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Buni/APC Congress: Stalemate As Osinbajo Maintains Stance

POWER blocs within the All Progressives Congress (APC) have continued to hold to varied interpretations of the Supreme Court judgment on the appropriateness of Yobe state governor and chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Mai Mala Buni, to hold elective and party positions concurrently.

In a minority judgment by the apex court on the petition filed by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) the governorship election in Ondo State, Eyitayo Jegede, SAN challenging the eligibility of Governor Buni to sign the nomination form of Rotimi Akeredolu, the trio of Justices Mary Peter-Odili, Ejembi Eko and Ibrahim Saulawa declared that Akeredolu’s election should have been nullified, while the appellants, (PDP and Jegede) declared winner of the election. Justice Eko further maintained that Buni violated the 1999 Constitution, when as a sitting governor he still acted as chairman of the APC by submitting Akeredolu’s name to INEC for purposes of the governorship poll.

Sunday Tribune investigation during the week revealed that the position canvassed by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami SAN, at the meeting called by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has since gained currency among majority of the APC governors, the Presidency and chieftains of the party who belonged to the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). Malami at the meeting held on the eve of the nationwide APC ward congress advised the CECPC led by Governor Buni to proceed with the election of substantive officers at the ward level.

The source said Malami argued that Article 18 of the APC Constitution (as amended) vests the National Executive Committee (NEC) with the power to create a standing ad-hoc committee, which was what happened with the creation of the CECPC, following the emergency meeting of NEC after the sack of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee last year. The Minister of Justice further argued that the Buniled caretaker has neither breached the party’s constitution nor violated the 1999 Constitution.

Professor Osinbajo, at the meeting, however, maintained that the ward congress already conducted should be aborted against the backdrop of the Supreme Court judgment which, he noted, frowned at the eligibility of Buni to combine party and elective offices.

A party source, who spoke to Sunday Tribune, disclosed that Osinbajo still maintained his stance when he met with a serving governor from the North-West on Thursday at the Presidential Villa.

While the governor congratulated Professor Osinbajo over the judgment which favoured Akeredolu, his host, however, told him there is danger ahead if the CECPC is not dissolved or its membership reviewed to remove serving governors.

A member of the APC CECPC, who spoke with Sunday Tribune, in confidence at the weekend, however, maintained that the interim leadership was on firm ground and was not losing sleep over the minority judgment delivered by three Justices of the Supreme Court.

Asked if he was not worried that President Muhammadu Buhari could defer to the legal advice of the vice president, who appears to be in the minority but holds a contrary position on the interpretation of the judgment, the member of the Caretaker Committee countered that Osinbajo is not the only Senior Advocate of Nigeria in Buhari’s cabinet.

“The Vice President is not the Chief Law Officer of the country. The Ministry of Justice has an array of legal experts who look at judgments, take a position and convey their advice to the president. That’s how it works.

“Don’t also forget that within the cabinet, Osinbajo isn’t only the SAN that President Buhari listens to for legal opinion. Babatunde Fashola is there; he is also a SAN. You want to believe that a president will ignore the legal opinion of his AGF and say what his VP told him is the true interpretation of the judgment and position of law?” Abdullahi Dauda, spokesman of a group within the party, the Concerned APC stakeholders, told Sunday Tribune that what is paramount to the ordinary party faithful is the continuation of the process that would lead to conduct of the national convention to elect national officers for the party. He expressed dissatisfaction over the multiple interpretations being given to the judgment.

“The Supreme Court is the highest court in Nigeria; if it gives a judgment, you can only appeal to God. For us, we have no quarrel with the court, we can only say that any system where justice is sacrificed, there will be no peace.

“What we are saying is that those who laboured and sacrificed to build this party should not be treated badly because the party still needs us.

“We will continue to call on the leaders to do justice because it is strange that the people of Yobe State voted for a governor and the governor has abandoned that state and is always in Abuja doing the work of a chairman of our party.

“All we are saying is that we should have our convention and let us elected new NWC members for proper politics to start,” he said.

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