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December 1, 2022

Ogun guber: Lawal out as court affirms Adebutu as PDP candidate

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA–The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Thursday, upheld the primary election that produced Oladipupo Adebutu as the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Ogun State.

The court, in a judgement that was delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, dismissed a suit that an aggrieved aspirant of the party, Jimi Adebisi Lawal, filed to nullify the nomination of Adebutu’s name to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

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The plaintiff had in the suit, challenged the delegates list that was used in the conduct of the gubernatorial primary election the party held in the state on May 25, 2022.

He contended that the list, which he said contained names of political appointees,  was not in tandem with the names of delegates that were democratically elected at the ward congresses.

Consequently, he prayed the court invalidate the outcome of the said primary election and to order the PDP to conduct a fresh one.

However, in his judgement, Justice Ekwo held that the plaintiff failed to establish his allegation that the primary election was not conducted in compliance with the 1999 Constitution, as amended, section 84(1), (2), (5b) and (8) of the Electoral Act 2022, as well as Article 25 (1a) and (2c) of the PDP Constitution.

The court held that evidence before it proved that Adebutu duly won the indirect primary election that was organised by the party and monitored by INEC, having polled a total of 714 votes.

It held that contrary to the plaintiff’s claim, the PDP, through its Ogun State Chairman, had before the primary election, tendered to the INEC, a 3-man ad-hoc delegates list that emerged from each Ward in the state.

It accused the plaintiff of attempting to use a further affidavit to remedy a deficiency in the Originating Summons he lodged against the party.

More so, the court held that evidence before it showed that the plaintiff decamped from the All Progressives Congress, APC, and joined the PDP in March 2022, and was subsequently allowed to contest the primary election. 

“I find that the plaintiff is merely playing the role of a spoiler in the affairs of the 1st defendant (PDP)”, Justice Ekwo held.

“It is not the business of the court to overrule the choice of a political party after such a candidate emerged from a democratically conducted congress.

“The plaintiff failed to discharge the burden of proof through reliable evidence. 

“I, therefore, have no reason to say that the primary election was invalid. 

“I can only see the case of the plaintiff from one prism and that is that it is a product of an afterthought and it ought to be treated as such.

“This suit is accordingly dismissed as lacking in merit”, Justice Ekwo added.

Though Adebutu’s lawyer, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, demanded a cost of N5million, the court, refused the prayer.

It will be recalled that the Supreme Court had in a unanimous decision by a five-man panel of Justices, remitted the suit back to the high court for re-trial.

The apex court faulted the high court for previously declaring that it had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit.

It held that Justice Taiwo Taiwo, who initially entertained the suit, wrongly declined jurisdiction on the premise that the issue of nomination of a candidate for an election, was a domestic affair of a political party. 

While affirming the judgement of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, which voided Justice Taiwo’s verdict, the Supreme Court, ordered the Chief Judge of the high court to re-assign the matter to another judge for expeditious hearing.