The Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, is asking a Federal High Court in Abuja to dismiss a suit seeking his disqualification for nominating his campaign manager, Doyin Okupe, as his placeholder.
Last week, the Peoples Democratic Party had asked the court to bar Obi from replacing Okupe as his running mate.
The PDP had also prayed the court to prevent the All Progressives Congress Presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, from replacing Kabiru Masari as his running mate.
In the suit, the PDP also asked the court to disqualify both Obi and Tinubu if they replace Okupe and Masari as their running mates.
But both candidates have replaced the placeholders. Obi picked Yusuf Baba-Ahmed as his running mate, while Tinubu went for Kashim Shettima.
Responding to the originating motion, via a notice of preliminary objection, dated July 18, Obi’s counsel, Mr Alex Ejesieme (SAN), is seeking an order of the court striking out or dismissing PDP’s suit “for want of requisite jurisdiction”. The objection by Obi to the PDP’s prayers is based on four grounds.
“The plaintiff’s suit is speculative, conjectural in nature and devoid of hard facts, thereby divesting this court of jurisdiction to adjudicate over same,” read the first ground.
Next, Obi’s counsel said that the PDP “has not disclosed any reasonable cause of action to activate the jurisdiction” of the court.
Obi’s counsel added that the PDP’s suit “is not situated within the jurisdictional confines of the Federal High Court”.
“The plaintiff’s suit is a gross abuse of court process,” Obi’s counsel added.
— PDP’s suit —
The PDP had sued INEC, APC, Tinubu, Masari, Labour Party, Obi and Okupe last week over the use of placeholders and choice of running mate.
The PDP had held that the term ‘placeholder’ is unknown to the Electoral Act and that Okupe had admitted publicly that he was a mere placeholder.
In the suit (Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1016/2022), the PDP is asking the court to determine if by the combined interpretation of Section 142(1) of the constitution, Section 29(1), 31 and 33 of the Electoral Act 2022, and INEC’s timetable, Tinubu and Obi are bound by the submission of Masari and Okupe as their running mates.
The party also wants the court to determine if “by the combined interpretation of Section 142(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Sections 29(1), 31, 33 of the Electoral Act 2022, the first defendant (INEC) can validly accept any change or substitution of the 4th (Masari) and 7th (Okupe) defendants as running mates of the 3rd (APC) and 6th (Labour Party) defendants.”
In all, the PDP is seeking five reliefs from the court, including a declaration that by the combined interpretation of Section 142(1) of the constitution, Section 29(1), 31 and 33 of the Electoral Act 2022 and INEC’s timetable, both Tinubu and Obi must be bound by their submission.
The party asked the court to rule that both Tinubu and Obi will be disqualified the moment they substitute the names of their running mates.
One of the reliefs reads, “A declaration that by the combined interpretation of Section 142(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), Sections 29(1), 31, 33 of the Electoral Act 2022, the 1st defendant’s (INEC’s) election timetable, the 3rd (Tinubu) and 6th (Obi) cannot validly contest the 2023 Presidential election without the 4th (Masari) and 7th (Obi) respondents as their respective running mates.”