By Chibuike Nwabuko
Abuja (Sundiata Post) – The Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege has taken the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo SAN, to the cleaners, warning him and his cohorts to eschew mischievous behaviours and deliberate attempts at misinterpreting and misrepresenting the law.
Omo- Age gave the warning while reacting to the the statement credited to the minister to the effect that the All Progressives Congress may lose power if governor Buni remains interim Chairman of the party.
The Deputy Senate President who doubles as the Senate Committee Chairman on Constitution Review stated this in a statement he personally signed titled: “WHY THERE IS NOTHING STOPPING THE A.P.C WARD CONGRESSES SCHEDULED FOR SATURDAY, 31ST JULY, 2021 and made available to Sundiata Post on Friday.
The statement reads in full:
A few while ago, I issued a statement expressing my legal opinion on the purport of the decision of the Supreme Court in-respect of Eyitayo Jegede’s appeal against the election of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and the misinterpretation of the said judgment from certain quarters, vis-a-vis the purport of section 183 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), as it affects the A.P.C Congresses scheduled for Saturday.
I have however, taken time to critically digest and juxtapose the divergent views on the issue and came to realise that the mischief-makers propagating confusion aimed at misleading our party into a state of disarray, did not study the petition filed by Jegede at the lower Court.
It is worthy to note, that a decision of court is only an authority for what it decides and nothing more. This was clearly stated by the Supreme Court in the case of SKYE BANK & ANOR V. AKINPELU (2010) LPELR-3073 (SC), Pp. 48-49, paras. E-B, as follows:
“It must be borne in mind always, that each case must be considered on its own particular or peculiar facts or circumstances. No one case is identical with the other or another. They may be similar, but never identical”
Of particular importance is the fact that the Petition in Ondo State did not challenge the legality or competence of the APC Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary Convention Committee, but rather challenged the letter dated 27th July, 2020 forwarding the name of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and his running mate to INEC as the candidates of the APC, on the ground that Mai Bumi ought not to have signed the letter, him being the Executive Governor of Yobe State. At the risk of prolix, but for the purpose of emphasis, I shall reproduce some of the portions of the Petition as may be relevant to the issue at hand.
Relief 1 of the Petition was couched as follows:
“That it may be determined and declared that the INEC Form EC9B containing the names of 3rd and 4th Respondents together with the letter dated 27th July, 2020 with which the 2nd respondent purportedly sponsored or communicated its sponsorship of 3rd and 4th respondents to the 1st Respondent are unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect”
The Petition in summary went further to state that it was wrong for Mai Mala Bumi and Senator John J. Akpan Udoedehe Ph.D to have signed as National Chairman and National Secretary of the party and that it was only the National Executive Committee of the APC that can validly sponsor a candidate for election to the office of the Governor of Ondo State.
From the clear content of the substratum of Jegede’s petition at the lower court, I find it very difficult to understand how it relates to the competence of the Caretaker/ Extra-Ordinary Convention Committee constituted by NEC of the APC.
In other to deliberately misled gullible minds, one of the proponents for the cancellation of the Ward Congresses alluded to the fact, that if the APC proceeds with the Congresses, the opposition would simply wait till the APC Presidential Primaries in 2023 to disqualify our Candidate and destroy the party. This reasoning with all due respect, is not only tenuous in law, but strange.
It is elementary knowledge that complaints touching on the nomination or election of leaders of a political party or issues as to membership of a political party are matters exclusively within the internal affairs of a political party and are not justiciable. The Supreme Court in the case of UFOMBA V. INEC & ORS (2017) LPELR-42079 (SC), Pp. 46-48, paras. D-B, clearly held thus:
“……The issue now is, are claims against the nomination of members or leaders of the political party justifiable? My simple answer to that question is a capital NO. The law is trite that Courts jurisdiction is ousted in matters dealing with internal affairs or resolution of a political party regarding nomination or leadership of that political party as in this instant case……”
How the process of electing the leaders or Executives of the APC on Saturday, 31st day of July, 2021, can be relied upon by the PDP or any other opposition party, to disqualify our candidates in 2023, is what beats my imagination.
Assuming but not conceding, that the grievances (if any) arising from the Congresses, would amount or qualify as a pre-election dispute and assuming the PDP or any other opposition party has the right to challenge the outcome of the Congresses, such a right of action will not last in perpetuity. By 2023, the 14 days statutorily period provided for in Section 285 (9) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 21,) Act 2017 would have elapsed.
In 2023, APC would have gotten substantive National Officers, State, Local Government and Wards Executives and the NEC of the APC will constitute and inaugurate the Committees to conduct the Presidential and Governorship primaries, how PDP will sue to disqualify our Presidential and all the candidates of the APC in 2023 remains mystical.
As ministers in the temple of justice and noble men, we should all eschew mischievous behaviours and deliberate attempts at misinterpreting and misrepresenting the law to satisfy an egocentric agenda.
Let us all be properly guided.
Senator Ovie Omo-Agege
Deputy President of the Senate/Obarisi of Urhobo land.
Recall that Keyamo had in a leaked memo released on Wednesday, said the “unity” in the party may be short-lived if the party went ahead with its planned congresses under the leadership of Mr Buni.
The planned congresses are scheduled to hold nationwide on Saturday (tomorrow).
Hinging his reasons on the split decision of the Supreme Court to uphold Rotimi Akeredolu as Governor of Ondo State earlier on Wednesday, the minister said the APC escaped potential defeat due to ‘little technicality’ which may not be applicable in subsequent court cases.
Sundiata Post recalls that four out of the seven-member panel apex court dismissed the appeal of Eyitayo Jegede, the October 2020 Governorship candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo, to remove Mr Akeredolu as the elected state governor.
In his reaction to this judgement, Mr Keyamo said the ruling party would have lost the case if Mr Jegede had joined Mr Buni in the suit.
According to the Minister, “The little technical point that saved Gov AKEREDOLU was that Jegede failed to join GOV. Mai Mala Buni in the suit. Jegede was challenging the competence of Gov. Mai Mala 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 noted.
Mr Keyamo said the technicality found therein in the judgement may string chains of suits from APC members to question the legitimacy of the 13 month old interim leadership of Mr Buni to organise congresses and national convention.