The All Progressives Congress (APC) has dismissed insinuations that the Supreme Court judgement that upheld the election of the Info State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu portended danger to the Governor Mai-Mala Buni-led led Caretaker Committee of the party, the Congresses holding this Saturday.
The Supreme Court had on Wednesday dismissed the petition of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Tayo Jegede in last year’s Ondo Governorship election that the APC candidate Akeredolu was not validly nominated.
PDP and Tayo argued in their petition that Buni who forwarded Akeredolu’s name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as candidate of the APC was holding the office of Governor and National Chairman of a party in contravention of section 183 of the Constitution.
But the Apex Court after a split judgment of four (majority) against three (minority) out of the seven Justices on the election panel ruled in favour of APC and Akeredolu that PDP failed to join Buni in the matter.
However, the Supreme’s Court was trailed by reactions, indicating that it would invalidate all actions such as the nomination of the Anambra governorship candidate Andy Uba and the forthcoming Congresses to be superintended by Buni.
In one of such reactions, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), warned APC of imminent legal tussles if Buni remains Acting Chairman.
Keyamo, a member of the party, in a leaked memo released on Wednesday, said the “unity” in the party may be short-lived if the party went ahead with its planned Congresses under the leadership of the Yobe Governor.
He said APC escaped potential defeat due to ‘little technicality’ in Akeredolu’s case which may not be applicable in subsequent court cases.
But an APC Chieftain and one of the lead Counsel in the case, Niyi Akintola (SAN) has said that the position of Buni as Caretaker Chairman is not injurious to the party Congresses and the forthcoming Anambra election.
Akintola at a press conference in Abuja on Thursday asked all APC members not to entertain any fear, adding that the party Congresses would go on Saturday as scheduled.
He said: “There have been a lot of misconceptions since yesterday. The “media lawyers” who we describe as television lawyers, going on air, airing views on what they know nothing about. Some of them have never been to court before, some of them are just too media-driven for the legal profession. You begin to wonder what manner of lawyers will have time to go to television and radio stations in the morning when his colleagues are out there in the courtrooms and in the libraries”.
While stressing that Wednesday’s ruling was not the first time there would be dissenting judgments in Governorship and Presidential election petitions, Akintola said: “A minority judgment remains what it is. It has no efficacy. It has no value.
“The only value a minority judgment has is for academic purposes and research. You cannot even cite it as an authority. Our adjectival law and jurisprudence does not allow for any efficacy to be attributed to minority judgment.
“As a matter of fact, the judgment of the tribunal which said holding elective office and party position does not contravene Section 183 of the constitution still stands. This was upheld by the Court of Appeal and a majority decision of the Supreme Court. I do not know why people are attributing so much relevance to the judgment of the minority.
“When the issue came up to the Supreme Court, their Lordships in their wisdom, three of them, gave a different interpretation to the position of Section 183 and the Electoral Act and four of them upheld the position of the tribunal and the Court of Appeal that holding a party position by Gov. Buni and the Secretary does not contravene the provision of Section 183 and that is still the law.
“I told Governor Buni and the National Secretary not to be intimidated. The Congresses of the party will go on as scheduled on Saturday by God’s grace. Everything that has been put in place by the party will come to fruition because you can imagine the kind of confusion that the country would have been thrown into confusion if the judgment of yesterday had gone the other way.
“Our candidate in Anambra is on firm ground. The decision of the tribunal upholding the right of any party member including those holding elective positions to hold party offices remains sacrosanct and that position was affirmed by the Court of Appeal and also affirmed by the majority judgment of the Supreme Court.
Also speaking APC Acting National Secretary, John-James Akpanudoedehe
insisted that the Congresses will be held as planned and assured all leaders that the exercise will be free, fair and transparent.
“On behalf of the Caretaker Committee, we stand firmly with the National Chairman and we declare our unalloyed loyalty to him and to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Our party is strong and will continue to be so.
“This Chairman has been able to lift the party from the woods into the skyline that is recognised all over the world. So, we will not dance to the beatings of the PDP. We will not be used to bring down the government of the APC.
“So, I want to assure the members of this party to be loyal to the party and we will hold the Congresses as scheduled and we are firm about what we are doing”, he stated.