Nigeria

APC May Lose Power As Court Declares Buni’s Chairmanship Illegal

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Buni
Buni

The judgment of the Supreme Court on the Ondo State governorship election based on the minority ruling is threatening the All Progressives Congress local and state congresses starting on Saturday.

OduNews.com recalls that though the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the APC and its candidate, Rotimi Akeredolu in a 4-3 judgment on Wednesday, the minority ruling read by Justice Mary Odili noted that Buni’s position as a sitting Governor and also the national chairman of the APC is strange to the law and is a violation of both the party’s constitution and the 1999 constitution of Nigeria (as amended).

Odili argued that Buni as a sitting governor was wrong to have presided over the process that produced Akeredolu as the candidate of the APC.

Our reporter gathered on Wednesday that although the APC was going ahead with the congresses, it feared that some members could challenge the exercises in court since the Supreme Court in its judgment had declared the chairmanship of Mai Mala Buni illegal.

It was learnt that apart from the disagreement over planned consensus arrangement, the Supreme Court judgment had worsened the party’s woes.

A member of the APC’s national caucus, spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said although the party was going ahead with its congresses, members were worried and divided about the implications of the judgment.

The party chieftain explained that the judgment had “called to question the legality of the caretaker committee.

“We are dealing with a combustible issue. All the seven Supreme Court Justices agreed on the constitutional point that a sitting governor cannot hold the dual elective position of governor and party national chairman.

“Now, it was not only the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, that escaped being removed by the whiskers due to no fault of his, it was also our party.

“If the opposition had the presence of mind to join Mai Mala Buni as a party to the suit, we would all have been done for. Our aggrieved members and our opponents have surely learnt one or two things from this.

“The next time anyone goes to court to challenge decisions taken by our national caretaker committee the story will be different.”

One of the conveners of The Progressive Youth Movement, a pressure group within the APC, Mohammed Audu, told our correspondent on the telephone, that the party leadership would be putting the party at risk should it go ahead with its move to foist a consensus arrangement on state chapters when ward congresses begin on Saturday.

He said, “We are members of a progressive political party and should lead the way in promoting democracy at all times. The consensus arrangement for us is an aberration.

“Party members must not be muscled out of contesting for party positions under the guise of consensus, let those feel they are popular and have what it takes to occupy any office be allowed to test their popularity, that is all we ask.”

However, the National Secretary of the party’s caretaker committee, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, while inaugurating congress committees for the state chapters at the APC National Headquarters, on Wednesday, said the caretaker committee had the right to recall them.

Akpanudoedehe said, “I urge you to keep the interest of the party first and foremost within your hearts. The success of this exercise depends so much on you, the unity of our party also depends on the outcome and the outcome essentially depends on your handling of issues and the overall conduct of the exercise.

“Do not forget that the CECPC reserves the power to recall the team or any of its members whose conduct is below expectation, after all, he hires can also fire.

“You’ve been urged to encourage consensus arrangements, where possible. Article 20 of our party’s constitution and the guidelines for the congresses shall be your guide.”

In what appears to be a subtle threat against party members, the party secretary delivered a message from the National Chairman, Governor Mai Mala Buni.

He said, “May I also offer some words from our National Chairman and Governor of State Mai Mala Buni for our party faithful, he said that I should remind our party members through this avenue, that a political party is an organisation of persons have subscribed to the ideals and rules of the group, and such rules include internal mechanisms for handling and solving disputes.

“Therefore, the practice of running to the public space without exploring the internal mechanism of conflict resolutions is not only unhealthy but an affront to the constitution of the party. So, going forward, it should be stopped.”

In response, spokesperson for the Concerned APC Members, Abdullahi Dauda, advised the party leadership to take a cue from the Supreme Court judgment and quickly convene a national convention to elect a new party leadership.

He said, “Yes, we are happy as party members that we did not lose another governor via the court like we did in Zamfara in 2019 but we cannot deceive ourselves. Illegality cannot take us anywhere.

“The truth is that Buni and members of the APC caretaker committee were not elected but they are occupying elective positions which the Supreme Court today affirmed is illegal.

“We have also seen the grounds on which our members in have gone to court to challenge the dissolution of the state caretaker committee.

“In one of the grounds, they are asking the court to in view of provisions of Article 14.1 of the APC Constitution which lists powers of the National Chairman of the party and the National Executive Committee, determine whether the caretaker committee, a committee set up by NEC can perform a function which even NEC has no power to carry out.

“NEC does not have the power to dissolve any state chapter, it is only the National Working Committee that has such powers.”

In a statement titled, “Why Mai Mala Buni Should Step Down, an Abuja based legal practitioner, Kayode Ajulo, noted that the Supreme Court, while dismissing the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party candidate in the Ondo governorship election, Eyitayo Jegede against Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, by a split four-three decision, held that the APC erred in law by allowing a sitting governor presides over its affairs.

Ajulo said, “Without prejudice to the ratio decidendi of the majority decision of the Court, it is imperative to state prestissimo and very clearly too that with the unanimous position of the apex court that it appears the actions of the APC in permitting a sitting governor as the interim chairman of the party is in violation of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is my sincere view that the Interim Chairman of the All Progressive Congress should immediately step down.

“My humble but cosmic review of the judgment comes with an indication that the Governor of State, Mai Mala Buni, has to vacate his seat, as the Chairman of APC with immediate effect.

“The provision of Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) is clear and unambiguous to the effect that “The governor shall not, during the period when he holds office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever.”

Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN), has warned the APC of imminent legal tussles if Governor Mala Buni of Yobe State remains its interim leader.

The minister, also a member of the party, in a leaked memo released on Wednesday, said the “unity” in the party may be short-lived if the party went ahead with its planned congresses under the leadership of Mr Buni.

The planned congresses hold nationwide on Saturday.

Hinging his reasons on the split decision of the Supreme Court to uphold Rotimi Akeredolu as Governor of Ondo State earlier on Wednesday, the minister said the APC escaped potential defeat due to ‘little technicality’ which may not be applicable in subsequent court cases.

Keyamo said the ruling party would have lost the case if Eyitayo Jegede had joined Governor 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. Mai Mala Buni as a sitting Governor to run the affairs of the APC as Chairman of the Caretaker Committee.

“He contends that this 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, had Buni been joined in the suit, the story may have been different today as we would have lost Ondo State to the PDP,” he noted.

Mr Keyamo said the technicality found therein in the judgement may string chains of suits from APC members to question the legitimacy of the 13-month-old interim leadership of Mr Buni to organise congresses and national conventions.

He highlighted the continuous leadership of the Yobe State governor as 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.

“The planned Congresses across the country slated for this weekend must immediately be suspended because it will be an exercise in futility as analysed above. The competence of Gov. Mai Mala Buni to organise the congresses has been called to question by the Supreme Court,” he said, calling for an urgent NEC meeting to appoint new interim leadership, anyone holding any executive position in any government establishment.

“Alternatively, the Board of Trustees of the Party, which includes Mr. President, can be activated to organise a National Convention in line with Article 13 of the APC Constitution where it is given such powers. Those powers can be delegated at the meeting to a Committee in line with the APC Constitution which will run the Party and plan the Convention. The new Exco can then plan for Congresses,” he added.

Aside Mr Buni, both the governor’s of Osun State Isiaka Oyetola and Sani Bello of Niger State representing the South-west and North-central zones respectively, are the other incumbent governors named among 13-member caretaker committee.

The committee was appointed in June 2020 following the controversial removal of Adam Oshiomhole-led executives.

However, Mr Keyamo’s leaked memo was received by Newsflash Nigeria after the inauguration of the APC congress committees for all the states of the federal at its headquarters in Abuja.

APC interim national chairman, Mai Mala Buni, on Tuesday in Abuja during the inauguration of the 61-member Strategy and Contact Committee ahead of the 2023 general elections.

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