Rattled by last Wednesday’s minority judgement of the Supreme Court on the Ondo State governorship election, which punched holes in the legality of the actions of its National Caretaker Committee’s Chairman, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, members of the All Progressives Congress’ Caretaker Committee yesterday scampered to the Minister of Justice/Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, for advice on whether to go ahead with today’s ward congresses.
On the same day, a chieftain of the APC from Abia State, Kalu Agu, asked 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 today, as well as subsequent local governments, states, zonal congresses, and the party’s National Convention.
As for Buni, sources said he was also distressed by the Supreme Court indictment, and “he is seriously weighing his options about either staying as party Chair or returning to his job as Yobe State governor.”
Another source said the decision to consult Malami on the issue was in conformity with the directives of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Of course, Malami, after an elaborate analysis, cleared the Caretaker Committee to proceed with the ward congresses, assuring that Buni’s continued stay as Chair would not portend any crisis for the party.
The sources said Malami told the caretaker members that the Supreme Court judgement did not render the committee illegal and that it still “has legal capacity to undertake any action on behalf and in the name of the party.”
Malami said further that the judgement did not question the legality of all the actions taken by the Buni-committee since inception.
A member of Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Prof. Mamman Tahir, who confirmed this development, while addressing a press conference yesterday in Abuja, said Malami assured that Buni’s stay was legal, and would not turn the congresses into a nullity.
Tahir stated: “I am here this afternoon to reconfirm that our Congresses are on course to hold tomorrow (Saturday) and this Committee is working closely with the Attorney-General of the Federation and he has offered advice that we are on good ground and we are comfortable with that position.
“So, our programmes will continue to roll on in the normal course of things. We want to assure teeming members of the APC across the country to come out and elect officers at the ward levels. This party believes so much in grassroots politics, grassroots democracy; that is the strength of the party.
“I call on all members to come out tomorrow and elect leaders of their choice at the Ward level before the party moves to the next stage of the democratisation process.”
Asked if Congresses will hold in Zamfara and Anambra, Tahir said: “Another date is being fixed for those states because we have an election coming up in Anambra. We don’t want to jeopardise our position there. Though in Zamfara, only recently, they are still doing their validation and continuation of membership registration. So that is the position.”
The National Secretary of APC’s CECPC, John Akpanudoedehe, also buoyed by Malami’s assurances, issued a statement Firday, saying Saturday’s ward congresses would go ahead as planned.
Akpanudoedehe warned that any parallel congress, parallel party organ and or parallel party office would not be tolerated by the national leadership of the party ahead of the ward congresses.
In a notice to party members, he said the APC would deploy the full weight of the law as stipulated in Section 21(D) of the party’s Constitution on any one who engaged in such act.
In the notice, the party said it was important that the attention of all party faithful be drawn to the resolution of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of 8th December, 2020, which subsists and extends to the conduct of party members during the congresses.
The APC re-stated that all pending litigations instituted by members against the party should be withdrawn forthwith, “and going forward, no member should institute matters against the party, without exhausting the internal mechanism for conflict resolution, as enshrined in the party’s constitution.”
The ruling party said as a result of the above, party members should note that all activities that may be carried out by persons to put the party and its officers in bad light, before, during and after the congresses should be jettisoned.
It added: “All activities or processes congresses and thereafter which do not have the approval of the CECPC are exercises in futility. This is to say that: any purported; parallel congress, parallel party organ and or parallel party office, is to say the least a nullity. These divisive activities will not be tolerated.
In its split judgment of four against three by the seven member-panel, which sat on the Ondo governorship election petition, the Supreme Court had contended that the reason it did not sack Governor Akeredolu, was because the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate in the October 10, 2020 election, Eyitayo Jegede, failed to join Buni in the suit, even when the issues revolved around him.
Although Justice Mary Odili, in a dissenting minority verdict, upheld Jegede’s appeal that the nomination of Akeredolu, which was signed by Buni, was not valid under Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution.
After the judgement, the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, was the first to advise the APC to halt all preparations and conduct of congresses nationwide forthwith, having analysed the implications of the judgment.
Said Keyamo: “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 Buni to organise the congresses has been called to question by the Supreme Court.”
Meanwhile, Buni, has enjoined party stakeholders and members to conduct the exercise peacefully.
Buni, in a statement issued yesterday called on officials conducting the Congress to be fair and objective to all candidates contesting the election.
The chairman warned that the party would not hesitate to take decisive measures against anyone who deliberately sabotage the Congress.
He noted that adequate arrangements had been made by the party to conduct successful and acceptable congresses across the country.
Buni said: “As stakeholders of the party, we have great responsibility to make the ward Congress in all the participating states successful. We should endeavour to place the party and members’ interests above personal interests.
“We have come a long way repositioning the party, we have reconciled many groups and individuals, we must not allow personal interests in this election to divide us and draw us back.”
The Chairman also charged aggrieved members to channel their grievances to the appropriate quarters at the party secretariat.
Adedayo Akinwale and Alex Enumah in Abuja