From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The ruling All Progressives Congress(APC), is currently walking on a tight rope ahead of its February 2022 National Convention with multiple suits challenging the legality or otherwise of the Governor Mai Mala Buni -led Caretaker Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee(CECPC).
The legal land mines are buried in the chambers of two courts of law awaiting a possible explosion depending on the ability of the party to wriggle out of the legal questions of law posed before the courts for determination.
In the case before Justice Babangida Hassan of the Jabi division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, an aggrieved member of the party, Mr Okosisi Emeka Ngwu is among other reliefs, seeking an order setting aside all actions and decisions taken by the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led CECPC of the party.
Already, Justice Hassan has fixed December 17 for a definite hearing in the suit marked FCT/HC/CV/1824/2021 and filed by Ngwu’s lawyer, Chief Oba Maduabuchi (SAN).
He predicated his case on the provisions of section 87(4)(b)(1) of the Electoral Act (as amended), which states that “only the National Executive Committee of a political party can validly appoint a date for the holding of primaries for the nomination of the gubernatorial or other candidates of the political party.”
The plaintiff further urged the court to determine whether the organisation known and called Caretaker/Extraordinary Planning Committee is one of the organs created by Article 11 of the constitution of the political party known and called the APC.
In addition, the court is to also determine whether a valid candidate or officer of the party can emerge from a congress fixed by any other organ of a political party outside the National Executive Committee of a political party including the APC.
It is the submissions of the plaintiff that the CECPC is unknown to the constitution of the APC and it is operating without reference to the party’s constitution.
The defendants in the suit are: the APC, Isiaka Oyetola, Ken Nnamani, Stella Okorete, Sani Bello, Dr. James Lalu, Senator Abubakar Yusuf, Akenyemi Olaide, David Leon, Abba Ali, Prof. Tahir Mammam, Ismail Ahmed and Senator John James Akpanudoedehe.
Before the Abuja division of the Federal High Court is a fresh suit seeking an order setting aside the February 2022 dated fixed for the National Convention of the party.
Besides, the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1577/2021, is also challenging the legality of the National Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee led by the Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala- Buni.
The plaintiff, Princess Zahrah Mustapha Audu, in a 14-paragraph affidavit in support of the suit, described herself as the Chairperson and Coordinator of Progressive Youth Movement, a support group of the APC that mobilised youths and ensured that activities of the party are in synergy and in compliance with the provisions of its guidelines and Constitution of both the APC and 1999 constitution.
In the suit filed by Onwuchekwa Onwuchekwa, Audu is also seeking a restraining order against Governor Buni from parading himself as the National Chairman/Caretaker Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee of the APC, while still holding the post of the governor of Yobe State.
The plaintiff is further pressing for an order empowering the Board of Trustees of the party(BOT) to convene the National Convention of the party inline with Article 17(iv) of the party constitution; an order restraining all or any other organ of the party from tampering or frustrating the exercise of the power of the BOT from convening the National Convention of the party.
The plaintiff is further seeking an order setting aside the date earmarked or announced by Governor Buni for the holding of the National Convention of the party; and also an order directing the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), from recognizing Governor Buni as the National Chairman/Caretaker Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee of the party.
She has urged the court to declare that having regards to the provisions of section 183 of the 1999 constitution, Article 13:2 (A) (vii) and 17 (iv) of the party’s constitution, the 2nd defendant (Buni), being the current governor of Yobe State cannot validly hold an executive position in the party at the same time he holds the position as the National Chairman/Caretaker Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee of the APC.
She accordingly asked the court to declare that Buni as the CECPC cannot validly fix a date, organize, convene and superintend over the party ‘s national convention.
Recall that the crisis rocking the APC came to a head forcing the removal of Mr Adams Oshiomhole, who was accused of highhandedness and was finally expelled from the party in his state following his struggle for supremacy with the state governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki.
Consequent upon his removal, and the several court cases that followed, Oshiomhole was finally eased out of power while a 13-man Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) led by Governor Mai Bala Buni was created to administer the party and take it to convention.
The Committee was inaugurated in June 2020, even as some party faithful kicked against its headship because the occupant of the office Buni, cannot double as an executive chairman and serving governor.
However, that position went unheeded until the supreme court ruling in a governorship election suit instituted by the candidate of the PDP, Mr Eyitayo Jegede.
Jegede had gone to court to challenge the legal validity of Mr Rotimi Akeredolu’s nomination by the national Caretaker Committee of the APC headed by Buni.
The supreme court in a majority decision, ruled that the non joinder of Buni as a party in the matter, proved fatal to Jegede’s case, after holding that the issue raised by the appellants had merit and constitutional implication.
While the majority decision accepted there was a merit in the case and only saw the non-joinder of Buni as the lacuna which in effect could not allow for a positive declaration in favour of Mr Jegede, the minority decision said the APC and Buni were one and the claimant was not bound by law to join him.
Immediately after the ruling of the Supreme Court, party top shots and stakeholders began to call for Buni’s removal as all decisions undertaken by the caretaker Chairman would be a nullity if joined in any suit.
While various groups afterwards had pronounced the removal of Buni and creation of new national caretaker executives, all attempts by the APC Governors Forum to wade in and successfully steer the party to a peaceful convention have failed.
As it stands, the APC is yet to file its response to the pending suits. But should the court agree with the plaintiffs that there is merit in their suits, then, the party faces a huge setback ahead of its convention.