Wednesday’s Supreme Court judgment, which ratified the victory of Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, has thrown up a major controversy over the legitimacy of Governor Mai Mala Buni as the All Progressives Congress (APC) national caretaker chairman.
The Yobe governor was appointed after the removal of elected Chairman Adams Oshiomhole on June 16, last year for an initial six month period, which has been renewed indefinitely.
Three justices of the Supreme Court – Justice Mary Peter-Odili, Justice Ejembi Eko and Justice Muhammed Saulawa, endorsed a minority judgment.
The dissenting judgment was read by Justice Peter-Odili: “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 memebrs could occupy at a time.
Justice Peter-Odili added: “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, that document has no validity, and thereby void.
Minister of State for Labour and Employment Festus Keyamo (SAN) in a statement last night on the minority judgment, said it had grave implication for the ruling party.
He said the party risked being destroyed “from top to bottom” by the judiciary, if it ignored what the Justices said.
The senior advocate, who said he was offering his “professional bit to the party,” explained that: “The little technical point that saved Governor Akeredolu was that Jegede failed to join Mai Mala Buni in the suit.”
He added: “Jegede was challenging the competence of Buni as a sitting governor to run the affairs of the APC as chairman of the caretaker committee. He contends that this is against Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution, which states that a sitting governor shall not, during the period when he holds office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever. In other words, had Buni been joined in the suit, the story may have been different today as we would have lost Ondo State to the PDP.”
He then warned: “Any other person affected by the actions of the Buni-led Committee will henceforth, not fail to join him in any subsequent case in court. These include any subsequent election matter in any part of this country and all the APC congresses that are about to hold. The Supreme Court has just weaponised all those that 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.”
Keyamo said the APC should terminate the plans to hold its ward congresses on Saturday.
In recommending what to do, he advocated the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the APC should meet urgently and reconstitute the caretaker committee to exclude those holding executive positions.
He said since “we cannot vouch for the legality of any NEC meeting called by Buni now,” the safest is to get two-thirds of NEC members to sign an invitation to summon a NEC meeting”.
The alternative, according to him, is for the Board of Trustees, which includes the President, to be activated to organize a national convention in line with Article 13 of the APC Constitution.”