By Sati Bulama
The All Progressives Congress (APC), from all indications, has ignored the timely warning of some of its concerned members not to go ahead with the congresses of the party which starts with Saturday’s ward congress.
The ward congress is supposed to jump-start series of processes nation wide, that will eventually lead to the national convention of the APC, to put in place a substantive National Working Committee (NWC) for the party.
APC has been run at the national level by a caretaker committee chaired by the governor of Yobe State, Malam Mai Mala Buni, since the sack of the Adams Oshiomhole led NWC last year.
But in going ahead with the congresses under the leadership of Gov. Buni, the APC stands the risk of losing all as the continuos recognition of the Buni led committee is tantamount to putting all its eggs in one basket in a delicate race that requires tact and caution.
This is in the light of Wednesday’s Supreme Court judgment on the election of Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, which called to question, the both status of the party’s Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) and the national caretaker committee of the party led by Buni.
The applicant, had in the suit, challenged the competence of Gov. Buni as a sitting Governor to run the affairs of the APC as Chairman of the Caretaker Committee contending that it runs foul of 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.
The Supreme Court while delivering judgment on the case, only failed to grant the prayers of Akeredolu’s challenger because he failed to join Gov. Buni in the suit.
Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, Mr. Festus Keyamo in a swift reaction, alerted the party of the implications of the judgement stating that it means that any other person affected by the actions of the Buni-led Committee will given the position of the court, henceforth not fail to join him in any subsequent case in court.
“These includes any subsequent election matter in any part of this country and all the APC Congresses that are about to hold,” he said adding that the judiciary could subsequently destroy the entire structure of the party from bottom to top.”
Even before the Supreme Court judgment, Senator Kabir Garba Marafa had earlier in the year, warned the APC on its decision to continue to allow Gov. Buni to chair the party.
He said, “when you look at the APC constitution, section 17 sub 4 forbids Mala from being the chairman of the party. I have alerted Mr. President long time ago that we should be wary of banana peel because if this thing is pushed to the limit, when you push a man to the wall he is going to fight back so we are going to ask this fundamental question when the need arises to do so.”
It appears the need has arisen as other stakeholders have equally raised an alarm since the judgement.
Not a few have in the light of the issues raised, called for the suspension of the ward and other congresses pending the determination of the legal status of the CECPC to administer the party.
Keyamo for instance suggested that for the party to move forward and avoid the grave danger, the NEC of the party can urgently meet and consider and reconstitute the CECPC to exclude, not only Gov. Buni, but anyone holding any executive position in any government establishment as stipulated in Article 17 of the APC Constitution.
He said 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.
But the other party members disagree CECPC Secretary of the APC, Senator Akpanudoedehe, for instance faults this point saying the Supreme Court’s judgment had no bearing on the CECPC’s status and its membership.
One of APC’s lead counsel, Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), also described as erroneous the impression that the Buni committee lacks the powers to conduct the party’s congresses.
Akintola, who led the legal team of Governor Akeredolu, said the positions of the CECPC chairman and secretary are sacrosanct stressing that a minority judgment has no efficacy.
Deputy President of the Senate, Omo-Agege said the Caretaker Committee was duly constituted by APC NEC and given a specific mandate to put necessary measures in place to conduct a seamless elective national convention of the party stressing that Section 183 of the Constitution only bars a governor from holding executive positions like being a minister or any other executive positions for which he shall be paid for.
But the Supreme Court judgment is already causing ripples within the party. Already, a chieftain of the APC from Abia State, Kalu Agu, has approached a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the APC from going ahead with its ward congresses as well as subsequent local governments, states, zonal congresses and the party’s National Convention.
Agu is also asking the court to declare as null and void any of the APC’s Congresses and convention held under the current acting National Chairman of the APC’s Caretaker Committee, Mai Mala Buni.
This he said is because Buni was never elected at any congress to run the affairs of the APC and that the party’s Constitution does not allow any person who holds an executive position to occupy any position in any of its organs.
Agu, who disclosed that he intends to contest for the position of National Legal Adviser of the APC during the party’s next convention, said his interest would “be affected by a conduct of a congress superintended by Buni who is a sitting Governor of Yobe State and also discharging the functions of the elected National Chairman and the National Working Committee of the first defendant”.
As no date has been fixed for hearing on the matter, the greater challenge for the APC lies in the possibility of losing all it laboured for in future through a court judgment.
It will amount to a huge waste of resources to conduct congresses and primary to field in general elections, only to lose such if on these grounds the court does not recognize the candidates of the APC as it happened in the 2019 general elections in Zamfara State.
The foundation clearly appears shaky and the risk too big for APC to continue in the manner it is doing just to protect the interest of a few.
APC stands to put its house in order and save itself from embarrassment if it adheres to wise counsel and halt the congresses. As Keyamo has said the time to act is now.
Bulama, a concerned APC member writes from Biu, Borno State.