Worried by the impact of the judgment of the Supreme Court on the fate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday directed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to meet with all ministers who are lawyers in his cabinet.
The move was meant to douse the tension sparked by the minority ruling of the apex court on the legality of actions taken by the party’s Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), headed by Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State.
But many of the state chapters of the party were still in the grip of tension last night as they prepared for the ward congresses today.
At least one state, Kwara, may hold parallel congresses despite threat yesterday by the CECPC to sanction any one organising a parallel congress.
Sequel to Buhari’s directive, Osinbajo summoned a session with the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami (SAN), Works Minister Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Minister of State for Labour and Employment Festus Keyamo (SAN) and Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed.
The session debated the status of the CECPC chairman and whether the party should proceed with the ward congresses beginning today.
Buhari was awaiting a feedback from the Vice President to enable him give a clear directive.
A reliable source said the majority of participants at yesterday’s session “spoke in the right direction and supported the suspension of the congresses in order to avoid any consequence on the party’s fortunes in 2023.
“They also favoured a proposal to ask Buni to step aside in the light of the judgment.
“But Malami at the meeting said there won’t be any legal or constitutional obstacles if Buni leads the caretaker committee to conduct the congresses. They were of the strong opinion that the judgment does not affect the status of Buni or APC.
“Those concerned also pleaded that Buni should not be disgraced out of his seat. They demanded an ingenuous way of resolving the aftermath of the judgment of the Supreme Court.”
Responding to a question, the source added:-
“The VP is expected to get back to the President on the aggregate opinion of the meeting. Although the President mandated him to take appropriate decision, he will still defer to the number one leader.”
The President was yet to take his final decision at press time.
It was also gathered that there had been no communication between the Vice President and Buni on the next step by the party.
However, Buni, in a statement through his Director-General for Press and Media Affairs, Mamman Mohammed, insisted that the Ward Congresses would go ahead.
He pleaded with APC members nationwide to be peaceful during the congresses.
He asked members to “place the party and members interest above personal interests” and warned that the APC would “not hesitate to take decisive measures against anyone who deliberately sabotages the congresses.”
“We have come a long way repositioning the party. We have reconciled many groups and individuals. We must not allow personal interests in this election to divide us and draw us back,” he said.
Organise parallel congress, get sanctioned, CECPC warns
The Secretary of the Caretaker Committee, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, in a similar warning, said the party would sanction any individual or group that holds a parallel congress.
Akpanudoedehe reminded all party members and stakeholders of the National Executive Council (NEC) resolution of 8th December 2020, which he claimed subsists and extends to the conduct of party members during the congresses.
He said: “For purposes of clarity, may I re-state the relevant point in the resolution to wit: All pending litigations instituted by members against the party should be withdrawn forthwith, and going forward, no member should institute matters against the party without exhausting the internal mechanism for conflict resolution as enshrined in the party’s constitution.
“Consequent upon the above, party members should please note that:
“(i) All activities that may be carried out by persons to put the party and its officers in a bad light before, during and after the congresses should be jettisoned.
“(ii) All activities or processes leading up to the congresses and thereafter which do not have the approval of the CECPC are exercises in futility. This is to say that: any purported; parallel congress, a parallel party organ, and or parallel party office, is, to say the least, a nullity.
“These divisive activities will not be tolerated.
“(iii) For the avoidance of doubt, the party shall deploy the full weight of the law as stipulated in section 21(D) of our party’s Constitution on anyone who perpetrates such unlawful Act(s) and also on their sponsors.
“All persons who are affected by Article 31 of our Constitution should apply for waivers as stipulated under sub. Section 3 of the said Article 31, is also clearly spelt out in the “Special provisions” of our guidelines.”
Also yesterday, member of the CECPC, Prof. Mamman Tahir, at a press conference at the party’s national secretariat, told newsmen of the resolve of the committee to go ahead with the exercise, having obtained the approval of the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
He said the party relied on the office of the Attorney General of the Federation for guidance and it was convinced that the party was doing the right thing.
His words: “I am here to reconfirm that our Congresses are on course to hold tomorrow and this Committee is working closely with the Attorney-General of the Federation. And he has offered advice that we are on good ground and we are comfortable with that position. So our programmes will continue to roll on in the normal course of things.
“So we want to assure teeming members of the APC across the country to come out and elect officers at the ward level. This party believes so much in grassroots politics, grassroots democracy; that is the strength of the party.
“So we encourage all members to come out tomorrow and elect leaders of their choice at that level before we move to the next stage of our democratisation process and constitution of the leadership of the party.
“This is in a nutshell the message from the party and the Secretariat. That the court hasn’t made any pronouncement or any judgement that undermines our position. And you don’t go into speculating what the courts will do in the future. So, we’re comfortable with our position.”
It was also learnt that governors elected on the platform of the APC held an emergency meeting in Abuja on Thursday night to review the situation, and proceeded to endorse the position of the CECPC
The meeting, which took place at the Asokoro residence of one of the governors, also resolved to call for a meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) as soon as the President returns from his UK trip.
Kwara APC set for parallel congress on Saturday
Loyalists of Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed in the Kwara State chapter of the party said yesterday that they had secured nomination forms for all its aspirants in the state.
The caretaker legal adviser of the party in the state, Barrister Ladi Mustapha, told reporters in Ilorin that the Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa-led faction was prepared for the congresses provided every other thing remains constant.
He said the Bashir Bolarinwa Omolaja-led executive of the party had notified relevant agencies as required by the Electoral Act 2006 (As Amended).
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Supreme Court ruling on Jegede Vs. Rotimi Akeredolu Governorship election should be bold enough on the wall of justice that Hon. Bashir Ọmọlaja Bolarinwa’s chairmanship is as solid, in law, as the Rock of Gibraltar,” he said.
Court stops APC congresses in Imo
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) yesterday warned the APC to desist from proceeding with today’s ward congresses in Imo State pending the hearing of a suit filed by Okey Anyikwa, APC Chairman in Ideato South Local Government Area.
The Applicant had approached the Court for an injunction restraining the APC from going ahead with the congresses because of the judgment of the Appeal Court that upheld the tenure of the State EXCO elected in 2018.
Justice Valentine Oriji threatened to invalidate the outcome of congresses should the party disregard the position of the Court.
Oriji ordered that all actions regarding the APC congresses in the state should be stayed, pending the hearing of the application slated for August 10.
Ward congress in open contest, says Uzodinma
But Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State said the congresses would be based on the party’s guidelines that make the process an open contest.
He said the exercise should be devoid of writing and submission of list of favoured members by party leaders.
He said that the congress must be that of the people and for the people and that the least that can be tolerated is affirmation of preferred candidates by the people in line with the APC guidelines.
The governor spoke on Friday at the Government House Owerri during a stakeholders meeting of leaders of the party drawn from the 27 LGAs of the state.
He seized the opportunity to congratulate the APC leaders for their solidarity and show of interest in the affairs of the party so far, thanking all for the successes recorded in the past one year and the synergy and harmonious relationship currently being experienced in the party.
Governor Uzodimma informed that the APC in Imo State today represents a new order of inclusiveness, poised to work together to win all elections in the state.
APC sues for peaceful congress in Lagos
Ahead of the ward congresses, the national leadership of the APC yesterday implored leaders and members to cooperate with one another to ensure a peaceful congress in Lagos State.
Speaking during a stakeholders meeting organised by the APC National Committee on Ward Congress for Lagos State with party leaders in Ikeja yesterday, the committee chairman, Dr. Bashiru Ruwangodiya, said the congresses would be done in line with the guidelines set by APC Caretaker Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) for election of 26 ward executives in each of the 377 wards in Lagos State.
Party executives who are expected to emerge through the ward congresses in the 377 wards in Lagos on Saturday are: Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, Publicity Secretary, Legal Adviser, Treasurer, Financial Secretary, Youth Leader, Women Leader and Auditor, among others.
Ruwangodiya said the the mode of electing the party executives at ward level is either through consensus or election as stipulated by the party’s constitution, adding that the winner would be determined by simple majority of votes cast.
However, the party’s Publicity Secretary, Seye Oladejo, said the party had agreed on a consensus arrangement for its ward executives.
Oladejo said the consensus arrangement was agreed at the stakeholders meetings held in all the 20 local government areas (LGAs) and 37 local council development areas (LCDAs).