The Bayelsa State gubernatorial race has taken an unexpected turn as Timipre Sylva, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the November 11 poll, faces a fresh legal challenge. The Incorporated Trustees of the Trustfield Empowerment Initiative has brought a case against Sylva in the Federal High Court in Abuja, along with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), questioning the eligibility of his running mate, Joshua Maciver.
The plaintiff’s argument centers around Maciver’s criminal record and the implications it has on his ability to serve as a running mate. The Initiative contends that Maciver’s jail term for a criminal offense is still ongoing, making him ineligible to hold the position. The lawsuit further questions INEC’s decision to permit Maciver to become a running mate to Sylva despite his ongoing prison sentence.
The legal basis of the case hinges on constitutional provisions. Sections 175(1), 182(1)(d) & (2)(c), and 187(1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly stipulate that individuals convicted of criminal offenses with sentences of imprisonment, without a Presidential Pardon, are ineligible to be recognized or listed by INEC. The Initiative argues that Maciver falls within the scope of these provisions due to his prison sentence and, therefore, should not be considered a valid running mate for Sylva.
The Initiative’s stance is that Maciver’s recognition and listing as the Deputy Governorship candidate to Sylva in the 2023 Bayelsa State Governorship Election is illegal and violates the constitution. They are seeking an order of perpetual injunction to prevent INEC from recognizing Maciver as Sylva’s running mate, effectively challenging the legitimacy of Sylva’s candidacy due to the disputed running mate.
This legal challenge introduces a new layer of complexity to the Bayelsa gubernatorial race, as it questions the eligibility of a key member of Sylva’s campaign team. The case prompts a closer examination of the constitutional criteria for running mates and the consequences of fielding candidates who might not meet those criteria. As the legal proceedings unfold, the outcome of this case could have a significant impact on the electoral landscape in Bayelsa State and potentially influence future political contests as well.