The Court of Appeal seating in Abuja on Wednesday announced Eyitayo Jegede as the validly nominated candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the forthcoming governorship election in Ondo State.
The Appeal court said Justice Okon Abang erred by ordering that Jimoh Ibrahim should be named as PDP candidate.
The Appeal Court Panel comprising Justices Ibrahim Saulawa, Ignatius Igwe Aguba and George Mbaba said the lower court committed grievious error when it replaced Eyitayo Jegede with Jimoh Ibrahim without hearing from Jegede.
According to Justice Saulawa, natural justice requires that all parties are heard before judgement.
While stating that Justice Abang had no juridiction to direct the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to add Jimoh Ibrahim’s name as PDP’s candidate, Justice Saulawa said that Justice Abang’s judgment was ‘violent attitudinal disposition to rule of law’
“The tenets of natural Justice entails that a party ought to be heard prior to determination of case against them”.
The appellate court also noted that Justice Abang ordered INEC to “immediately” recognise Mr. Ibrahim who was never a party in the suit that culminated to both the June 29 and October 14 judgments.
“The Court below had no jurisdictional competence to make such order. I have no restriction in the circumstance in resolving the second issue equally in favour of the appellant”.
It said that Justice Abang “unilaterally”, raised issues that were not included by the plaintiffs, an action it said amounted to “a violent attitudinal disposition to the rule of law”.
Besides, the court said the primary election that was conducted by the State Chapter of the PDP loyal to Modu-Sheriff, which produced Mr. Ibrahim, was a nullity.
It said the law was very clear on which organ of a party should conduct governorship primary elections.
“It is worth reiterating at this point that any primary election by state chapter of a party, be it the PDP or any other party, is undoubtedly, in the eye of the law, an illegal contraption that carries with it no legal or equitable right at all. It is in its entirety a nullity”, the appellate court held.
Prior to delivery of the judgement, Justice Saulawa, said the panel was at a time, “subjected to a very intimidating and brow-beating treatment by counsel the Respondents”.
“Most regrettably, the Respondents have deemed it expedient to shoot themselves on the foot. Instead of adhering to the wise counsel of the Court to file brief within the time limit, even the extra day that was granted to them, they refused to do so.
“The consequences of the Respondents failing to file their brief by virtue of Order 18 of the Court of Appeal Rules is very obvious and we have made it clear in our judgment”.
Justice Saulawa noted that instead of filing their brief of argument, the Respondents insisted that the appellate court had lost its jurisdiction to entertain Jegede’s suit by virtue of the appeal they lodged at the Supreme Court.
“I have most critically appraised the preliminary objection by Nwufor, SAN, and I found that it is most grossly lacking in merit and it is accordingly dismissed.
“Having effectively dealt with the preliminary objection, I now proceed to determine the appeal on its merit”.
The court noted that Jegede filed his appeal on November 11, which raised seven issues for determination. The issues included whether it was proper for the high court to order INEC to jettison Jegede’s name after he had already been nominated by the PDP and his name published.
Olanipekun argued that the high court lacked jurisdiction to determine who should be the candidate of a political party.
Relying on decided case-law in Lado vs CPC, Olanipekun, stressed that the issue of nomination of candidates for an election is a domestic affair of a political party which no court has the jurisdiction to meddle into. He said Justice Abang was wrong when he held that he had the requisite jurisdiction to determine the matter.
The appellate court, in arriving at its decision, said it was necessary that it determined whether or not the appellant was denied fair hearing by the lower court. It consequently resolved all the seven issues in Jegede’s favour.
“There is no gain saying that this appeal is grossly meritorious and is hereby allowed”.