Supreme Court Rules PDP Has Power to Exclude Sylva

The end of the road finally came yesterday for the embattled former Governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, in respect of the governorship tussle in the state.

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal filed by Sylva challenging the decision of the Peoples Democratic Party to discountenance the primary he won in 2011 with regard to the 2012 governorship election in the state which was won by Seriake Dickson.

Based on that latter primary, Dickson had contested and won the governorship election in February.
Sylva said last night that he had accepted the verdict.

In a unanimous judgment, the apex court held that it was within the exclusive preserve of a political party to choose its candidates for election.

The court further held that the 2011 primary election conducted by the PDP had become irrelevant since no election was held in 2011.
In the lead judgment written by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, the court held that the Federal High Court which summoned PDP to come and show cause why the primary that produced Seriake Dickson should not be stopped had no jurisdiction to hear the suit.

The Supreme Court consequently struck out that suit, saying that even the apex court itself did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case.

The court reasoned that since Sylva had abandoned the results of the primary election which he won in January 2011 by choosing to participate in the one held on November 19, 2011, he should not turn around to seek to validate the January primary election.

"Furthermore, the primary that the 1st Respondent (Sylva) won in 2011 fades into significance since the elections for which the said primary was conducted were cancelled," Justice Rhodes-Vivour said.

According to him with the cancellation of the elections of April 2011 the primary election conducted in January 2011 is no more of any relevance.

He said:"In sum, Sylva is/was no longer the PDP's candidate for gubernatorial elections held on 12/2/12 simply because he did not take part in the primary for that election."

In the judgment, the Supreme Court cleared the air on the power of political parties to exclude members from taking part in their primaries.

Justice Rhodes-Vivour said: "The right to nominate or sponsor a candidate by a political party is a domestic right of the party.
"A member of the party has no legal right to be nominated /sponsored.

"A court thus has no jurisdiction to determine who a political party should sponsor.

"Nomination or sponsorship of a candidate for election is a political matter solely within the jurisdiction of the party, and this is so because the sponsorship or nomination of a candidate is a pre- primary election affair of the party.

"The PDP has the right to bar Sylva, or any of its members from contesting its primary if it so desires."

The court further held that only those who took part in the primary could challenge the conduct and that Sylva having not taken part could not challenge the last primary.

“But where the political party conducts its primary and a dissatisfied contestant at the primary complains about the conduct of the primary the courts have jurisdiction by virtue of section 87(9) of the Electoral Act.

In a statement by his media aide, Doifie Ola, the former governor was quoted thus: “As a democrat, he accepts the decision of the Supreme Court”. However, he said he considers the decision of the apex court as “dark for democracy and justice in Nigeria”.

According to the statement, “Sylva believes today’s ruling is only the judgment of man and, certainly, not justice. He says after this, everyone involved in the Bayelsa State governorship matter shall still face the judgment of history and the judgment of God. Neither history nor God will condone impunity”.

Sylva thanked his followers in Bayelsa State and lovers of democracy across Nigeria and beyond, especially in the state who he said held out despite intimidation, threats, and pressure to abandon the path of democracy and justice.

The former governor extended special gratitude to members of the Bayelsa State Caucus of the National Assembly, who he said stood firm on democracy, as well as members of the Nigerian Governors Forum and senior citizens from across the country.

He commended the media and the human rights community for speaking out on the side of truth and justice, stating that he remains confident that he still has a long and bright political career ahead of him.
Supreme Court Rules PDP Has Power to Exclude Sylva