By Joseph Onajevwe,
The way and manner the Peoples Democratic Party is dancing their legs to pieces over the Mala Buni-led Caretaker and Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the All Progressives Congress is making the whole thing assume a larger than life stature. Since the Supreme Court judgment on the Ondo State Governorship election which returned the APC’s Rotimi Akeredolu as duly elected, the PDP had been fixated with the place of Governor Mala Buni as Caretaker Chairman of the APC as if the PDP survival depends on whether Buni’s status stands the constitution of Nigeria on its head or not. A section of APC leaders who are seemingly threatened by Buni’s leadership of the party has resolved to join the wailers in re-echoing the strange and discordant tune.
I have read several comments and views on the matter. Those for and against the Buni-led Committee have come up with their respective understanding of the Supreme Court judgment. While I do not want to delve into the detailed legal implications of the sitting governor serving as Caretaker Chairman of the party, one argument I find instructive is the fact that for the candidate of the party to emerge, he may have satisfied certain constitutional requirements and as well as provisions of the party as in the constitution. I wonder whether the submission of the names of candidates by the national chairman if done within the constitutional limit could invalidate the candidature.
I am wondering because what all the arguments against Buni seem to be about is that where he joined in the suit filed by the PDP candidate in Ondo state, APC would have been history in that state. By implication, the primary elections that produced Chief Andy Uba as APC candidate for the November 6 Anambra State governorship poll was invalid because Mala Buni was Chairman of the Caretaker Committee. I think that should be the only thing APC should be worried about and not the conduct of the party congress as being alleged in some quarters particularly amongst those opposed to the Buni-led CECPC.
According to a section of the party, the Nigerian Supreme Court did not invalidate but rather affirmed that the leadership of Governor Mai Mala Buni as Chairman, Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is legal and lawful. It is the view of this sect that Mai Mala Buni’s position as Acting Chairman of the Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee is not contrary to the provision of Section 183 of the CFRN as same is on a temporary basis which is not akin to Executive office or paid employment as envisaged by Section 183 of the CFRN.
There have been controversies and misinterpretations of the judgement over governor Mai Mala Buni headship of National Caretaker Committee of APC since the apex court recently delivered its judgement in favour of APC’s governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state and his challenger, Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the former’s nomination.
It is trite to note that the provisions that govern sponsorship and nomination of candidates in an election are: Sections 31 and 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended. There are no provisions in the Electoral Act prescribing any form for forwarding or submission of the sponsored candidate of a political party in an election.
“Sections 177 and 182 of the CFRN which make provisions for qualifications and disqualification of candidates for Governorship election are exhaustive and leave no room for any addition. That no other Law/Act can be relied upon to disqualify a candidate in an election save for the provisions of Section 182 of the CFRN. That non-compliance with INEC directives (regulations, guidelines or manuals) for the purpose of an election but which is not contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act shall not of itself be a ground for disqualification in an election petition. Paragraph 17 (a) of the First Supplementary to Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections cannot be relied upon as ground to question the return of a candidate in an election.
“That sponsorship of a candidate in an election is that of the party and not the individual Officer of the party forwarding the name of the candidate. That the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party is empowered to create, elect and appoint Committees (including the instant CECPC) or any other committee it may deem necessary to act in any capacity. On the strength of all the above position of the Supreme Court in the instant case and other earlier decided cases cited in support, it is our opinion that the Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) headed by Governor Mai Mala Buni is on firm ground to proceed with its mandate as given by the National Executive Committee of the APC.” These are the legal opinions of those who support Buni as Chairman of CECPC.
It is believed that a dissenting judgment is not the judgment of the court and therefore is not binding. Indeed, the judgment of a Court is the majority judgment, which is the binding judgment. It is therefore disheartening to see lawyers of high repute relying on a minority opinion to draw conclusions and demand for resignation of Mai Malam Buni as Chairman of the party in an acting capacity.
What is most intriguing is that these so-called legal luminaries are relying on the minority judgment to now questioning the validity of the Buni-led CECPC to conduct ward congress and convention of the party. One thing is certain, Buni is saddled with two responsibilities; one as Caretaker Chairman of the APC Caretaker Committee and the other, Chairman of the Convention planning committee which also entails planning for congresses from wards to the National level. Assuming without conceding that the Supreme Court judgment precluded Buni from functioning as Chairman of the party in an acting capacity, does it also stop him from going ahead with the Congresses and Convention of the party?
Recall that in the PDP which is singing louder and crying more than the bereaved, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa was Chairman of the Convention that got Uche Secondus elected as National Chairman of the PDP. He too was Chairman of the Convention Planning Committee that secured the PDP presidential ticket for Atiku Abubakar in 2019. Why should a sitting governor serve as Chairman of the Convention planning committee in PDP and not also in APC? What is so special about the Buni-led Committee that many lawyers now soil their wig and gown over what ordinary minds could easily discern as cheer mischief? If Okowa could be Chairman of a Convention planning committee, those who lost out in the power play in the ward congress should learn to let go. No Supreme Court would annul the congresses because Buni was Chairman of the planning committee.
Joseph Onajevwe writes from Ginuwa Road, Warri, Delta State.