The judgment of the Supreme Court on the Ondo State governorship election is threatening the All Progressives Congress local and state congresses starting on Saturday, The PUNCH has learnt.
Our correspondent 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, who 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 had the presence of mind to join Mai Mala Buni as 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 who 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 who 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 Yobe 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 who 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 Zamfara State 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 preside 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 Yobe 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.”
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