Fact Check: Is Segun Sowunmi the candidate of PDP in Ogun State?
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Fact Check: Is Segun Sowunmi the candidate of PDP in Ogun State?

Aug. 17, 2022

Fact Check: Is Segun Sowunmi the candidate of PDP in Ogun State?

Admin By Adewale Adewale
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In the last two days, news item has gone viral claiming Segun Sowunmi, a governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Ogun State, emerging the candidate of the Party, ahead of Hon Oladipupo Adebutu.

Adebutu has been recognised by the National Working Committee of the Party and issued a certificate of return, and by extension, recognised by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

All headlines flying around suggest Segun Sowunmi as the candidate of the PDP. It was however observed that all the reports have the same introduction, at least, the first two paragraphs. They all relied on an interpretation of a lawyer.

Interestingly but disappointingly, many big names in the media; Arise TV, TC Continental, Galaxy, etc, not to talk of national newspapers like New Telegraph and other local online media, also quoted the same source of interpretation.

Some other media also relied on Facebook posts on the timeline of the aspirant. Unfortunately, Sowunmi never claimed to have been declared the governorship candidate of the Party by the Court, in all his social media postings.

The news items, obviously syndicated, was a fallout of an appeal filed by Sowunmi in the case number AB/267/2022 which was heard and disposed off by Justice Biodun Akinyemi of an Ogun State High Court sitting in Abeokuta, the State capital.

Segun Sowunmi was the applicant in the suit with the trio of PDP, the NWC of PDP and Hon Ladi Oladipupo Adebutu as the respondents in the case filed on the 19th of April, 2022.

Fact-check by HorizonTimes revealed that contrary to the media reports, the case before the court was never to determine the candidate of the Party and the lower court never ruled on who is the candidate of the Party and who is not.

A Certified True Copy of the ruling of Justice Akinyemi dated 19th day of May, 2022, revealed that the Applicant in the suit (Segun Sowunmi) never formulated any issue for determination to the effect that he be declared the candidate of the party or prayed the court to declare him as so.

Indeed, Sowunmi was only in court to challenge the Sikirullai Ogundele-led State Working Committee and its validity to conduct the governorship primaries in the State.

According to the originating summons sighted by HorizonTimes, the only issue formulated for determinations is "Whether considering the oath of the office in the second schedule to the Constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party, 2017 (as amended), and the provision of sections 14(1), 15(2)(E), 16(1), 24(1)(2)(B) of the constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party, 2017 (as amended), the executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party, Ogun State Chapter have not shown bias, conflict of interest and breach of trust by contributing money to purchase nomination form for the 3rd Respondent (Adebutu) for the seat of the Governor of Ogun State?"

The Applicant also filled four prayers before the court. None of the prayers asked the court to declare Segun Sowunmi the candidate of the Party.

The prayers read, "An order of the Honourable Court dissolving the entire Executive of the 1st Respondent (PDP) in Ogun State from State to Ward level with immediate effect.

"An order of this Honourable Court directing the 1st Respondent to appoint or set up a caretaker committee to oversee the affairs of the 1st Respondent from State to ward level in Ogun State for the purpose of the State Congress."

In the alternative, he also prayed "An order of the Honourable court barring the entire members of the Executive Committee from State to ward level from participating, conducting or supervising any Congress in Ogun State slated to commence from the 23rd of April, 2022.

"An order of the Honourable court directing the 1st Respondent to appoint the 3-man ad-hoc ward delegates for the sole purpose of the electing the gubernatorial candidate in the State Congress slated for the 21st of May, 2022."

When the matter came up on 17th May, 2022 the court suo motu, raised the issue of its jurisdiction to entertain the suit and lawyers were allowed to address the court.

Peter Ogah who represented Sowunmi in court argued that the case was not a pre-election matter as defines by section 285 (1) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but simply a complaint. He further argued that in the event that the court find the case to be a pre-election matter, the court has jurisdiction and should assume same. He sighted the popular Amaechi vs INEC (2007) as one of the authorities.

I.O Abdulhameed who represented both the PDP and NWC in his own submission maintained that the court lacks jurisdiction as the issue raised was a pre-election matter.

According to him, section 84(14) of the Electoral Act, 2022, vests exclusive jurisdiction on Federal High Court to hear such matters. He also sighted section 285(14) of the Constitution to support his argument that it was a pre-election matter.

Muyiwa Obanewa who represented Adebutu also adopted Abdulhameed arguments sighing a number of decided cases.

In determining the case, Justice Akinyemi on the 19th May, 2022, ruled that he had no difficulty in affirming that the matter was a pre-election matter which the court had no jurisdiction to entertain.

He said, "I have no difficulty therefore, in finding and holding that this dispute is a pre-election matter. Consequently, this court has no jurisdiction to entertain it, by virtue of section 84(14) of the Electoral Act, 2022.

"Also by section 285(9) of the 1999 constitution, the suit should have been filed within 14 days from the 29th March, 2022 when the offending statement of the 3rd Respondent was said to have been made, but it was not.

"The Law is equally settled, that the court has no jurisdiction to pry into the internal affairs of a political party, save where it involves a clear breach of its own Constitution.

"In all, I find and hold that this court has no jurisdiction to entertain this suit. Accordingly, it is struck out."

Dissatisfied with the ruling of the lower court, Sowunmi approached the court of appeal in Abuja with n appeal number CA/IB/243/2022 where he formulated three grounds of appeal for determination.

None of the three grounds of appeal asked the presiding Justices Chidi Nwaoma Uwa, Abba B. Mohammed and Usman A. Musale, to declare Sowunmi as the candidate of the Party and no such issue was raised before the appellate court.

Verdict

  1. From the foregoing, the prayers brought before the two courts were never to determine who is the candidate of the PDP in Ogun State and who is not.
  2. The prayers of the complainant were never heard on their merits by the lower court, same was determined and dismissed by the appellate court. (Details of this follows.)
  3. The Court of Appeal never declared Segun Sowunmi as the candidate of the Party as erroneously reported, the implication of the judgement did not confer the candidacy of the party on Segun Sowunmi.
  4. Until otherwise ruled by any competent court of jurisdiction, Ladi Adebutu remains the candidate of the PDP in Ogun State as uploaded on the INEC database.
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