PERSPECTIVE – 2023 polls: Buni as APC’s boat-rocker

PERSPECTIVE – 2023 polls: Buni as APC’s boat-rocker

By Ehichioya Ezomon

Will the All Progressives Congress (APC) survive the onslaughts against its existence by dissatisfied members and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which canvasses delisting of the platform?

How many court cases will the party contest before deciding the fate of Governor Mai Mala Buni as the acting chairman of the APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee?

What’s so special about Buni’s headship of the committee to risk APC’s continuation? Are the party leaders pinning hopes on the courts, which didn’t give a damn in cases involving the party’s chapters in Rivers and Zamfara in 2019 and Bayelsa in 2020?

The PDP has routinely predicted APC’s disintegration before the 2023 elections, and the APC appears headed to achieving that projection by getting mired in the quicksand of political obscurity. Yet, it seems the likely entity to extinguish the barely eight-year-old party that overthrew the PDP in 2015 is the very custodian that’s supposed to stabilise the APC ahead of the crucial 2023 polls.

Yobe State Governor Buni, picked to head the caretaker committee, was charged with reconciling the disparate factions in the party, and conduct congresses that would lead to a national convention, to elect new officers. The National Executive Committee had dissolved former Governor Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee, “to arrest the crisis in the APC,” aftermath of the congresses/primaries for the 2019 polls in which the APC lost several states to the PDP.

But rather than serve as the “Julius Berger” that builds bridges to link the different tendencies in the APC, Buni’s acting chairmanship of the caretaker committee has assumed the party’s albatross.

Notably, the Buni committee is a contrivance by a clique opposed to Oshiomhole’s NWC, which sought to conduct direct primaries opposed by APC governors that control state party structures. Many concerned members had raised the alarm that the committee’s establishment was unknown to the APC Constitution, and also violated the amended 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.

Ultimately, some dissatisfied members took out a writ at an Abuja Federal High Court, praying it to sack the Buni committee, and return the Oshiomhole NWC. The court rejected their prayers.

The anti-Buni campaign was revived after the Supreme Court ruled on the 2020 poll in Ondo State, which PDP and its candidate, Chief Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), lost to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN). Although four of the seven-man Justices of the apex court gave judgment to the APC and Akeredolu, three Justices ruled that the governor wasn’t legally nominated for the poll.

The minority Justices, ruling in favour of PDP and Jegede, held that Akeredolu’s nomination was forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by Buni, whose chairmanship of the APC caretaker committee breached Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution and article 17(4) of APC Constitution, both of which forbid a governor concurrently holding dual executive offices.

Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution states that: “The Governor shall not, during the period he holds office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever,” while article 17(4) of APC’s Constitution provides that: “No officer in any organ of the Party shall hold executive office in government concurrently.”

That judgment set off renewed calls for Buni’s resignation, to save the APC from disqualification of its candidates/elected officials in future contests and voiding of actions by the Buni committee.

However, the APC leaders look comfortable with Buni retaining his position, thus instigating the latest bombshell from about 100 aggrieved members in Benue State approaching the court to sack Buni and the caretaker committee. The plaintiffs, in an August 18, 2021, suit at a Federal High Court in Abuja, list the APC, Buni, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, the INEC, and others as defendants. Contending that the 13-member committee falls short of the required 24 members from not less than two-thirds of the 36 States and the FCT for any governing body of a political party, substantive or acting, under Section 223(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the plaintiffs ask the court to determine the following:

* Whether the headship of the Caretaker Committee by a sitting Governor holding dual executive office is prohibited by Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 17(4) of the APC Constitution, 2014 (as amended).

* Whether by Article 13(4)(xvi) of the APC Constitution, 2014 (as amended) only the National Working Committee rather than the NEC of the party can constitute a Caretaker Committee in whatever form, nature or guise.

* Whether the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, who administered oath of office on Gov. Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State as purported caretaker chairman, lacks the powers to do so under any provision of the APC Constitution, 2014 (as amended), as he is neither a member of the National Working Committee or even a member of the NEC of the APC.”

Among others, the plaintiffs seek “an order of injunction, restraining Buni from carrying out the functions, duties, responsibilities and privileges of the National Chairman of the party in dual capacity with his executive functions as the Governor of Yobe State.”

“An order nullifying all the steps, actions, activities, measures and decisions of the APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, for and on behalf of the APC, for being null, void and of no effect. And any other orders the court may deem fit to make.”

This case by 100 APC members against the party, Buni and others is besides the suit by the PDP, seeking Buni’s outer as governor of Yobe State, and the enthronement of PDP’s candidates in the 2019 polls as governor and deputy governor, respectively.

In an originating summon at a Federal High Court in Abuja, the PDP, resting its action on the minority judgment of the Supreme Court on the Ondo poll, poses several questions for determination:

* Whether the 1st defendant (Buni) did not breach the clear provisions of Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution when, as the Governor of Yobe State, he accepted the 3rd defendant (APC) appointment as its Caretaker Committee chairman and proceeded to occupy the office.

* Whether the 1st defendant, who is the Governor of Yobe State and the Caretaker Committee chairman of the 3rd defendant (APC), has not ceased to hold the office of Governor of Yobe State, having regard to the provisions of Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution.

* Having regard to the clear provisions of Section 187(1) of the 1999 Constitution and the state of law, whether the 2nd plaintiff (Dama Baba Abba Aji) can lawfully occupy the office of the governor or deputy governor of Yobe State upon the cessation of Governor Buni’s occupation of the office.

Buni’s headship of the APC caretaker committee has become, with apologies to President Buhari, a case of, “If APC does not remove Buni as its chairman, Buni will remove APC as a political party.”

The former is the prayer of genuine APC members, and the latter the hope of “fifth columnists” in the APC, and the PDP, which would delight in the self-ruination that the APC is gambling with!

  • Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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