Peter Obi (left), and Bola Tinubu
The Federal High Court, Abuja Division, on September 19, 2022, dismissed a suit filed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) against Labour Party’s presidential candidate for the 2023 elections Peter Ob and his counterpart of the All Progressive Congress, Bola Tinubu.
Justice Donatus Okorowo, in a judgment, held that the suit was unknown to law and hence, described it as “an abuse of court process.” Okorowo, who said the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter, also held that the suit did not disclose any reasonable cause of action against the respondents.
“When a court finds out that a suit is an abuse of court process, the court has the right to dismiss it,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the PDP had, in a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1016/2022 sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), APC, Tinubu, Kabiru Masari, LP, Obi and Doyin Okupe respectively as 1st to 8th respondents respectively
The PDP had asked the court to compel INEC to prevent Tinubu and Obi from replacing their running mates with Sen. Kashim Shettima and Sen. Datti Baba-Ahmed respectively. The PDP is also asking the court to declare that Tinubu and Obi be disqualified unless they contest alongside their previous running mates – Masari and Okupe respectively.
In the originating summons with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1016/2022, the PDP sought an order barring the INEC from replacing the running mates of Tinubu and Obi. NAN reports that Tinubu had nominated Masari as a surrogate running mate or placeholder in order to beat the June 17 INEC deadline.
Obi had also nominated his campaign manager, Okupe, as an interim running mate. However, INEC gave a grace period of about one month to substitute their names. After weeks of consultations, Tinubu and Obi nominated Shettima and Baba-Ahmed respectively while Masari and Okupe resigned.
However, the PDP asked the court to determine if by the combined interpretation of Section 142(1) of the constitution, Section 29(1), 31 and 33 of the Electoral Act 2022, and INEC’s timetable, Tinubu and Obi are bound by the submission of Masari and Okupe respectively as their running mates.
The party also asked the court to determine if “by the combined interpretation of Section 142(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Sections 29(1), 31, 33 of the Electoral Act 2022, the first defendant (INEC) can validly accept any change or substitution of the 4th (Masari) and 7th (Okupe) defendants as running mates of the 3rd (APC) and 6th (Labour Party) defendants.”
The PDP sought five reliefs including a declaration that by the combined interpretation of Section 142(1) of the constitution, Section 29(1), 31 and 33 of the Electoral Act 2022 and INEC’s timetable, both Tinubu and Obi must be bound by their submission. The party asked the court to rule that both Tinubu and Obi will be disqualified the moment they substituted the names of their running mates.
One of the reliefs reads, “A declaration that by the combined interpretation of Section 142(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), Sections 29(1), 31, 33 of the Electoral Act 2022, the 1st defendant’s (INEC’s) election timetable, the 3rd (Tinubu) and 6th (Obi) cannot validly contest the 2023 Presidential election without the 4th (Masari) and 7th (Obi) respondents as their respective running mates.”
The PDP also based its argument on the fact that the term ‘placeholder’ is unknown to Nigerian law.
“The Electoral Act makes no provisions whatsoever for placeholder or temporary running mates. The acts of the 2nd (APC), 3rd (Tinubu), 5th (Labour Party ) and 6th (Obi) defendants in nominating and forwarding the names of the 4th (Masari) and 7th (Okupe) defendants as running mates for the 2023 Presidential elections is valid and subsisting,” the party added.