*Buni-led caretaker c’ttee intact, not threatened – APC
*Vows to proceed with tomorrow’s congresses
*APC’ll be walking on landmine if Buni refuses to resign— Kekemeke
*Ojudu, Enang, progressive youths urge caution
*Showdown looms in Kwara between Gov AqbdulRazaq, Lai Mohammed’s supporters
A FRESH crisis is brewing in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, over the validity of the party’s national leadership led by Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State as ward congresses begin tomorrow.
The fire of the crisis was ignited by Wednesday’s dissenting judgment of the Supreme Court on the Ondo State governorship election, which questioned the validity of the Buni-led Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, CECPC
A four-three split decision of the court had dismissed the petition filed by Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate in the 2020 Ondo State governorship election, Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, against the incumbent Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN and APC.
Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, SAN, and another legal luminary and member of the party, Dr Kayode Ajulo, in separate statements alerted the party of the dangers of having Buni in the saddle.
Some party stakeholders, yesterday, asked Buni to resign to save the party from what they described as avoidable crisis, with former chairman of APC in Ondo, Chief Isaac Kekemeke, saying APC will be walking on landmine if Buni refused to resign.
Indeed, the party will have a mouthful as its congresses begin tomorrow with supporters of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq and those of Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, poised for a showdown in Kwara State.
However, the APC rose in defence of the Buni-led caretaker committee, yesterday, saying the committee remains intact and would proceed with its wards, local governments and states congresses slated to begin tomorrow.
Why Buni must quit —Ajulo, Keyamo
Said Ajulo: “Without prejudice to the ratio decidendi of the majority decision of the court, it is imperative to state pressistimo 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 APC 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’.”
Concurring, Keyamo said: “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 Governor Mai Mala Buni to organise the congresses has been called to question by the Supreme Court.
“First, the NEC of the party can urgently meet and consider and reconstitute the CECPC to exclude, not only Governor Buni, but anyone holding any executive position in any government establishment as stipulated in Article 17 of the APC constitution.”
On its part, Article 17(iv) of the APC constitution states: “No officer in any organ of the party shall hold executive position in government concurrently.”
We’re are unshaken—Akpanudoedehe
Addressing journalists at the national secretariat of the party in Abuja, yesterday, National Secretary of the APC Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, vowed that the congresses would go on as scheduled, saying, however, the CECPC is not unperturbed by the legal opinions that have trailed the dissenting judgment.
He said: “I am sure you are aware that after the judgment by the Supreme Court on Ondo, there have been a lot of personal opinions interpreting the judgment. But as a party, we have invited one of the very senior counsel, who was part of the case from the beginning to brief the media.
“We have not conducted the congresses. Maybe a lot of people have seen that they are in a disadvantaged position in their communities and they want to vent their anger by misinforming the public. All what you are hearing is because of the congresses. I want to assure them that congresses will be fair, transparent and I want to advise them to go into their wards and be party men.
“As politicians, you either lose or win. And when you lose, you dust yourself and restrategise. It is not to destroy the party by misinforming the general public. On behalf of the Caretaker Committee, we stand firmly with the National Chairman and we declare our unalloyed loyalty to him and to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Our party is strong and will continue to be so.”
On the view of Keyamo, he said: “We are not going to be personal. It was his personal opinion. He is my good friend. I am not a lawyer and people are bound to interpret the law the way they like. I will consider it to be his personal opinion.”
Akintola faults Keyamo
Second Lead Counsel in the case and chieftain of the party, Chief Niyi Akintola, SAN, also faulted Keyamo’s position, saying: “When I was inundated with several calls concerning that statement by my learned brother, I sent a message to Festus, ‘is this from you’?
“Because it is not every message you read on the social media or newspaper that you ascribe credibility to. Unfortunately, he has not responded to it because one, during the old days when we were in the trenches as progressives, he was one of us. I must give that to him.
“That was why I sent the message to him because I know for a fact that he was not part of the legal team. He was not in court and I never saw him throughout the proceedings whether at the tribunal, Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court.”
Anambra election not affected
Akintola who also dismissed speculations about the validity of the CECPC added that the APC candidate in the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra stated was validly nominated by the committee.
He said: “The positions of the National Chairman of our party and the secretary are sacrosanct and our members should not be scared. Our candidate in Anambra is on terra firma, a firm ground. The decision of the tribunal upholding the right of any party member, including those holding elective positions to hold party offices remains sacrosanct and that position was affirmed by the Court of Appeal and also affirmed by the majority judgment of the Supreme Court.
“In fact, none of the Justices, who gave the majority judgment had anything to say on the holding of party positions concurrently with political offices even though the apex court has the right to go into an issue without looking at the merit unlike the lower courts.”
Resign now—Progressive Youth Movement
Leader of the Progressive Youth Movement, Princess Zahra Mustapha Audu asked the CECPC to resign and pave the way for a duly constituted executive.
She said: “We have patiently watched to get the party’s reaction to the Supreme Court judgment yesterday (Wednesday), which we narrowly escaped losing. We congratulate Gov. Akeredolu of Ondo state who is an exceptional governor.
“We would have lost that state but for God. However, we are not prepared to take any chances any more. We cannot keep playing this game with our party, with our future, with our lives. Enough is enough.”
Ojudu, Enang urge caution
Also, in a joint statement issued yesterday in Abuja, Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang, asked the ruling party to halt all its activities, “retreat to appraise legality to avoid more damages.”
They noted that it has long been in contention as to 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 and in the name of the Party.
“It has also brought to question the legality of all the actions taken by her since inception. Accordingly, in view of the impending ward, local government, states and zonal congresses and indeed the National Convention (which the CECPC was primarily set up to do), it is our view:
“That the ward and other congresses scheduled for July 31, 2021 be paused, suspended and put on hold pending the determination of the legal status of the CECPC to undertake all the activities it so far has, and indeed jurisdiction to conduct the congresses and convention.
“That the party carefully and dispassionately cause her team of legal experts to review, appraise and give considered opinion on the import of the majority and in extreme particular the reasoning in the minority judgment of the Supreme Court as to the legal status of the CECPC to proceed further with any activity in the name of the party or otherwise.”
APC’ll be walking on landmine if Buni refuses to resign— Kekemeke
Indeed, former Ondo State Chairman of the APC, Mr. Isaac Kekemeke, said the party would be walking on landmine if its Buni refused to resign as its caretaker committee chairman,
Kekemeke who spoke in Akure said: “The APC should be worried that Justices of the Supreme Court agreed that the party was in violation of both the Nigeria Constitution and the party’s constitution.
He supported the warning given by Festus Keyamo that the party may run into troubled waters should Buni conducted the congresses
According to him the, “pronunciation by the apex court that the APC is lawless was a dangerous signal.
He called for the immediate convocation of a committee whose purpose would be the conduct of the party’s congresses and national convention.
“The Supreme Court followed the people and democracy. It affirmed the wish of the people of Ondo State in their large majority. Nigerians did not ask for courtocracy but democracy.
“This decision is welcome because at no time were the votes of Ondo people queried all through the tribunal up to the Supreme Court. What was queried was the violation of the constitution by an official of the party. He is not from this state and he did not vote at the election.
“Our party must cease to be a party of only people in political office. It must be a party that accommodates everyone, those in government and those outside of government.”
Showdown looms in Kwara
In Kwara, show down is imminent in the forthcoming congresses of the APC as supporters of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq and that of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, have obtained forms from the only designated committee to contest the election.
The two major factions have claimed controlling majority of members in the party, a contest that would be confirmed tomorrow.
Contrary to expectation of a parallel congress, a loyalist of Lai Mohammaed and a member of the state executive, Mr. Ladi Mustapha, who is the state legal adviser, at a press conference in Ilorin, yesterday, said his members have obtained the forms to contest the ward congresses.
“In spite of the unnecessary contours and roadblock mounted by some adversaries of this party, the truth has vindicated the just, that our flight of progress has continued to fly in higher altitudes. We have proved to the reactionary group that we are made of stiffer stuff and that the moving train is unstoppable.
“I am delighted to inform you that we have secured nomination forms for all prospective contestants into positions at the Wards and Local Governments in compliance with the set guidelines for the exercise,’’ he said.
The factional group also accused the Buni-led caretaker committee of being behind the protracted crisis rocking the party in Kwara State.
“It is difficult to absolve the current national leadership of our party of complicity in the crisis rocking APC in Kwara State today. They have tried all the tricks in the book to pervert the course of justice on issues, but our God is a God of justice,” he said
The aggrieved group also called for the reinstatement of Hon Bashir Bolarinwa as the state Caretaker Committee Chairman in view of the latest supreme Court judgment that confirmed the victory of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state in the last election.
Kwara State Chairman of APC, Alhaji Abdullahi Samari, had a day earlier at a press conference said all members of the factionalized party, who wished to participate in the weekend congress must come to his secretariat to obtain the form.