The Minister of Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, SAN, on Wednesday stoked fire in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) after the Supreme Court judgement on the Ondo State governorship election which questioned the legal status of Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State as National Chairman of APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC).
Keyamo, in a statement on Wednesday declared that “the implication of the Supreme Court judgment today in Jegede vs Akeredolu as it affects the APC is that the party must halt all preparations and conduct of congresses nationwide forthwith.”
He noted that the Supreme Court by a narrow split decision (4-3), held that Governor Akeredolu cannot be removed as Governor of Ondo State, pointing out that “the little technical point that saved Governor Akeredolu was that Jegede failed to join Governor Mai Mala Buni in the suit.”
It was observed that Jegede had challenged the competence of Governor Mai Mala Buni as a sitting Governor to run the affairs of the APC as Chairman of the Caretaker Committee. Keyamo observed that Jegede “contended 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.”
Keyamo argued: “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.
“Therefore, any other person affected by the actions of the Buni-led Committee will, henceforth, not fail to join him in any subsequent case in court. “This includes any subsequent election matter in any part of this country and all the APC Congresses that are about to hold.”
It will be recalled that Keyamo and some other APC leaders in Delta State had recently protested that the Deputy Senate President of the Nigerian National Assembly, Ovie Omo-Agege, had hijacked the All Progressives Congress (APC) and taken control of the party in the State. The APC leaders who include Keyamo SAN, Great Ogboru, APC governorship candidate in the 2019 elections, two former Speakers of the Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Victor Ochei, and Rt. Hon. Monday Igbuya; a former Interim Management Executive Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Cairo Ojougboh; Mrs. Mariam Ali, Air Vice Marshal Okorodudu, among others, protested the hijacking of the APC structures in Delta State by Omo-Agege ahead of the ward congress to elect executive members of the party. The protesting APC leaders had threatened to boycott the ward congress in Delta State.
They had raised alarm that materials for the ward congresses were hijacked by an APC leader with the plot to exclude certain APC leaders and their supporters, then manipulate the ward congresses.
Keyamo and the other APC leaders had in a letter dated July 21, 2021 to the APC National Organising Secretary, protested that the Delta State APC Caretaker Committee had been captured by a “so-called leader.”
They had declared that the hijack was a “sinister and reckless plot by some unscrupulous officials to hand over the entire fortunes of our great party in Delta State to one man and freeze out other genuine leaders in the state.”
The current legal controversies over the APC national leadership may have provided stronger stimulants to pursue other political agitations in the APC both at the state and national levels.
Keyamo accordingly, declared: “the Supreme Court has just weaponised all those that would be aggrieved by the APC Congresses to proceed to court to Challenge the competence of the Buni-led CECPC to organise the Congresses and National Convention.”
He expressed concerns that “The judiciary will subsequently destroy the entire structure of the Party from bottom to top.”
Keyamo stated that APC members were lucky that the Supreme Court had just given them a great and useful hint to save the Party just before the beginning of the Congresses. “We cannot gamble with this delicate issue. The time to act is NOW,” he admonished.
What to do.
Keyamo advocated that the planned Congresses across the country slated for this weekend must immediately be suspended, warning that it will be an exercise in futility as analysed above. The minister stated that the competence of Governor Mai Mala Buni to organise the congresses has been called to question by the Supreme Court. He subsequently proffered some options for the party moving forward.
Keyamo stated that first, the APC NEC can urgently meet and consider and reconstitute the CECPC to exclude, not only Governor Buni, but anyone holding ANY executive position in any government establishment as stipulated in Article 17 of the APC Constitution.
He, however, asked: “Who summons NEC now as there is technically no competent national chairman?”
The Labour Minister highlighted that under Article 25 of the APC Constitution, it is the National Chairman or two-thirds of members of NEC that can Summon a NEC meeting. He argued: “Since we cannot vouch for the legality of any NEC meeting summoned by Mai Mala now, the safest is to get two-thirds of NEC members to sign an Invitation to summon a NEC meeting where the CECPC would be reconstituted, and our Party would be safe.
Keyamo further advocated that alternatively, the Board of Trustees of the Party, which includes Mr. President, can be activated to organise a National Convention in line with Article 13 of the APC Constitution where it is given such powers. Those powers, he said, can be delegated at the meeting to a Committee in line with the APC Constitution which will run the Party and plan the Convention. The new Exco can then plan for Congresses, he stated.
Keyamo declared that above are his humble and respectful suggestions to save APC from imminent danger in the light of the Supreme Court judgment on Wednesday. “To ignore this and do otherwise would be tantamount to playing with fire and the opposition would simply wait till our Presidential Primaries in 2023 to disqualify our candidate and destroy the party.
“I have done my professional bit to the Party. I can do no more,” Keyamo declared.
Meanwhile, the horse trading for the 2023 presidential ticket of the ruling APC has been deepened by various aspirants in the party. Governor Buni had at different times been accused of partisanship in the APC leadership as well as having vested interest in the 2023 presidential race.
Invariably, the Keyamo advocacy may be germane to forestall imminent danger in the party, though, the party crisis in Delta State is still pending and could exploit the “weapon” Keyamo identified has been provided by the Supreme Court in the judgement on the Ondo State governorship election.