By Kennedy Ikantu Peretei.
The Supreme Court judgement on the outcome of the October 2020 Governorship Elections in Ondo State has practically set fire on the All Progressives Congress (APC) and by implication the inhuman Muhammadu Buhari led government in Nigeria.
Whereas, four of the Justices upheld the election of Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu SAN, the other three in their minority judgement faulted the validity of Akeredeolu’s nomination, thereby giving victory to Eyitayo Jegede SAN.
This judgement has thrown spanner into the wheels of a party that has demonstrated lack of capacity to run its affairs or willing to obey simple rules, whether its own Constitution or Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The first reaction to the Supreme Court judgement came from Festus Keyamo, SAN who is not just a Senior Advocate of Nigeria but cabinet minister of the Buhari administration. In his words “the Supreme Court has just weaponised all those who would be aggrieved by the APC Congresses to proceed to court to challenge the competence of the Buni-led CECPC to organise the Congresses and National Convention. The judiciary will subsequently destroy the entire structures of the party from bottom to top. We are lucky the Supreme Court has just given us a great and useful hint to save our party just before the Congresses. We cannot gamble with this delicate issue. The time to act is NOW”
Keyamo is not alone in calling for the immediate resignation of Mai Mala Buni as Caretaker Chairman of the APC if the party is to survive. Hon. Isaac Kekemeke, pioneer State Chairman of APC in Ondo State and legal luminary also advised Buni to immediately resign. There are a good number of prominent lawyers who are members of APC calling for Buni’s resignation, among them is Kayode Ajulo.
Perhaps the most scathing of the commentaries came from Mike Ezekhome, SAN and a human rights activist. In his opinion titled The Banana Peel under APC’s Rickety Chair, Ezekhome remarked that ” ….Thus from the bottom to top, the APC amorphous structures made up of disparate tendencies have been irretrievably damaged, nay destroyed….. APC will slip. And the fall will be thunderous. All Nigerians will applaud. God, how mighty thou Art”. Across the length and breadth of Nigeria, only those, held up in the cocoon of the Aso Villa, soaked in the nectar of poisonous power have laboriously offered explanations for Buni’s merciless rape of the Nigerian Constitution.
One of such persons is Abubakar Malami, SAN, Attorney General and Minister for Justice and the architect of the Buni contraption. Malami lampooned Festus Keyamo openly for calling for Buni’s resignation, referring to Keyamo’s position as senseless. In his words ” To further show the meritless nature of the position under review, assuming and not conceding that the argument is right, then it will equally be contrary to the spirit and intent of Section 183 of the Constitution for any sitting Governor to be the Chairman of say Governors’ Forum, Chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum or any other similar body. This in my humble view can definitely not be the intention of the drafters of the 1999 Constitution”. In other words, as far as Malami is concerned, the position of APC National Chairman, with executive functions like nominating candidates for elections, is not different from that of Chairman, Governors’ Forum. It goes to show that, if someone like Malami (though a Senior Advocate of Nigeria) is the Chief Law Officer of the country, then there is very little to expect from the Buhari administration in terms of compliance with rule of law.
It will not be out of place to put the present travails of the APC squarely on Malami’s head. And from the way he has carried on, even after this landmark Supreme Court judgement, there will be more trouble for the APC. It was Abubakar Malami, who on 25th June, 2020 sworn in Mai Mala Buni, Executive Governor of Yobe State, as National Caretaker Chairman/ Chairman National Convention Planning Committee, at the State House Abuja. Six months after, that is, in December, 2020 the Buni Committee was given an extension of another six months” to put the party in a very good shape and conduct seamless National Convention”. There is certainly no end this extension of tenure as long as Malami holds the aces.
Unfortunately, in order to save an ugly situation, President Muhammadu Buhari has instructed Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN and Vice-President,
of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to immediately summon a meeting of senior lawyers in the cabinet. Reports have it that, Malami himself, Festus Keyamo, Babatunde Fashola, SAN, Lai Mohammed and Osinbajo have been unable to wriggle out of the legal quagmire Malami has led the APC.
Two days after the Supreme Court judgement, an APC stalwart, Barr. Kalu Agu Kalu approached a FCT High Court for an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the APC from going ahead with its planned Ward Congress as well as subsequent Local Government, State Congresses and the National Convention. Agu in a suit marked CV/1812/2021 is asking the Court to declare as null and void any of the APC Congress and National Convention held under the current APC’s Caretaker Committee under Mai Mala Buni. Agu’s lawyers have sued APC and Mai Mala Buni as first and second Defendants respectively. According to Agu, his aspiration to become National Legal Adviser of the APC at the National Convention will be affected, if the illegal Congresses are allowed to hold.
Needless to say Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, Secretary of the Caretaker Committee issued a press Statement asking APC members to proceed with the Ward Congress. While the Congresses were halted vied Court orders in places like Bayelsa and Imo States, there were parallel Congresses in Kwara, Osun and Ogun States. That, the APC has murdered sleep and will no longer be able to sleep is not in doubt.
Since 2018, the APC has been consistently emasculated in one impunity or the other with very fatal consequences. But its leadership has not fared better than the proverbial stubborn house fly that accompanies the corpse to the grave.
On 24th May, 2019, five days to the inauguration of a new Government in Zamfara State, the Supreme Court voided all votes cast for the APC in all elections held for Governorship, House of Assembly and National Assembly elections. The five-man panel in a unanimous judgement held that, a party that had no valid candidate cannot be said to have emerged winner of elections. There were 36 casualties (including Abdulazeez Yari, immediate past Governor who had attended Senate induction ceremonies as Senator-elect). 24 House of Assembly Members, 7 House of Representatives Members, 3 Senators, a Governor and a Deputy Governor were all sent home at the eve of their swearing-in. The reason was very elementary, the APC refused to comply with the INEC deadline of conducting Party Primaries on or before 7th October, 2018.
In Rivers State, APC did not hold valid primaries and therefore could not field any candidate for the 2019 Governorship Elections. Again, they went home with bloodied noses.
The emergence of Mai Mala Buni was also a product of another impunity. Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, former National Chairman of APC was suspended by his Etsako Ward 10 Executives, Edo State in 2019 for anti-party activities. Oshiomhole did not challenge the suspension until an application was filed at FCT High Court, Jabi by Oluwale Afolabi that having been suspended, Oshiomhole can not act as National Chairman because his rights as APC member is abated. Hon Justice Danlami Senchi sacked Oshiomhole declaring that the APC wrongfully kept him as National Chairman. In June, 2020 the Court of Appeal in a unanimous judgement upheld the decision of the lower Court and ordered the withdrawal of Oshiomhole’s rights and privileges as National Chairman. After the exit of Oshiomhole, several persons laid claim to the Chairmanship position until Malami came up with the “Devil’s Option” of a Caretaker/National Convention Planning Committee under Mai Mala Buni. One full year after, the Committee is yet to conduct a National Convention. If it takes twenty years to lay the foundation for madness, how many years will be required for the madness proper (direct translation from Yoruba proverb).
It is absolutely unnecessary to raise the questions about the dramatic replacement of two of the seven member panel of Justices that heard the Jegede Appeal, 48 hours before the epic Judgement. Hon. Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun and Hon. Justice Musa Abaaji were substituted with Justice Inyang Okoro and Justice Mohammed Garba. These two Justices supported the majority judgement. The deed has been done and everybody has moved on. But the APC will never be the same again.