Recent developments in the All Progressives Congress (APC) have left many questions in the mind of the party members and many other Nigerians unanswered. One of the questions is whether or not the ruling party will be able to weather the current storm.
While some pessimists have concluded that it is the beginning of the end of the party, the optimists are of the opinion that the party will come out stronger and better when the battle is over.
The Supreme Court ruling on the Ondo State governorship election stoked up different interpretations and implications, thus giving rise to a lot of arguments for and against.
Shortly after the judgement was delivered with the APC’s candidate Rotimi Akeredolu escaping narrowly as the substantive Governor of Ondo State, one of the party bigwigs, Festus Keyamo (SAN), Minister of State, Labour and Employment, came up with legal advice, stating why the party must halt all preparation and conduct of congresses earlier scheduled to hold nationwide.
According to Keyamo, the little technical point that saved Akeredolu was that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Eyitayo Jegede failed to join Governor Mai Mala Buni, national chairman of the party”s Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) in the suit.
In the suit, Jegede was challenging the competence of Buni as a sitting Governor to run the affairs of the APC as Chairman of the Caretaker Committee. He contended 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 APC would have lost Ondo State to the PDP.
“The Supreme Court has just weaponised all those that would be aggrieved by the APC Congresses to proceed to court to Challenge the competence of the Buni-led CECPC to organise the Congresses and National Convention. The judiciary will subsequently destroy the entire structure of the Party from bottom to top. We are lucky the Supreme Court has just given us a great and useful hint to save our Party just before the beginning of our Congresses. We cannot gamble with this delicate issue. The time to act is NOW.” Keyamo said
However, in a swift reaction to Keyamo’s submission, the APC counsel, Niyi Akintola SAN came up with a counter argument to douse the tension and said there is no cause for alarm, describing other contrary views as backdrops of personal opinions being expressed by some individuals on the status of the APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC ) and its capacity to conduct the Congresses, affirming that CECPC is on firm ground.
Akintola further reiterated that the sponsorship of a candidate in an election is that of the party and not the individual Officer of the party forwarding the name of the candidate, that the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party is empowered to create, elect and appoint Committees (including the instant CECPC) or any other committee it may deem necessary to act in any capacity.
The attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami also in a countered Keyamo’s stand describing the interpretation of the 1999 Constitution by the Supreme Court as “Stretched”
“Therefore, it is shocking that the interpretation of Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution, in light of the above-quoted decision of the Supreme Court, could be stretched in some quarters to state that chairmanship of an ad-hoc committee duly constituted by the National Executive Committee of a registered political party (by a registered member of the Party) could constitute paid employment or an executive position as envisaged under Section 183 of the Constitution,” Malami stated
The AGF noted that the draftsmen of the Constitution would not have considered the position Buni holds as an elective position due to its meritless nature. To further show the meritless nature of the position under review, assuming without conceding that the argument is right, then, it will equally be contrary to the spirit and intent of Section 183 of the Constitution for any sitting Governor to be Chairman of say the Governors’ Forum, Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, or any other similar body. This, in his opinion can definitely not be the intention of the drafters of the 1999 Constitution.”
In his elaborate reaction to Keyamo’s stand, a member of NNPC Board and former Senator representing Rivers South-East Senatorial zone, Senator Magnus Abe urged him not to second guess the Supreme Court judgement on Buni’s appointment.
Senator Abe, who is also a Lawyer and a key chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC insisted that most members of the APC accepted the reality of the CECPC as a decision of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the APC with Mr President as leader of the party in attendance.
Party leaders who had reservations about the constitution of the CECPC were informed that the decision to establish the committee was reached only after extensive legal examination of the issues confronting the APC at that time by a body of eminent lawyers in leadership positions in the APC . Barrister Festus Keyamo was one of those legal luminaries whose stand swayed the President in support of the CECPC option as the only means to save the party from imminent self-destruction.
The Buni- led caretaker committee in the determined effort to reposition the party and carry out its difficult assignment, has adjusted the seating arrangements in a lot of states and this may explain the stand that some party leaders will take on this issue.
Almost every convention committee or caretaker committee of every political party in this country that is privileged to have a governor in its fold has been chaired by a Governor, almost every primary that produced our governorship candidates has been chaired by a governor.
A decision by the Supreme Court that chairmanship of a committee constituted by NEC for a particular purpose can constitute an executive position or paid employment as envisaged by the constitution of Nigeria must be a matter of evidence, and it will have grave consequences not only for the APC but the entire polity.
The convention planning committee is a committee of NEC. Buni was not appointed as executive chairman of the APC, he is the convention committee chairman but because the working committee of the party was dissolved by NEC the caretaker members are to take care of the affairs of the party on behalf of NEC until an executive chairman is elected by convention.
Magnus added that any member of the party who is emboldened by Barrister Keyamo’s interpretation of Jegede Vs Akeredolu to challenge the legality of the caretaker arrangement of APC on that basis may do so, but the litigant will of course bear the burden of proof, and the party should be ready to defend its own position based on the evidence. Since the surrounding circumstances have not been made known to the Supreme Court for which it rightly declined to condemn Buni unheard, it’s preposterous to second- guess the Supreme Court on that.
He therefore advised the party to tread carefully, cautiously. Instead of throwing away the baby with the bathwater, and causing a stampede, urging them to support the Caretaker to the point that it births a proper executive to prepare the part for the future, especially the 2023 elections.
To throw out the CECPC at this point may amount to self immolation from which the party may not recover from.
The APC CECPC was inaugurated in June 2020 with Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni as the chairman.
Buni’s appointment came after the APC dissolved the national working committee of the party during its national executive council meeting.
No doubt about it, the CEPCP met a lot of crises in the party which today can be said to have been amicably resolved as he promised after his emergence as the chairman by assuring APC members of Justice in managing the then ongoing crises in the party.
“We have come a long way repositioning the party, we have reconciled many groups and individuals, we must not allow personal interests to divide us and draw us back” Buni recently said
He solicited for the support and cooperation of members to the officials “for APC to be a role model for other parties”.