The Peoples Democratic party (PDP) appears to be running into fresh troubled waters over what constitutes elected delegates to vote at the party’s primaries at all structural levels and the national convention.
A legal practitioner, Alaowei E. Cleric, in a statement titled: “PDP’s definition of elected delegates: what the laws actually say,” noted that if the PDP does not trade with caution, the party may run into serious crisis of protests and legal sanctions.
Alaowei E. Cleric observed that “Nigeria’s electoral system is facing a serious legal crisis as the federal lawmakers shut themselves in the foot by hastily drafted that vague Electoral Act, 2022 (as amended).”
He stated that “Section 84(8) of the Act did not contemplate unelected delegates to vote at the party conventions and congresses. The section, Cleric said, specially provides that: “A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall clearly outline in its constitution and rule the procedure for the democratic election of delegates to vote at the convention, congress or meeting.
He noted that the intendment of the framers of the Act is that any political party who wants to adopt indirect primary must provide in its constitution or rules, a procedure to elect delegates who will be qualified to vote at the party primaries. Alaowei E. Cleric declared that “already PDP has a constitution which clearly outlined the procedures to vote for all its delegates to the Congresses and conventions.
“Articles 15(1) & (2) (e), 18(1) & (2) (a) & (c), 25(1) & (2) (c) and 33 provide for Ward, LGA, State Congresses and the National Convention as well as their functions.
“These elected party officials are the delegates to the various conventions and congresses as contemplated by the Electoral Act, 2022.”
The legal practitioner emphasized that just as the Electoral Act mentioned “delegates” to vote at party primaries, the PDP Constitution also referred to its elected party officials and the ad hoc as delegates. He cited Article 25(5)(a), 6(a) and 7(a).
Cleric attempts to clarify the confusion. According to him: “is there anything like statutory delegates in the PDP Constitution or the Electoral Act? The answer is no.” he explained that Section 84(8) only referred to the eligible voters at the party primaries as “delegates”. “In the same vein, the PDP Constitution only recognised officials, amongst others, as delegates.
“Thus, section 67(2)(k) of the PDP Constitution defined delegates to mean “Elected or nominated representatives of the Party at any level of the structures of the Party.” There’s nothing like statutory delegates both in the Electoral Act and the PDP Constitution. The word “statutory delegate” is just a mere generic name used by Nigerians to differentiate ad hoc from other elected delegates,” Cleric argued.
The legal practitioner also considered whether PDP National Working Committee (NWC) members, Zonal Party Executive members, State Working Committee members, LGA Party Executive members and the five Ward Executive members of the Party are delegates? “The answer is in the affirmative. The word, “Delegates” did not only refer to the ad hoc delegates,” he said.
He further looked into the controversy of whether ad hoc and National delegates are the only Delegates of the Party elected for the purpose of voting at the Party primaries. Cleric emphasized that the answer to the above question is provided under Articles 15(2) (e), 18(2) (a) & (c), 25(2) (c) and 33(2), (3), (4) & (5). According to him, “by the provisions of the Party Constitution in the foregoing sections under reference, the functions of these Delegates inter alia are to elect local government chairmanship candidate, House of Assembly candidate, National Assembly candidate, governorship candidate, presidential candidate, etc.”
Cleric contended that the above compendium suggests that “any decision of the Party to exclude the other elected delegates from voting at the various Party primaries will spell doom for the PDP. Such will only amount to an unlawful exclusion of eligible voters which will cost the party of its victory if being challenged by the disenfranchised Delegates.”
He declared that “the decision of the NWC is contrary to the provisions of the Party Constitution which is superior to every decision-making organ of the Party and same is having binding force on all members and organs of the Party.” He cited Article 2 of the Party Constitution.
Cleric, therefore, advised the PDP NWC “to immediately correct the blunder it’s about to commit.” He warned that some of the aggrieved or unlawfully disenfranchised delegates may go to court and that will spell doom for the fortunes of the Party in the general elections in 2023.