Is it legal for a candidate who was nominated and supported by a political party to switch parties without vacating the seat he currently holds on behalf of the sponsoring party? NKEM OKORO claims that if Zamfara State Governor Dr Bello Matawalle tries to do so, he will face serious legal consequences.
On Friday, April 2nd, 2021, the Daily Trust Newspaper published a storey titled “APC Extends Registration As Matawalle Set To Join Party.”
The aim of this article is to examine the legal ramifications of the governor of Zamfara State’s alleged planned defection from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressive Congress, given the circumstances under which Dr. Bello Mohammed Matawalle was elected governor.
Dr. Bello Mohammed Matawalle was appointed governor of Zamfara State by the Supreme Court of Nigeria, and any action taken by him in contravention of the Supreme Court’s judgement and order would be not only unconstitutional but also unethical. The All Progressive Congress (APC) did not contest the May 2019 election in Zamfara due to a Supreme Court order, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidates were all declared winners of the various elective positions in the state. According to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the governor of Zamfara State must be a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, not the All Progressive Congress.
Though the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is silent on the issue of a sitting governor defecting from the party in which he was elected to another, one assumes that the courts in Nigeria will put an end to this recurrent issue of governor defection if the opportunity to do so is given to them. When the occupants of such seats defect from the party that elected and supported them to contest the gubernatorial election in Nigeria and on whose platform they won elections as candidates of the said party, a court of law will declare the office of the governor and deputy governor of any state vacant.
Section 221 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, as amended, reads as follows:
No entity other than a political party can canvass for votes for any candidate in any election or contribute to a political party’s funds or a candidate’s election expenses.
Although interpreting the provisions of Section 221 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has held that independent candidacy in elections is not permitted in Nigeria, that, in reality and in accordance with Section 221 of the Constitution, the party that sponsors a candidate in an election wins the election because a candidate cannot contest an election without being sponsored by a party, and that, in reality and in accordance with Section 221 of the Constitution, the party that sponsors a candidate in an election wins the election. In an election, votes are thus obtained on behalf of a political party. See Faleke v INEC (2016) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1543) 61 for more information (P. 173, paras. D-F).
It is undeniable that Dr. Bello Mohammed Matawalle was nominated and endorsed by the Peoples Democratic Party to run for governor of Zamfara State in May 2019. (PDP). This clearly means that the governor of Zamfara State cannot leave the party that nominated him and supported his election as governor without facing legal consequences. The legal consequences can only be determined by a court of law in a case properly brought before it, in accordance with section 6(6b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, which provides for the court’s judicial powers in all matters between persons, or between government or authority and any person in Nigeria, as well as all actions and proclivities.
In light of the planned defection of the governor of Zamfara State from the PDP to the APC, the Peoples Democratic Party has a right over who occupies the governorship seat in Zamfara State, and is thus entitled to remedies properly sought before a court of law in the unlikely event that the governor defects. The latin adage “ubi jus ibiremedium” applies to the facts and circumstances of this situation. It’s worth noting that “jus” refers to the legal authority to do or demand something, while “remedium” refers to the right of action or the legal means for recovery, as well as the declaration or assertion of that right. To put it another way, the maxim assumes that where the law grants a right, it also grants a remedy, which must be based on a legal right. Bello v. A.-G., Oyo State (1986) 1 NWLR 828; Thomas v. Olufosoye (1986) 1 NWLR (Part 18) 669; Bello v. A.-G., Oyo State (1986) 1 NWLR 828; Thomas v. Olufosoye (1986) 1 NWLR (Part 18) 669.
However, in pursuing this remedy, one must take into account the provisions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Constitution, as well as the Court’s judicial powers. It’s worth noting that, unlike section 68(1g) of the Constitution, which allows a member of the National Assembly to vacate his seat if he defected to another party before the end of his term, the Constitution did not provide for the removal of a governor from office due to defection to another party.
Section 188 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Constitution allows for the governor’s removal from office, but not for defection to another political party. Section 189, on the other hand, provides for the governor’s or deputy governor’s term of office to be terminated in certain circumstances, which do not include defection to another political party.
The big question is whether the constitution is conclusive on how a governor or deputy governor is removed from office, or how a governor’s office is terminated. The answer to this question will be determined by judicial interpretation of sections 188 and 189 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Constitution. The writer believes that sections 188 and 189 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Constitution are insufficient in determining the grounds for a governor’s removal from office, particularly by a court of law.
The organic law or ground norm of the people is usually referred to as a country’s constitution. It is the creation and legitimacy of all state institutions derived from the formulation of all laws. It is the nation’s unifying force, allocating rights and imposing obligations on those who are subject to its operations. As a result, a nation’s constitution is a very important composite document, and its interpretation is subject to recognised canons of interpretation recognised by law and designed to enhance and sustain the reverence with which constitutions are held around the world. [Shosimbo v. State (1974) 10 SC. 91. A.-G., Abia State v. A.-G., Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Ifegwu (2003) 15 NWLR (Pt. 842) 113; Nafiu Rabin v. Kano State (1980) 8-11 SC 130; Balewa v. Doherty (1963) 2 SCNLR 155; Federal Republic of Nigeria v. If
The Constitution could not have intended for a candidate nominated by a political party and elected by that party to be able to defect to another political party without vacating the seat he currently holds on behalf of the party that sponsored his election.
Dr. Bello Mohammed Matawalle, the governor of Zamfara State, should reconsider his plans to defect to the All Progressive Congress (APC) from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), because there could be serious legal consequences, given the Supreme Court of Nigeria’s current judgement and order. (National Geographic)
NKEM OKORO, a human rights activist and constitutional lawyer, writes from Garki, Abuja.
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