2nd August, 2021
Former national legal adviser of the All Progressives Congress, Babatunde Ogala (SAN) has advised the caretaker chairman of the party, Governor Mai Mala Buni and his team to step aside urgently.
Ogala made the suggestion in the wake of the split judgment of the Supreme Court in the case filed by Eyitayo Jegede of the PDP against the election of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State.
The Lagos lawyer said the APC faces ‘grave legal uncertainty’ in view of the judgment.
“In granting His Excellency Arakurin Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN victory, the learned Justices of the Supreme Court had to touch on the question of whether the office and powers of National Chairman can be exercised by Governor Mai Mala Buni who is the sitting Governor of Yobe State?
“In response to this question, it would seem that the 7 Justices of the apex court were not unanimous in viewing the nomination of His Excellency Arakurin Akeredolu by Governor Mai Mala Buni acting as National Chairman of APC as a violation of Section 183 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) and Article 17(iv) of the APC Constitution.
“However, the Court seemed divided as to how to treat this violation. Three Justices agreed that it contaminated the nomination process whilst 4 other Justices did not seem to have pronounced on same but rather dismissed the Appeal on other grounds.
“This creates a legal quagmire for APC in respect of all elections and actions carried out by the Governor of Yobe State in his acting capacity as Chairman as there seem not to be a clear position of the Apex Court on same. A close reading of Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution provides a basis for the attitude of the Supreme Court. It states that:
“The governor shall not, during the period when he holds office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever”.
“Just in case this Section of the Constitution is not self-explanatory enough for anyone, the minority in the apex court cleared any ambiguity when it relied on Article 17(4) of the APC Constitution which provides thus:
“No officer in any organ of the Party shall hold executive position office in government concurrently”.
“These provisions were not directly pronounced on by the majority decision of the Supreme Court and that creates a bigger problem in view of the minority decision which extensively discussed this point and resolved same against the APC. It safe to conclude that the judicial attitude of the apex Court is that APC would be dealt a fatal blow should Governor Mai Mala Buni remain at the helms of affairs of the APC and he is joined in a future suit.
“Therefore, in response to the well publicised opinion of my brother silk Chief Niyi Akintola, SAN the apex Court gave the APC both a hint and a wink at the same time.
“The minority decision backed by the majority’s action of not ruling otherwise on this point sends a strong message which we cannot ignore.
“Without equivocation, the law is not on the side of perpetuating serving Governors including Governor Mai Mala Buni in the leadership of the Caretaker Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee. So what do we do as a party?
Ogala suggested that the dissolved NEC of the party must resume its duties and convene meetings immediately where it will decide the future of the party.
“The Board of Trustees of the Party was never and has still not been constituted till date. So in effect, the Party does not have a BOT that could convene even a meeting of the BOT, talk more of convening a National Convention or indeed any statutory meeting of the Party.
“The reinstatement of the dissolved National Working Committee (NWC) without the erstwhile Chairman who was suspended from office by Order of a court of competent jurisdiction should be seriously considered in other to cloak the impending Ward, Local Government Area and State Congresses as well as National Convention with the imprint of legality”.
Otherwise, he warned that the fate of APC is at stake in that all successes, victories and triumphs gained by the party will continue to hang on a very thin thread in the face of the progressive attitude of Nigerian courts on election and political matters.
“Meanwhile, the decision of the Supreme Court has opened the flood gates for endless litigation challenging every action and decision of the APC leadership as presently constituted”, he said.