After the APC in Osun state held its congresses in October last year, a group loyal to the former governor, Rauf Aregbesola, vowed to challenge the outcome in court. The group wanted the court to intervene in what they described as unfair in conducting the ward congresses. Notably, on Wednesday, February 2, 2022, an Osogbo Federal High Court declined jurisdiction in the suit filed by the group, holding that issues relating to congresses remain a domestic affair of political parties.
What does this judgment mean for political parties and their internal democracy?
The ruling by Justice Nathaniel Ayo-Emmanuel in Osogbo was quite clear: courts should not be interfering in the domestic affairs of political parties. Political parties are guided and regulated by their constitution. The constitution of political parties is supreme regarding political parties’ internal affairs.
However, if a political party goes against its constitution, the affected members can seek redress in court.
In the case of AGI v. PDP & ORS (2016), Justice Ogunbiyi held as follows: “As a voluntary association, political parties have a right to lay down their own decisions even when they are unreasonable. They should be obeyed, or the member in disobedience is entitled to quit. The party is in its right supreme over its affairs. This must be said loudly and clearly unless it has violated its constitutional provisions, the court would not interfere.”
Furthermore, in the case of SHERIF & ANOR v. PDP & ORS on whether the courts have jurisdiction to intervene in the internal affair of a political party, it was held thus: “the courts have remained restrained in deciding matters that are within the exclusive domain of political parties such as the choice of candidates to contest political offices.
However, where the appropriate jurisdiction of the court has been invoked, the courts will not shy away from deciding that political parties must avoid arbitrariness, impunity, and illegality and must obey their constitution.”
Consequently, except for political parties bridging their constitution with impunity, the court will not entertain any matter regarding its internal affairs. Hence, in the case of the recent APC primary elections in Ekiti, seven aggrieved aspirants seek to challenge the outcome of the primaries in court. If they fail to establish that the party’s constitution was disregarded or bridged in any form, the court is likely to strike out their case.