Crisis looms as APC, Buni dare court

Yobe state governor Mai Mala Buni

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) appears to be walking the tight rope following recent pronouncement by the Supreme Court on the Ondo governorship election which affirmed the victory of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, KEHINDE OSASONA writes.

There has been multiple brick-bat amongst members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over the legality or otherwise of the elongation of the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) committee of the APC.

Trouble started this time when President Muhammadu Buhari, in clear contravention of the constitution of the party, approved the extension of the tenure of the party single-handedly without consulting the National Executive Council (NEC).

Although many of the APC chieftains were not on the same page with the President over his action, but ‘mum’ is the name as none could muster the courage to challenge his decision, but merely discussed it in hush tones.

However, a group christened Concerned All Progressives Congress (APC) Stakeholders has dared the president, stating he lacked the power under the constitution of the party to grant tenure extension to the committee.

Speaking through its Spokesperson, Abdullahi Dauda, the group disagreed with the elongation to the tenure of the Buni committee, stating that APC as a political party was governed by the constitution and could not be run as a one-man show.

The caretaker committee was inaugurated on June 25, 2020, to run the affairs of the party after the sack of the Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC).

Buni and his committee were given six month to reconcile aggrieved members, hold congresses and a national convention.

However, despite the unconstitutional elongation of the tenure of caretaker committee’s tenure, for the third time, even after having failed to achieve two out of the three assignments, President Buhari had in June professed satisfaction on the performance of the committee, stating that it has helped in repositioning the party.

Buni’s c’ttee APC albatross?

While condemning the President’s actions in a recent interview, a member of the APC, who represented Kogi East at the Senate between 1999 and 2003, Senator Alex Kadiri, blamed the docility of members for the crossroads the party has found itself.

He said the fact that President Buhari singlehanded appointed the caretaker committee without input from any party organ was an anti-party act.

Kadiri expressed surprised that the judges of the Supreme Court had four to three, stating ‘I don’t know what the four were thinking’

“They will probably be saying: If I deliver this judgment, the President would be upset. That is the problem with the black man. The contraption called APC caretaker committee is illegal.

According to him, the fact that Jegede did not join Mai Mala Buni in the suit was the party’s saving grace.

“If he had joined him that is where the trouble would have started for the APC. That tells you one story that even senior advocates do not tidy their own cases properly.

“Jegede as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) did not tidy his case up properly. Jegede should have known that he ought to have joined Buni. That lacuna was there and that is why he lost.

“My view about this Caretaker Committee is that President Muhammadu Buhari just sat in his office and appointed people; no party organ was involved in making the committee come into existence. That in itself is anti-party.

“Adams Oshiomhole was not good, yes, but the way the committee came to be was wrong. Since it was the President that proclaimed it, we all kept quiet. How can Buni be chairman of APC and be Governor of Yobe state when it is in the constitution of our party that a governor cannot hold two executive positions?

If this matter is pursued to the end, everyone elected during Buni’s caretakership would have their election declared null and void,” Kadiri noted further.

Legal implications

Justices of the apex court raising legality questions over the party’s leadership appears to have heightened fears that the ward congresses and subsequent ones could be invalidated.

Though the majority of the jurists okayed the governor’s second term in office, the panel did not spare the rod on the leadership of the APC under Buni, describing the governor doubling as party leaders as illegal.

Party’s unity at risk Keyamo

As a way of averting imminent legal tussles if Governor Buni remained its interim leader, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, had in a leaked memo warned that the unity in the party may be short-lived if the party went ahead with its planned congresses under the Buni leadership.

The minister, who hinged his reasons on the split decision of the Supreme Court to uphold Rotimi Akeredolu as Governor of Ondo state, noted that the APC escaped potential defeat due to ‘little technicality’ which may not be applicable in subsequent court cases.

Four out of the seven-member panel apex court dismissed the appeal of the October 2020 governorship candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo, to remove Mr Akeredolu as the elected state governor.

In his reaction to this judgement, Mr Keyamo said the ruling party would have lost the case if Mr Jegede had joined Mr Buni in the suit.

“The little technical point that saved Gov Akeredolu was that Jegede failed to join Gov. Mai Mala Buni in the suit. Jegede was challenging the competence of Gov. Buni as a sitting governor to run the affairs of the APC as chairman of the caretaker committee.

“He contends that the party’s action is against Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution which states that a sitting Governor shall not, during the period when he holds office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever.

“In other words, he insisted that had Buni been joined in the suit, the story may have been different today as the ruling would have lost Ondo State to the PDP.

“The technicality found therein in the judgment may string chains of suits from APC members to question the legitimacy of the 13 month old interim leadership of Buni to organise congresses and national convention.

“The continuous leadership of the Yobe state governor is a breach of Article 17 of the APC Constitution, adding that the party should stop its proposed congresses by the former’s leadership or risk imminent division.”

Ojudu, Enang too

Two presidential aides have also lent their voices demanding for the removal of Governor Buni, as interim chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Babafemi Ojudu, and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Ita Enang, made the call a joint statement questioning the legality of Buni’s leadership.

The duo described the Supreme Court judgment in favour Gov Akeredolu as a narrow victory for the party.

Messrs Ojudu and Enang revealed that they had raised similar issues earlier but that it was swept under carpet by powers within the ruling party.

“It has long been in contention whether unelected officers of a political party can exercise the powers of party vested in the chairman and officers of the party who ought, by party’s constitution, to be elected at duly convened convention of the party at the national level and congresses at state and other levels.

“A cursory reading of the minority judgment, we submit, appears to have swept the carpet of legality off the CECPC rendering it illegal, null, void and of no legal capacity to undertake any action on behalf of the party.

“I think we cannot, as a political association, run roughshod on legalities, while expecting to exercise power over others, judicially! Such a position is morally wrong!

“If Eyitayo Jegede had had an equal number of LGA votes as Akeredolu, we would have been upset.

“Why a lawyer as Akeredolu too did not see the legal anomaly in his nomination form being signed by Buni goes to show how careless our professionals are in practice. We get clouded by self-interests, easily,” Mr Ojudu further said in an excerpt from his comments on his Facebook wall.

He urged the party leadership to set up a team of legal experts to appraise the legal status of the CECPC in carrying out further activity on behalf of the party.

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