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POLITICAL PARTIES AND THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE CANDIDATES -THE NIGERIAN EXPERIENCE

Project, Thesis Title: Political Parties and the Right to Choose Candidates -the Nigerian Experience


CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1  BACKGROUND OF STUDY

In a democracy, the popular vehicle for acquisition of political power is through political parties. There is no room for independent candidacy in Nigeria. However, S. 221[1] of the Constitution provides thus:

No association other than political party shall canvass for votes for any  candidate  at  any  election  or  contribute  to  the  funds of any political  party  or  to  the  election  expenses  of  any  candidate at any election.

  1. 31 (1)[2] of the Electoral Act states that:

political  party  shall  not  later latter  than  60days  before  the  date  appointed  for  a  general election under  the  provisions  of  this Act   submit to  the  Commission  the  prescribed  forms  the  list  of  the candidates  the  party  proposes  to  sponsor  at  the  elections

The  above  provision  effectually  removes  the  possibility  of  independent  candidacy  in  our  elections  and  places  emphasis  and  responsibility  in  election  on  political  parties.  The  primary  method  of  contesting  for  elective  offices  is  therefore  between  parties  as  provided  in  S.221  above. It  is  only  a  party  that  canvasses  for  votes  and  also  sponsors  candidates  at  an  election;  it  follows  that  it  is  a  party  that  wins  an  election. A bad or good candidate may reduce or improve the  prospect  of  his  party  in  winning  but  at the  end  of  the  day  it  is  the  party  that  wins  or  loses  an  election.

Candidacy according to the Black’s Law[3] Dictionary means an individual seeking nomination, appointment or election to an office, award of membership  or  like  title  or  status.  Thus a candidate  for  an  election  become  a  “nominee”  after being  formally nominated.  In  the  case  of  Tshoho  V  Yahaya[4]  Justice  Muhammad  had  this  to  say  on  Candidacy :

Nomination is  an  act  of  suggesting  or  proposing  a  person  by name  to  an  election  body  as  a  candidate  for an elective office. This certainly  form part of the preliminary matters before actual  election is conducted which means  that  the person  nominated  has  not  yet  come  to  occupy that  office,  so  he  is  not  yet  to  be caveated  and  not  ripe  to  be  contested  if  he  jumps  the  hurdle  of  nomination his next herculean task is  to  possess  the mandatory  qualifications  which  will  admit  him  to contest  the  election.  Provided  he  stands  for  the  election  he  can  now  be  properly  petitioned  before  the  tribunal or  he can  himself  petitioned  others on any of the grounds upon which petitions  can  be  filed  to  the  tribunal  as  provided under the decree.

This  principle  was  also  reiterated  in  the  court  of  Appeal  case  of  Ifeanyi Chukwu Okonkwo v INEC[5].  Also in the case of Enemuo v Duru & Sons[6] where the court of appeal stated thus:

it is also obvious that the issues of candidature, nomination,  screening, clearance  and  contesting  as a candidate are very paramount and  significant  and which must precede the winning of any  election.

In other words, without  such preliminaries  having  been conducted,  it  is  impossible  that  any  candidate  would  have  been  eligible  for  an  election  much more  to  have  been  a  subject  of  consideration  under  S. 285 of  the 1999 Constitution

However, in the case of  Balonwu & ors  v  Ikpeazu[7]  the  court  of

Appeal stated thus:

it is trite that once a political party has presented a candidate  and  the  candidate  is  screened and cleared the  political  party  has  no  further  duty  to  perform  in the election  process.

ln the  case  of  Amaechi  v INEC[8]  it  was  stated  that:

Once a political party proposes a person as a candidate, the political party cannot withdraw such candidature without  stating  a  cogent  and  verifiable reasons not  later than  sixty  days  to  the  election.

This  is  in  line  with  the  provisions  of  S 34 (1) & (2)9 of  the  Electoral  Act  but  by  the  provisions  of  S.33  of  the  2010  Electoral  Act  there is  no  more  room  for  cogent  and  verifiable  reason.  S. 33 provides in consequence:

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

In  summary, the  writer  has  tried  to  point out  the relationship  of  political  parties  and  candidates  in  Nigeria. This  is  quite  pertinent  because  there  is  no  room  for  independent  candidature  in  Nigeria  elections. The  political  parties  act  as  a  platform  or  foundation  for  candidates  to  pursue  their  thirst  or  hunger  for  power. But  the  political  parties  also  do not  have  arbitrary  power  to  give  or  withdraw  such  candidature  but  are  subject  also   to  law  as  creation  of the  law.

1.2    STATEMENT  OF  THE  PROBLEM

In spite  of  the  guidelines  as  provided  in  the  Electoral  Act, Constitution  of  the  Federal  Republic  of  Nigeria and  Political  Party  Constitutions, most  Political  Parties  in  Nigeria  tend  to  conduct  their various  primary  election  without  recourse  to  these  laws  regulating  the  nomination  and  substitution of  candidates and  this  has  resulted to  the  problem  of  intra-party  conflict  whereby  members  of  the political  party  find  it  difficult  to agree and   nominate  a  particular  candidate that  will  contest  for  the   general election.

There  is  also  the  problem  of  God fatherism,  which  has  eaten  deep into  our  political system. Parties  are rarely without  God  fatherism  who tend  to  control  and  manipulate  the  affairs  of  the  party.

In  the  course  of  this  work  the  writer  will show   how  political  parties ignore  these  laws  as provided  by our  Constitution, Electoral Act,  and  the  various  Political parties  Constitution .

1.3   OBJECTIVE OF STUDY

The  aim in  this  work  is  to  study  the  practice  of  political parties  as it  relates  to  their  nomination  of  candidate  during  election  and  to  consider  their powers  and  the  limitations  therein  and  to  what  extent  they  are  allowed  by  law  to  make  substitution of  candidate  they  nominated.

1.4     SCOPE OF STUDY

This  work  will  be  limited  to  the  selected  cases  from  selected  parties  that  were  litigated  and  court pronounced decisions

1.5     SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY

This work will be useful to political parties who conduct their  various primary election without been mindful of the provisions of their   party’s Constitution.   Also for students doing research work, it will help   to educate  them on the position of the law  as it relates to the nomination of candidates by political parties. This work will also be useful to politicians and intending politicians who a times conduct their political activities without recourse to the provisions of the law it will help to educate them more on the need to adhere strictly to their parties Constitution in other to avoid internal crisis and also pre –election matters

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