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Executive Defection: Independent Candidacy To The Rescue

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It is common ground that under the present constitutional arrangement in Nigeria, independent candidacy in an election is expressly outlawed. A community reading of the proviso to section 40 and section 221 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, buttress that only registered political parties are authorised to canvass for votes for a candidate in an election.
Put tersely, a candidate in an election must be sponsored by an INEC registered political party.
This present position of the law (no independent candidate in an election), has thrown up confusion in the polity leading to diametrically opposed or divergent views about who owns the votes cast in an election especially in relation to members of the executive arm of government, who may choose to decamp after being elected into office on the platform of a political party.
Throughout the gamut of constitution, there is no express provision barring or prohibiting an elected member of the executive arm of Government from decamping.
This is unlike what is expressly obtainable under the provisions of sections 68(1)(g) and 109(1)(g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) where an elected member of the National Assembly or State House of Assembly respectively is (subject to recognised exceptions therein) liable to vacate his seat if he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which he was elected.
Answering the query to whom does the votes cast in an election belong has therefore become very problematic.
Some argue that the votes belong to the political party because, among other things, it is the party (its logo not name or photograph of the candidate) that is voted on election day. It is the exclusive constitutional preroga-tive of the party to sponsor candidates in an election.
On the contrary, others contend that votes cast in an election belong to the candidate because the party does not go for screening of candidates and the Certificate of Return is issued to the candidate in his name and not in the name of the political party.
They further argue that the Certificate of Return is issued to a named candidate of a political party (for instance, issued to Prof of APC as the winner) and not for the party (for instance, issued to Prof for APC as the winner).
All the sides of the argument are attractive and carry forceful convincing logic.
No person can win an election if he is not sponsored  by a political party. No party can win an election if it does not have a candidate in an election.
This is like Siamese (thoracapagus con-joined) twins situation or resolving the query of seniority between the egg and chicken (which came first).
Even the courts are also divided on the matter of who owns the votes in an election where an elected member of the executive arm of government defects to another political party following from the types of judicial decisions that emanate from the lower superior courts of record lately.
It is thus settled that it will only take the Supreme Court to decide the matter conclusively on a final appeal.
Even at that, opinions will continue to be divided if the constitutional provi-sions remain the way they are presently couched and if the Constitution continues to outlaw independent candidacy in an election.
To break this serious deadlock, it is strongly suggested that the Constitution be amended to allow independent candidacy in an election. That way, the present nagging debates about the owner of votes cast in an election will be laid to rest permanently.
With this proposed constitutional amend-ment in favour of independent candidacy, if a person contests an election as an independent candidate, the argument as to who owns the votes will never arise. The votes surely belong to him.
Where on the other hand, a person is a sponsored candidate of a political party, it will no longer be open for that person to claim that the votes belong to him and not to the political party on whose platform he contested and won the election.
Given the present quagmire, independent candidacy is “a win win situation” and it is consistent with the right to freedom of association enshrined in section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, which provides as follows: Every person shall be entitled to assembly freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any association for the protection of his interests.
The right to freedom of association includes not only the right to dissociate but also the freedom to be alone (independent).
We call on our legislature to do the needful and save all the huge verbal expenditure and juristic ink being wasted on a matter that has a simple solution.
A new normal is possible!

By: N.O. Obiaraeri
Obiaraeri resides in Owerri.

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2023: Southern PDP Leaders Consider Fresh Option

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Leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Southern 17 states have begun move to ensure that the presidential ticket is secured by an aspirant from one of the three geo-political zones.
In the alternative, they are also looking at a northerner with strong roots in the South.
The plan, according to sources, is to have a second strategy or an Option B, as it has become obvious that the party leadership will not yield to the demand for the presidential ticket to be specifically zoned to the South.
The Southern leaders are moving to ensure that their delegates vote only for either a particular southern aspirant or to adopt a northern candidate, who is not from the far North.
The strategy of the southern PDP leaders behind this plot is to ensure that the outcome of the PDP primary produces a win-win situation for the South, irrespective of where the candidates come from.
A chieftain, who spoke on phone, said: “We want to ensure that the South converts the disadvantage of the PDP refusing to zone the presidential position to the South in line with the rotation arrangement in the party’s constitution becomes a benefit to us.
“We will work to ensure that the South decides who the presidential candidate is, even if he is not from our zone.
“Southern delegates may come together and choose a northern candidate who has strong roots in the South. He must be somebody who has a close affinity and filial relationship with us. He must be somebody who understands the challenges facing the South and can run a government that is based on equity, justice and inclusiveness, and knows what it is to suffer injustice or the pains of the minority.”
“It is the reason why we will not support aspirants from the far North. We will rather support an aspirant whose zone has not produced any of the two positions in the Presidency. An ideal candidate for the PDP is somebody from either the South or the Northern minority.
“It is the only way we can show that without having a southern candidate; we can have a president who believes he owes the South and that the support of the southern delegates is instrumental to his victory. That means that if the South plays its card very well, it can produce a southern candidate from the North.”

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Buhari To Determine Malami,Other Returning Ministers’ Fate – Lai Mohammed

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President Muhammadu Buhari will decide the fate of those members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) who made a u-turn on their political ambitions and continue to serve in the current administration.
Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who disclosed this Wednesday to newsmen after the FEC meeting at the State House, Abuja, said he will need to confirm from the president the status of the returning ministers on whether or not they have been reabsorbed into the cabinet.
He said: “The  question about ministers returning or not going, I think you need to give me more time so that I can tell you exactly what the situation is. Right now, I need to cross check. I need to confirm again from Mr President what the situation is. You see the final decision on who is going, who’s coming back, who’s not going lies with Mr. President.”
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige; his Women Affairs counterpart, Dame Pauline Tallen; Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timpre Sylva, had earlier rescinded their decision to contest for elective offices in 2023.
Malami was physically present at Wednesday’s Council meeting, while Tallen and Sylva attended the meeting virtually from their various offices in Abuja.
Ngige is said to be away on official engagement in Durban, South Africa, where he is attending the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) global conference on Child Labour.

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2023: Ganduje Refuses To Endorse Amaechi For Presidency

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Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State has refused to endorse the former Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, for the presidency come 2023.
Amaechi visited Kano on Wednesday as part of his consultations ahead of the All Progressives Congress’ presidential primary.
The former minister had resigned from President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet to pursue his presidential ambition under the platform of the APC.
At the meeting, with other APC stakeholders present, Ganduje said Kano as a “swing state, will continue to swing.”
He added that Amaechi would know where the state eventually swung to at the right time.
TheTide source gathered that Amaechi, who had told the governor that the people in the APC already knew where Ganduje’s loyalty was, added that he was in Kano to convince him that he was the most qualified among the aspirants.
Our source recalled that when Amaechi visited the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, he was equally not endorsed as the governor told him former Governor Bola Tinubu was their rallying point.
Ganduje is also known to be an ally of Tinubu, who is also aspiring for the Presidency.
Meanwhile, Amaechi said he was more qualified than Tinubu, noting that the former Lagos governor had never been a minister, and even as a lawmaker, Tinubu only served for a few months.
He equally noted that he was more qualified than Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, adding that while Osinbajo was a commissioner in Lagos, he was already a Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly.

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