Nigeria: Who Is Afraid of Governor Buni?

5 August 2021

Ibadan — For very obvious reasons, the successes recorded by the Caretaker Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in repositioning the party and massive defection of prominent figures into the party mean different things to different people.

There are those celebrating the party bouncing back to life, others do not like the giant strides of the committee, while others who feel threatened by the reconciliation and coming of new members feel bad.

For the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Congress (PDP), it was its most trying moment after losing three serving governors to APC, and still counting.

The interpretation of the Supreme Court judgment on the Ondo State governorship election by the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, generated arguments.

Section 183 of the constitution (as amended) which formed Keyamo's argument, has been defined by other learned gentlemen; clearing the ambiguities.

The Deputy Senate President and Keyamo's kinsman and legal colleague, Omo Agege, took time to define the said section, making it clear, unambiguous and unequivocal in explicit terms.

According to Omo-Agege, "From the explicit provision of Section 183 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), it is absolutely impossible and untenable to argue that the provisions of Section 183 bars a governor from being a chairman or member of a caretaker committee set up by his or her political party. More so, the position of the chairman of a caretaker committee cannot by any sense of imagination, logic or simple common sense be classified as being a salaried executive office.

"There is no law under our legal jurisprudence that bars or prohibits a governor, who is a member of a political party and won election under the political party, from carrying out specific assignments on behalf of his party. How this will amount to holding an executive office is beyond every stretch of human comprehension.

"In the light of the foregoing exposition, it is humbly and firmly stated that Section 183 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) only bars a governor from holding executive positions like being a minister or any other executive position for which he shall be paid for. It does not by any scintilla of imagination render the appointment of Governor Bumi as APC caretaker committee chairman incompetent and will not in anyway affect the legality or competence of the APC scheduled congresses."

Chief Adeniyi Akintola, Counsel to APC, at a press conference, said, "Let me make this clear: this isn't the first time we would be having minority judgment. A minority judgment has no value. You can't cite it as the authority. It has no effect.

"In 2008 - Abubakar Atiku versus Shehu Musa Yar'Adua - there was minority judgement given by Justice George Oguntade, Justice Walter Onoghen and one other justice, while Justice Niki Tobi delivered the majority judgment. So, there has always been precedence.

"There is no value attributed to minority judgment. So, what happened yesterday isn't strange. So we are worried that some lawyers are attaching value to it".

It is pertinent to note that the APC constitution is very conscious of such critical circumstances, and it makse a clear declaration in Article 17 (iv), which states that: "No officer in any organ of the party shall hold executive position office in government concurrently."

"Therefore, the party couldn't have been careless in handling this matter.

"However, in a very politicised country like Nigeria, other factors came in to define Section 183 of the constitution."

The membership registration and revalidation exercise of the party, which accommodated new and more members seems to have threatened others who are not comfortable with the new converts and returnees. They feel their positions will be taken over by the new converts. They opposed the registration, attempted sabotaging the process and now are fighting the party leadership. The membership registration and revalidation exercise opened the party to many members who were hitherto refused membership. Prominent members who claimed ownership of the party lost the acclaimed ownership of the party.

Local politics between stakeholders of who controls the party in the state came into play. The conflict of personalities between senators, members of the House of Representatives, ministers and other stakeholders also manifested in who controls the party in the state. Unfortunately, those who lost out are blaming Governor Buni for their travails and are now fighting back.

It is also worrisome if all the barrage of legal luminaries now interpreting the Supreme Court judgment could not realise any lacuna in the constitution of the caretaker committee all this while except now, 13 months after, then something must be fundamentally wrong with their patriotism and commitment to serve the government rand the party, honestly and creditably.

The Buni-led caretaker committee in the last 13 months has deflated the PDP; subtracting three governors along with hundreds of thousands of their supporters. The Buni committee has no doubt made PDP very jittery and vulnerable.

Who is afraid of Governor Buni?

Fatai Olagunju sent this piece from Ibadan

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