Loyalists of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State are upbeat following the verdict of the Federal High Court, Benin which ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) to recognize and publish the names of candidates produced by his faction of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP for the forthcoming 2023 elections.
Recall that INEC had Tuesday last week, published the names of candidates of the faction of the party loyal to Dan Osi Orbih, former state chairman of the party, and national vice chairman, South-south zone of the party, dampening the mood in the governor’s camp.
The electoral umpire had hinged its recognition of the factional candidates on “court order”.
In what however had turned out to be a pyrrhic victory, the court, in its judgement on Tuesday, delivered by Justice Saleh Musa Shuaibu, granted all the prayers by the plaintiffs, loyalists of the governor.
These included the party’s candidate for Edo South Senatorial District, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen; Sunny Aguebor for Oredo Federal Constituency, and the candidate for Akoko Edo Federal Constituency, Kabiru Adjoto, among others.
Among the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs, was an order of court mandating the fourth defendant, INEC, to publish the names of the plaintiffs as the validly elected candidates of the Edo PDP for the 2023 general elections.
The Judge noted that based on past decisions of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, the state chapter of a political party is not empowered by law to conduct party primaries, and that only the National Working Committee (NWC) of a political party has the power to conduct party primaries.
According to Justice Shiaibu, “there is nothing before the Honourable Court to show that the primaries in which the 4th to 39th defendants participated was conducted by the National Working Committee of the PDP. Rather, their primaries were conducted by the Edo State chapter of the PDP.
“In my view, the power of INEC under Section 84 of the Electoral Act is limited to monitoring of party primary elections, and does not extend to preparing or declaring the results of that election. This remains the law.
“In the light of the foregoing, the fourth defendant, INEC, cannot rely on results prepared by the first defendant, Edo PDP”.