Following the legal issues surrounding last week’s Supreme Court ruling on the fate of the current All Progressives Congress (APC) national caretaker leadership, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in collaboration with party governors and ministers, has embarked on strategic engagements to work out safe options to resolve the internal political crisis in the party.
Informed sources confided in LEADERSHIP yesterday that the vice president has been holding consultations with party leaders and governors on a solution that will be acceptable to all party stakeholders and salvage the party from future legal traps.
The vice president’s intervention on the matter was at the behest of President Muhammadu Buhari following the divergent legal interpretations from party chieftains following the Supreme Court verdict on the Ondo State governorship election which touched on the legitimacy of the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the APC.
Party chieftains, who are lawyers, had differed on whether the party should postpone last Saturday’s ward congresses on the back of the court judgement.
It was however learnt that as early as Friday last week, Osinbajo held a legal review session with lawyers in the federal cabinet where the issue was discussed.
He later engaged in wide consultations with APC governors just before the Ward Congresses.
The Caretaker Committee chairman was also reported to have visited the Villa over the weekend with the Kogi State governor to explain the stance of the current party leadership to the vice president after efforts to reach him had failed earlier on Friday.
It is believed that the vice president, who was asked to resolve the matter by the president, is intent on ensuring that the party benefits from what seems to be a legal warning from the Supreme Court ruling which had a 4-3 verdict with the justices questioning the constitutional validity of a sitting governor holding such an executive post such as national party caretaker chairman.
It was learnt that while a last minute cancellation of the congresses was on the table on Friday night, APC governors explained to the vice president that the majority of them would rather prefer to go on with the congresses even though some felt an outright cancellation of the congresses would be inevitable if it went ahead.
A source who is aware of the ongoing consultations however refuted claims that the vice president directed the attorney general of the federation and minister of justice to wade into the matter especially as the minister is not a party official.
It was also learnt that there was no communication between Osinbajo and Buni until late Friday night when he reached out to the vice president at about midnight.
It was gathered that by then most of the governors had already argued for the continuation of the congresses, despite opposition from some of their colleagues including one from the North who had argued strongly against proceeding with the exercise.
A top Villa source said last night that “the VP is of the firm view that the Supreme Court ruling last week was a clear legal ditch which is best avoided. And he wants to ensure that the interest of the party is what is paramount, hoping that all stakeholders would eventually find a way in the interest of Nigerians who have reposed so much confidence and support in the party.”
Buni committee is Keyamo’s brainchild – Omo-Agege
Meanwhile, Deputy Senate President, Senator Omo Agege, has said that the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Chief Festus Keyamo, recommended the setting up of the Buni-led committee to the Presidency and the APC.
Omo-Agege accused the minister, who had in the wake of the recent judgement of the Supreme Court, called for the dissolution of the CECPC, of double standard, adding that legal advice of Keyamo and some unnamed legal practitioners was sought and they indeed recommended the setting up of the committee headed by the Yobe State governor.
He described the committee as the brainchild of Festus Keyamo, who, he added, was consulted by the Presidency and the National Executive Committee (NEC) of APC in the wake of the leadership crisis in the party in 2020.
Keyamo, in his reaction to the split judgement by the Supreme Court judgement on the Ondo governorship election, asked Buni to vacate office as chairman of the party, saying the continuous existence of the Buni committee violated Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 17 of the APC Constitution.
The minister also called for the suspension of party congresses at all levels, arguing that the committee was not legally competent to handle the assignments.
But Omo-Agege, in an interview with LEADERSHIP yesterday, said the minister was not in a position to pronounce the committee illegal since it was his “brainchild ab initio.”
Omo-Agege said the committee “is perfectly legal,” adding that Keyamo and others canvassing for its dissolution “are merely ranting.”
He accused Keyamo of misinterpreting the Supreme Court judgement to suit personal aggrandisement.
He disclosed that Keyamo and some lawyers were assembled by the Presidency and NEC of APC to fashion the way forward for the party following many legal battles against the leadership of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in 2020.
He said: “Following the leadership crisis in the party, Festus Keyamo and some other lawyers were brought in by the Presidency and NEC of our party. The decision of NEC to set up the Mai Mala Buni Committee was actively recommended and supported by Festus Keyamo. He is one of the few legal practitioners appointed by the Presidency and APC as to the legality of setting up a committee following a barrage of litigations that rocked the party. I can say boldly that the minister strongly recommended that we have a committee in place to plan and conduct our congresses and conventions. Let him challenge me on this.
“It’s therefore totally strange that the same person, who recommended a process, is now coming around to attack the same action he authorised. This is double standard. However, I won’t say that I am surprised because this is politics and it’s about interest. In politics, one should not be surprised about any development,” he senator added.
The Delta senator insisted that the existence of the Buni-led CECPC was legal, adding that there were precedents across party lines. He also insisted that the ward congresses conducted nationwide by the committee on Saturday were a “huge success” and not suffer “any legal jeopardy.”
He said Keyamo’s memo on the conduct of the congress was hastily written to blackmail and prevent the committee from carrying out the assignment duly authorised by the NEC of the party. He commended the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), over what he described as “his foresight and professional doggedness in ensuring that the conduct of the congress was not sabotaged.”
In making further clarification about CECPC, he said, ” The CECPC is a congress and convention planning committee with the responsibility to conduct our congresses and national convention and bring in executives from ward right to the national convention level. This power was duly delegated to the CECPC by NEC presided by Victor Giadom pursuant to a court order.
“The CECPC’s adhoc duty to organise congresses and convention is distinct and unchallengeable. It will interest you to know that, indeed, serving governors across various political parties often head similar ad hoc committees constituted by their political parties to conduct congresses and primaries.
“In the opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, recently held a similar assignment while Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State had done the same job on many occasions in PDP.
“That, indisputably, cannot be described as an “executive or salaried” role under Section 183 of the 1999 constitution. It’s therefore politically naive and mischievous to question the validity and legality of the hugely successful ward congress held nationwide,” Omo-Agege added.
He advised aggrieved members of the party to take advantage of the appeal panels set up to ventilate their grievances.
“Ward congresses are over, and the congresses have come to stay. The appeal committees are being empaneled to proceed on appeals by aggrieved members. That is the patriotic way to go rather than going on social media to disparage and ridicule the party.”
I was only consulted to fashion way forward for the party over barrage of litigations – Minister
Keyamo however told LEADERSHIP that he was only consulted for legal advice over conflicting court orders secured by aggrieved party members from various courts against Oshiomhole
He denied that he specifically recommended the setting up of the Buni committee.
Keyamo in a message forwarded to our correspondent said, “I hope this honest and simple advice some of us have given to save our party from imminent collapse is not turning into something like a personal contest, because it is not. I have no time to be exchanging words with anyone on this matter or calling names.
“The law is the law and it will speak loudly eventually. We were only consulted on the way forward at that time in respect of the various court orders secured against Oshiomhole. We gave our honest advice to respect the court orders. That is all.”
“As to who recommended a serving governor and other serving government officials to be part of a caretaker committee, I don’t know. I have no idea. We were never consulted on that.
“Before this thing became public knowledge, the best legal minds within the party had been warning. But now, the Supreme Court has just hinted us by the Ondo judgement to amend our ways. That is the immediate cause for concern, not whether we advised before or not. If we like, we take it.
“As for me, I am facing my work as minister. I have done my bit. It is to wait and see. But I hope it will not be too late,” he added.