⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Federal Electoral Commission v. Alhaji Mohammed Goni & Anor (1983) – SC
– Cross Carpeting;
– Division in a Political Party;
– Factions in a Political Party;
– Fragmentation in a faction;
1. Federal Electoral Commission
1. AlhaJi Mohammed Goni
2. Unity Party Of Nigeria
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
⦿ LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
* FOR THE APPELLANT
– Chief F.R.A. Williams, S.A.N.
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
– Mr. Ajayi, S.A.N.
Alhaji Mohammed Goni (hereinafter called the 1st respondent) was elected as the Governor of Borno State in the 1979 general elections on the platform of the Great Nigeria Peoples Party (hereinafter called the G.N.P.P.).
The 1st respondent became a member of the Unity Party of Nigeria (hereinafter called the U.P.N.) before the expiration of his term of office as Governor. Following disagreement within the G.N.P.P. the party split into two factions; the one led by Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim and which was subsequently recognized by the Federal Electoral Commission, the appellant (hereinafter called FEDECO) and the other led by Dr. Shettima Mustapha, the faction to which the 1st respondent belonged.
The Shettima Mustapha faction does not recognise the national officers and governing body of the G.N.P.P. as registered with FEDECO and has appointed its own national officers and governing body.
The Shettima Mustapha faction held separate meetings but subsequently broke into two further groups or factions. One group or faction, of which the 1st respondent was a prominent member, was in favour of merging with the U.P.N.
The other group, headed by Shettima Mustapha subsequently merged with the Nigerian Peoples Party (hereinafter called the N.P.P.). The members of the pro-U.P.N. group of the Shettima Mustapha faction joined up with the U.P.N. en masse. And so it was that the original Great Nigeria Peoples Party (hereinafter called G.N.P.P.) broke up into two factions, namely:
(i) the Ibrahim Waziri faction, and
(ii) the Dr. Shettima Mustapha faction.
Governor Goni was a member of the Mustapha faction. Later, the Dr. Shettima Mustapha faction broke into a further two namely:
(i) the Governor Goni sub-faction, and
(ii) the Dr. Mustapha sub-faction.
1. Whether the determination of the qualification of a person for election to the office of the Governor of a State under s.166 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979 ought to be made by reference to s.62 of the Constitution or to s.64 thereof or to both?
If such determination is to be made by reference to s.62 of the Constitution whether the 1st plaintiff is disqualified from contesting election to the office of Governor of Borno State; [or] If such determination is to be made by any reference to s.64 whether all the grounds for the loss of the seat of a senator specified in paragraphs (a)-(g) inclusive of s.64(1) are capable of being applied to a candidate for election to the office of Governor?
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
1. The Supreme Court held that it was only S.64(1)(a-g) that could be referenced, and also the provisions can be applied to a Governor; the Supreme Court held for the respondents.
i. The original G.N.P.P. divided itself into the Waziri faction and the Dr. Mustapha faction. The Dr. Mustapha faction further sub-divided itself into the Mustapha sub-faction and the Governor Goni sub-faction. The Governor Goni sub-faction had therefore come into being following the original division of the G.N.P.P. into the Waziri and Mustapha factions and the further break up of the Mustapha faction into two. The proximate reason for the Goni sub-faction joining the U.P.N. was the further division of the Mustapha faction into two, but the remote reason was the original division of the G.N.P.P.
2. I would agree with the conclusion of the Federal Court of Appeal that, in the ultimate, it was the division of the G.N.P.P. into the Waziri faction and Dr. Mustapha faction which resulted in the merger of the Governor Goni faction with the U.P.N. Under section 64(1)(g) of the Constitution where a person whose election to the legislative house was sponsored by a political party, becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that house was elected he would have to lose his seat in that house. But under the proviso to the said section 64(1)(g) if his membership of the new political party occurred because – (i) THERE WAS A DIVISION in the political party which sponsored him and as a result (a) he joined the new political party; (b) he and his dissidents or faction joined the new political party;
OR (ii) THERE WAS A MERGER of two or more political parties with – (a) the political party which sponsored him (b) his own faction of the divided political party which sponsored him, he does not lose his seat.
iii. In this appeal, the division and the merger segments of the proviso to section 64, the two segments into which the proviso to section 64 can properly be divided are closely inter-twined and although the appellants were right in saying that Governor Goni relied on the merger segment of the proviso, I do not think that in deciding the case, a court can easily avoid making a reference to the division which occurred before the merger.
Governor Goni, clearly, was not caught by the mischief against which section 64(1)(g) was provided, having been saved by the proviso to that section, in that there was a merger of his own faction of the fragmented Great Nigerian Peoples Party (G.N.P.P.), with the Unity Party of Nigeria (U.P.N.), following that division. It was for the foregoing reasons that I dismissed this appeal on 23rd August, 1983 with no order as to costs as herein-before stated.
⦿ SOME PROVISIONS
Sections 64(1)(g) of the CFRN, 1979:
“A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if – (g) being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected.”;
Section 166(1) of the CFRN, 1979:
“A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of Governor if – (a) he does any act, acquires any status or suffers any disability which, if he were a member of the Senate would have disqualified him from membership of the Senate.”
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
Dealing with the second complaint, the argument of Chief Williams as I understand it, is that in the division part of the proviso to section 64(1)(g) of the Constitution appear the important words ‘as a result of’. The “division”, he argued, which a person can take advantage of in the proviso in joining another political party must be one occurring immediately before the joining of the new political party. The division occurring immediately before Governor Goni’s faction joining the U.P.N. was not, he argued, the one occurring in the original G.N.P.P., but the one occurring in the Dr. Mustapha faction of the original G.N.P.P. Had it been that Dr. Mustapha faction had joined the U.P.N., that could have been, he submitted, “as a result of” the division in the original G.N.P.P. In effect what he was complaining of, was that the division which the Governor Goni faction was given advantage of, by the Federal Court of Appeal, was not the original division of the G.N.P.P but the further division of the Mustapha faction. This is what I have referred to as fragmentation. – Aniagolu, J.S.C. FEDECO v. Goni (1983) – SC
To my mind, the ‘quarter-Governor-Goni-faction’ is none-theless a division albeit, a further division, of the original G.N.P.P. If the ‘quarter-Governor-Goni-faction’ merged with the U.P.N., the merger was none-the-less “as a result of” the division in the G.N.P.P. To argue that the membership of the U.P.N. of the “quarter-Governor-Goni-faction” was “as a result of” the division of the Dr. Mustapha faction and not “as a result of” the division in the original G.N.P.P. is to my mind, with great respect to Chief Williams, being unnecessarily semantic. – Aniagolu, J.S.C. FEDECO v. Goni (1983) – SC
The mischief which the framers of the Constitution wanted to avoid was carpet-crossing which, from our constitutional history, in the not distant past, had bedevilled the political morality of this country. They had however to allow for a situation where a political party, by reason of internal squabbles, had split into one or more factions. A split or division could arise without any fault of the members of a political party, resulting in a member rightly or wrongly, finding himself in a minority group which may not be big enough, or strong enough, to satisfy the recognition, as a separate political party, of the Federal Electoral Commission. For such a member not to be allowed to join another political party with his faction may be to place him in a position where his right to contest for political office will be lost. – Aniagolu, J.S.C. FEDECO v. Goni (1983) – SC
Such a situation is entirely different from the fraudulent and malevolent practice of cross-carpeting politicians of yester years who, for financial consideration or otherwise, crossed from one political party to another, without qualms and without conscience. Such a practice had to be discouraged by the framers of our Constitution if political public morality of our country was to be preserved. – Aniagolu, J.S.C. FEDECO v. Goni (1983) – SC
Now, for the purpose of disqualifications of a candidate to the office of Governor, the provisions of section 166(1)(a) of the Constitution incorporates the provisions of section 64(1)(g) in the former subsection. The combined effect of the two subsections is that an incumbent Governor whose election to the office of Governor was sponsored by a political party is disqualified for re-election to the office of Governor if he changes his political party which sponsored him and seeks re-election on the sponsorship of his new party unless the circumstances for the change of the political party are covered by the proviso to section 64(1)(g). – Bello, J.S.C. FEDECO v. Goni (1983) – SC