Thursday, July 29, 2021 11:04 am
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has another reason to cheer with the Supreme Court ruling in the Ondo State governorship election, which upheld the victory of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN on Thursday.
But the ruling had also ignited fresh controversies over the legality of the Governor Mai Mala Buni led National Caretaker and Convention Planning Committee of the party.
The seven-man panel of the Supreme Court had in a split judgment of four against three out of the threw out the petition of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the election, Eyitayo Jegede, principally anchored on grounds that Akeredolu was not validly nominated as candidate of the APC in the said election.
In the petition, Jegede had noted that the acting National Chairman of the APC and Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, forwarded Akeredolu’s name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as candidate of the APC for the October 20, 2020 poll.
But the petitioner had in their appeal argued that Buni, who was appointed in acting capacity by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC in May last year, according to section 183 of the constitution and article 17(4) of the APC, could not function both as governor and acting chairman of the APC concurrently.
They therefore asked the apex court to nullify the election of Akeredolu and over the breach of the APC and Nigerian Constitution.
In the majority judgment delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the apex court said failure of the appellants to include Buni as a party was fatal to their case, because all the issues in the appeal revolved around Buni and ought to have been made a party.
Also, Justice Inyang Okoro as part of the majority judgment, also held that the allegations made against Buni were grievous and so should have been made a party to explain his side.
But in the minority judgment, Justice Mary Peter-Odili, held that since the APC was already a party to the suit, it was not necessary to join Buni, hence Akeredolu’s election should have been nullified, while Akeredolu should be declared winner of the October 20, 2020 governorship poll.
Why Buni should go now
Reacting to the Supreme Court, the Minister of State for Labour and member of the APC, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, in a leaked memo to the party leadership advised advised the APC to halt all preparations and conduct of congresses nationwide forthwith.
“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 Gov. Mai Mala Buni to organise the congresses has been called to question by the Supreme Court.”
“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,” Keyamo said.
In the same vein, the 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 also called for sack of the Buni led APC Caretaker Committee.
According to them, the Supreme Court judgment has indicated that the Buni led leadership of APC has been shorn of all legality, rendering it illegal, null, void and of no legal capacity to undertake any action on behalf and in the name of the party.
They added that the judgment has also brought to question the legality of all the actions taken by the Buni-committee 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 reasonings 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.
“That options, including painful ones be recommended to perfect the party leadership in the eyes of the law with legal capacity to do what it ought to do.
“That the team also recommend measures to perfect matters in respect of pending elections and matters to rescue challenged pending processes.
“That Time being of the essence, very limited timelines be set for each of the proposed steps.
“One cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand.
“Finally, this being a Supreme Court judgement ,we should be thankful that it has come very early that it will guide our Party to victory in 2023 as we mind carefully the legal Status of our systems, guiding us on avoidable actions as we approach the 2023 tape to brace successfully,” the statement read.