From Adetutu Folasade-Koyi, Abuja
The battle for the soul of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), ahead of the 2023 general election, has started in the most unusual place, within the party itself.
The battle and the dramatis personae for the soul of the party quickly unravelled after the Supreme Court ruling last week, wherein it was noted that the APC Caretaker/Etra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) could not take the place of a validly-elected National Working Committee (NWC).
A few hours after, Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, SAN, advised his party to tarry awhile with the nationwide congresses. The party leadership ignored Keyamo and the congresses held across the country last weekend.
The minister had warned in his letter that the “unity” in the party may be short-lived, if the party went ahead with its planned congresses under the leadership of the CECPC chairman, Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, because APC barely escaped losing Ondo State over Buni’s status.
The minister also hinged his reasons on the split decision of the Supreme Court to uphold Rotimi Akeredolu as Ondo State governor last Wednesday, when he opined that the APC escaped potential defeat due to “little technicality,” which may not be applicable in subsequent court cases, if the congresses are held under Buni’s leadership of the party.
He also insisted that the continuous leadership of the APC by the Yobe State governor, is a breach of Article 17 of the APC constitution, adding that the party should stop its proposed congresses by the former’s leadership or risk imminent division.
At this juncture, it is pertinent to ask: Why didn’t Keyamo raise this technical point in June 2020 when the CCEPC was constituted by the party’s highest body? Why didn’t the former activist-turned-politician raise this point since last year and, up till last month, when Buni’s committee crisscrossed the country to pull in serving and former governors and former speakers of the House of Representatives, among other political heavyweights in the country, into the party?
If Keyamo thought that, as a senior advocate of Nigeria, his counsel could sway the party, well, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Shehu Malami, have replied him, to wit: mind your counsel, no one asked for it.
In his reply to Keyamo, the Deputy Senate President noted that the majority decision of the Supreme Court did not make any comments on the competence of the Yobe State governor as chairman of the CECPC. Omo-Agege averred that the apex court’s decision on the Ondo governorship election case was dismissed on the ground of competence or lack thereof for the non-joinder of a necessary party for the suit at the lower court.
On his part, Malami told Keyamo “it remains to be seen how a governor, functioning in an ad hoc capacity, as mandated by his political party, can be construed as ‘holding any executive office or paid employment,’ as envisaged by the drafters of the constitution.”
Quickly, supporters of the CECPC chairman countered Keyamo with Buni’s record of reconciliations across the country since June 2020, when the committee was set up, thereby repositioning the party ahead of the next general election.
Since the takeover of party’s affairs by the CECPC, there have been clashes of many interests since the reconciliations started. While others were happy and satisfied with the direction in which the Buni committee is steering the party, others are not.
Similarly, while some party members genuinely want the party to be a cohesive unit into 2023, others are simply nonchalant as this very act of reconciling contending factions threaten their ambitions in 2023.
Since the battle for the soul of APC unravelled after the Supreme Court ruling last week, Buni has maintained a studied silence.
Rather, it is the CECPC scribe, Senator James Akpanudoedehe, and the party’s legal adviser, Michael Akintola, who have spoken on the ruling and reiterated that the party’s actions, since June 2020, are legal and in sync with the mandate given to the panel by the National Executive Council,
If Buni’s committee has been able to improve the party’s fortunes, as well as reposition the party by bringing in hitherto ranking members of the opposition, wouldn’t it be better to rather assist the CECPC to hold congresses and kick-start the journey to a convention that would be acceptable to members and thereafter, usher in a new NWC that would then strengthen the party for the 2023 general election?
There are, however, other contending forces in APC who fear that, with Buni in charge of the party at this time, their ambitions cannot find any resonance even though they concede that Buni cannot transmute to national chairman. If they know this, then, at this point, who is afraid of Buni?