Over two weeks ago, the Supreme Court affirmed the election of All Progressives Congress (APC) Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu as the duly elected Governor of Ondo State in the suit filed by his main challenger, Eyitayo Jegede of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The PDP candidate didn’t dispute the election results but questioned the legality of the nomination of his opponent by Chairman of the Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Gov Mai Mala Buni who as Governor of Yobe State he argued held the post of interim Chairman in contravention of Section 183 of the constitution.
Gov. Akeredolu escaped eviction from the Government house by the whiskers as only 4 out of 7 justices on the panel gave him a clean bill of health by rejecting the argument of the appellants, stating the case is not “justiciable” because Mala Buni was not joined as a party to the suit.
The remaining 3 justices disagreed. They averred that Buni need not be joined since the party on which he serves was already a party to the suit. What seemed like a consensus in both judgments is that APC erred in law by allowing an elected Governor superintend over its affairs, in interim capacity.
While there have been divergent legal opinions over the continued stay in office of Gov. Buni and other Governors on the Committee, majority including the Vice-President, a Professor of Law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) affirm the party is in the middle of a legal ditch that poses existential threat to the party in future legal disputes. President Muhammadu Buhari who was vacationing in London had asked the Vice-President to intervene after consultations with cabinet members who are legal luminaries.
It is pertinent tonote that unofficial reports from the meeting indicate that most attendees concurred with the Vice-President that indeed the party risk a judicial repudiation in future legal tussle. Now that the President is back, it is expected that VP Osinbajo will turn in his recommendations. However, before a decision is made, it is imperative to advise the President to convene a National Caucus meeting for broader deliberations and consultations.
Article 12.5 of the APC constitution states that the National Caucus shall include the leadership of the party, incumbent President and Vice-President, past and present Governors, past and present leadershipof the National Assembly,past and present Chairmenand National Secretaries of the party amongst others.
Such an expansive gathering of party leaders is crucial to examine the implication of the Supreme Court judgment, synthesize ideas and reach a consensus on a political solution that will resolve the legal conundrum and also unite the party as it races towards the National Convention. Already there are numerous court cases in the aftermath of the Supreme Court judgment, some States are enmeshed in crisis after the contentious ward congresses, while uneasy calm pervades the party in most States. The National caucus meeting provides an avenue for conciliatory dialogue to reduce tensions and chart the way forward.
Since the dissolution of the immediate past National Working Committee (NWC), there hasn’t been any National Caucus meeting or a sincere attempt to unify divergent interests. Going into the convention without achieving that can be catastrophic for the party.
Coupled with the legal quagmire in which eminent lawyers have opined that all actions of the CECPC can be declared null and void in future a la the Zamfara treatment if the issues surrounding the legality of the committee and its leadership is not addressed, the imperative for concerted action by party leaders cannot be overemphasized. A stitch in time, they say saves nine!
Hashidu Gimbi is a Political analyst based in Kaduna.