayelsa State will be held in February, 2012, but did not call for fresh nomination of candidates by political parties. It was thus with a sense of shock and utter bewilderment that Sylva learnt from paid newspaper advertorials that the PDP will be conducting fresh governorship primaries in Bayelsa State on 19th November, 2011, despite the fact that Sylva's nomination had already been forwarded to INEC as the PDP candidate for the governorship election.

According to Section 33 of the 2010 Electoral Act, (as amended): 'a political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted pursuant to Section 32 of this Act, except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate.'

The rationale for this particular safeguard is quite meaningful and important. It is not in dispute that Gov. Sylva is neither dead; nor has he withdrawn his candidature to contest the Bayelsa State governorship election on the PDP platform. By using tendentious and disingenuous arguments to conduct a fresh governorship primary in Bayelsa State, the PDP State Working Committee (SWC) is in clear violation and subversion of Section 33 of the Electoral Act, making the emergence of any other gubernatorial aspirant from the exercise, null and void.

The Wakili Momud-led SWC obviously has a strange and subnormal predilection for hypocrisy. It adopted a cunning stratagem in the nature of secret review meetings and retreats involving predetermined groups of duplicitous speakers as though there were no guidelines for electing the party's flag bearer in the elections. Doubtless, the SWC never troubled its head about what it set out to do by trying to foist Jonathan's choice, Hon. Seriake Dickson as the PDP candidate for Bayelsa State.

The entire process was totally flawed. And this is so by reason of the fact that everything, including their thinking caps, had to be subordinated to their gnawing obsession with how to prevent Gov. Sylva from seeking re-election. Otherwise, they would have known that the choice of the PDP candidate for the gubernatorial election as contingent upon adherence to the provisions of section 32 and 33 of the Electoral Act is settled law.

As Lord Denning said in one of his memorable pronouncements upon the law: "If an act is void, then it is in law a nullity..... Every proceeding which is founded on it is also bad and incurably bad. You cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stay there. It will collapse": see Macfoy v. United Africa Co Ltd 1961 3 W.L.R. 1405 at page 1409. (emphasis added) An act that is null and void amounts to "nothing," being deemed in law not to exist or not to have taken place at all.

In conclusion, all the hateful machinations that have led to the disqualification of Gov. Sylva have been at the instance of President Jonathan. The President can no longer lie and hide behind the PDP; his dishonorable role in the unfolding saga, is now an undeniable fact which has been advertised in a flourish of trumpets, including the work of the divided SWC and other related PDP panels. They are therefore a nullity: the disqualification of Sylva from seeking re-election as the PDP flag bearer in the February 2012 election is patently null and void. Its nullity and illegality can be rested on the grounds set out above in sequential order.