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It was reported in the news last week that a group filed asuit at a high court in Kaduna, with a prayer that the court compels Kaduna state governor, Nasir El-rufai to contest in the 2023 presidential election.
The northern-based group, the Nassiriya Organisation headed by a zonal vice chairman of the All Progressive congress (APC), Garkuwa Babuga, said the group approached the court after the governor declined their request to contest the election.
Speaking with journalists at the weekend, Baguda argued that the governor was the best candidate based on “his track records of achievement.”
This move informed the question: Can a court compel anyone to contest an election?
What the Law says:
Section 131 of the 1999 constitution states the qualifications to contest for the position of the president.
It reads, “a person shall be qualified for election to the office of the President if, (a) he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth; (b) he has attained the age of forty years (now 35 years); (c) he is a member of a political party and his sponsored by that party; and (d) he has been educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent.”
This means that anyone, including El-rufai may contest for the number one political office in the country, if such a person is a citizen by birth; is 35 years and above; and is sponsored by a political party. Having satisfied the other requirement, El-rufai could contest in the 2023 presidential election only if he is sponsored by his political party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), or any other party registered with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
WHAT THE APC CONSTITUTION SAYS
Article 20 (iii) (f) of the APC constitution states that a person can only emerge as the party’s candidate through nomination and nomination for a presidential candidate “shall be through direct or indirect primary election to be conducted at the appropriate level.”
Neither the county’s constitution, nor the electoral act, nor the constitution of any of the political parties recognises a candidate picked by a court.
Speaking on the report, a lawyer based in Ogun state, Mr. Kayode Akinsola argued that a court cannot compel anyone to contest an election. He dismissed the move by the Nassiriya group as “clandestine politicking”
He said, “Sections 131 and 132 of the constitution mentioned the qualifications and the general process of the Presidential Elections, no law vests any right on a third party to compel an individual to run for an election. It is alien to our jurisprudence, not even the electoral Act or INEC.
“It shows the level at which our people have become mean in their clandestine politicking”
This is not to vilify the group who made the request as every person is entitled to their constitutional right to freedom of expression. Mr. Akinsola buttressed this when speaking with PLATFORM TIMES. He said “anyone can bring any prayer to the court, it is left to the court whether to grant or otherwise.”