John Alechenu and Lesi Nwisagbo
3 August 2021
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Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives’ Congress have begun consultations on how best to resolve the internal crisis in the APC following the Supreme Court judgment on the chairmanship of Mai Mala Buni.
On Monday in Abuja, The PUNCH had gathered that Osinbajo, under the directive of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), consulted with the governors and other stakeholders to deliberate on ways to escape future legal traps.
It was learnt that although the party held its ward congress on Saturday as scheduled, many members felt the apex court’s judgment could affect the party in the near future.
Recall that, last Wednesday, the APC was divided following a Supreme Court judgment that declared the Ondo State Governor and APC candidate, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), winner of the state’s 2020 election. The court also dismissed the appeal filed by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Eyitayo Jegede.
The justices of the apex court reportedly agreed that a sitting governor could not hold the dual elective positions of governor and national chairman of a political party.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN), in a statement on Wednesday advised the party to suspend the ward congress.
But the Lead Counsel to the APC in the Ondo State governorship suit, Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), at a press conference on Thursday said the judgment of the majority of the apex court justices did not invalidate Buni’s chairmanship.
Also, the Secretary of the caretaker committee, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, directed congress committee to conduct the ward congress on Saturday as scheduled.
It was gathered that, following the controversy, the vice-president and the governors swung into action on Friday; holding their first meeting.
A highly-placed party source who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, disclosed that at the inaugural meeting, Osinbajo presided over a legal review of the judgment with lawyers who are members of the Federal Executive Council ahead of Saturday’s Ward congresses.
The Chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee of the APC, Buni, reportedly rushed down to the Villa over the weekend in company of the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, to explain the position of the party’s leadership to the vice-president.
It was learnt that, at the Friday meeting, most of the APC governors voted in favour of proceeding with the ward congress; though some felt the exercise would be canceled if it went ahead.
The party’s source denied speculations that the VP directed the Attorney General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN to halt the ward congress.
Late on Monday, a reliable source in the Villa told The PUNCH that “The VP is of the firm view that the Supreme Court ruling last week is a clear legal ditch which is best avoided.
“And he wants to ensure that the interest of the party remains paramount; hoping that all stakeholders would eventually find a way in the interest of Nigerians who have reposed so much confidence and support in the party.”
Another source said, “Although we have held the ward congress, many fear that the judgment is a trap which the party must avoid now before it is too late.”
When contacted, Spokesman for the Office of the AGF, Jibrilu Gwandu, said the AGF was not responsible for implementing the directives of the APC with respect to congress.
The Office of the AGF said this in response to a media report (not in The PUNCH) that Malami defied Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, insisting that the planned APC congress must hold regardless of the Supreme Court judgment on the Ondo State governorship election.
Gwandu said, “It is important to put the record straight that congresses and the conduct thereof are a function of a political party and not the Office of the Attorney General.
“The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice is not responsible for the implementation of directives relating to party administration as it is rightly known.
“It is, therefore, incongruous and antithetical to common sense to think that the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice refusing to obey directives over which he has no legal responsibility to execute. The allegation does not represent the true position of things.”
He also stated that as eminent personalities, both lawyers (Osinbajo and Malami) were entitled to their respective opinions within the context of Section 39 of the 1999 constitution that upholds freedom of expression.
“It is a tradition and normal experience in life that lawyers express divergent opinions which, in some cases, are not rooted in the majority decision of the Supreme Court on speculations and insinuations.
“The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice is not bound by any conclusion put across which should naturally be persuasive and not binding.
“The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice remains law abiding and wholeheartedly abiding to presidential directives.”