There is fear among the leadership of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) following the findings by the Supreme Court that the Chairmanship of the party under Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State is unlawful and unconstitutional.
Seven Justices of the Apex Court had held that Buni’s position as an incumbent executive governor and also as executive Chairman of APC at the same time contradicts and violates the constitution of Nigeria and that of the party.
The revelation by the Supreme Court emanated in the judgment on the appeal marked: SC/448/21; including the cross-appeals marked: SC/501/21; SC/508/21 and SC/509/21.
Justices Emmanuel Agim, John Okoro, Lawal Garba, Tijani Abubakar, Mary Peter-Odili, Ejembi Eko and Mohammed Saulawa gave the judgement in Abuja.
They said the position of the law in the appeal filed before them by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Ondo election, Eyitayo Jegede SAN in which they challenged the competence of Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s nomination/sponsorship for the election by the APC, claiming that the letter conveying his nomination/sponsorship to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was incompetent, having been signed by Buni and others.
Jegede and PDP contended that by the provision of Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 17 (4) of the APC constitution, Buni acted unlawfully by being the Yobe Governor and also serving as APC’s Chairman at the same time.
The two appellants had argued that as such, the nomination/sponsorship letter signed by governor Buni for APC, notifying INEC of the candidacy of Akeredolu and Lucky Aiydatiwa (as governorship and deputy governorship candidates) was void.
The apex court Justices after their finding of facts agreed that the law prohibits a person from holding two executive offices as in that of a governor and chairmanship of a political party in Nigeria at the same time.
Four of the Justices, however, on technical grounds declined to remove Akeredolu as Ondo governor on the ground that Mai Mala Buni’s name was not expressly stated on the appellants’ papers for him to defend himself.
Other three Justices held contrary decisions stating that since APC’s name was on the court process and its letter paper used in conveying the incompetent nomination, Akeredolu ought and should be removed from office.
Justice Emmanuel Agim read the lead majority judgment of the four justices which was supported by Justices John Okoro, Lawal Garba and Tijani Abubakar.
Justice Agim held that, since Jegede and the PDP made Buni the centre of their allegation of constitutional breaches, he (Buni) ought to have been made a party in the case to enable him to defend himself in line with the doctrine of fair haring
“The decision to allow Buni act as its National Committee Chairman was made by the APC, despite the provision of Article 1z(4 of its constitution, thereby making the decision internal to the party”.
The other three, Justices Mary Peter-Odili, Ejembi Eko and Mohammed Saulawa held otherwise in their dissenting minority judgment.
Justice Odili was of the view that since the APC, for which Buni acted, was a party in the case, there was no need to include him as a party.
She added that having allowed Buni to act on its behalf in signing the nomination/sponsorship letter of its candidates in Ondo despite the clear provisions of section 183 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 17(4) of the APC constitution, the party should leave by the consequences of its lawlessness.
“I do not agree with the majority judgment, “she said, noting that the APC, by Article 17(4) of its constitution has provided for how its affairs should be managed and what offices its membership occupies at a time.
“This Article draws strength from Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution. Therefore when the second respondent (APC) put up a person not qualified to author its nomination by virtue of the provision of Article 1z(4) of its constitution and Section183 of the 1999 Constitution to do so. therefore, that document has no validity, and thereby void,”she said.
Justice Peter-Odili held that it was unlawful and a violation of Article 17(4) of the APC constitution and Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution for Buni to be serving as the National Chairman of the APC and the Governor of Yobe State at the same time.
Meanwhile, following the Supreme Court findings of facts, there has been apprehension and anxiety at the APC National Secretariat revealed in the states and among national leaderships as to what may become the fate of the party in the build-up to the 2023 general elections.
A chieftain of the party who did not want his name in print told DAILY POST that the party has got good and great hints from the Supreme Court and would do the needful in the next few days.
“No one person has the monopoly of legal knowledge. At the time of making His Excellency the APC executive chairman, we did not consider that aspect of the law. I am so sure Governor Buni will soon be here for us to decide the next line of action”
“Our governors have become aware of the new position and they will all converge here to sort out ourselves from the claws of that law before it becomes too late”.he said.
“Several state chairmen of committees inaugurated by governor Buni have bombarded the national secretariat to know what is going on here in respect of the matter and we have assured them that there is no cause for alarm
“What happened in Zamfara in 2019 will not be allowed to repeat itself. So, as I said, we will do the needful very soon”
However, Deputy National Publicity of the party, My Yekini Nabena was not available for comment when DAILY POST visited his office.