The State congress recently conducted by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, was heralded with calls for its suspension or total cancellation as well as immediate dissolution of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, CECPC, headed by Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, following the minority judgment of the Supreme court in the Ondo State governorship election petition between incumbent governor Rotimi Akeredolu of APC and his challenger, Eyitayo Jegede of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

Jegede, the candidate of the PDP in the disputed October 2020 governorship election in Ondo State, had challenged the competence of Gov. Mai Mala Buni as a sitting Governor to run the affairs of the APC as Chairman of the Caretaker Committee. He 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.
Citing the minority judgement of three justices against four justices of the apex court in which it was stated that the APC contradicted section 183 of the 1999 constitution as (amended) by appointing a sitting governor as its national chairman, some prominent members of the party raised alarm over what they perceived as red flag that could jeopardize the fortune of APC in future elections, particularly, that of the year 2023, should aggrieved members or opposition parties lash unto the lapse identified by the judgment to press legal charges.
Minister of State Labour, Barr. Festus Keyamo (SAN),  was the first to raise an eyebrow and ventilated his concern on the implications of the judgement as it affects the APC. In a short confidential legal advisory written to the party leadership but leaked to the press, Barr. Keyamo noted with emphasis that the implication of the Supreme court judgment as it affects the APC was that the party must halt all preparations and conduct of congresses nationwide forthwith.
 
The minister warned that  though the party was lucky that Jegede’s petition was thrown out by the majority judgement for failure to join Mai Mala Buni in the suit, any other person affected by the actions of the Buni-led Committee would henceforth not fail to join him in any subsequent case in court, and these might  include any subsequent election matter in any part of this country and all the APC Congresses that were about to hold.
The Labour Minister revealed that 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, adding that the judiciary will subsequently destroy the entire structure of the Party from bottom to top.
In his suggestions to save the party from the brink of total collapse, the Senior Advocate advised his party to immediately suspend the planned Congresses across the country slated for Saturday July 31.
Similarly, another chieftain of the party and a constitutional lawyer, Barr. Kayode Ajulo, in his reaction asked Gov. Mai Mala Buni to immediately step down as the national chairman of the party. In his legal advisory to the party, Ajulo held that it is incontrovertible that the continuous stay of the Governor as Chief Executive Officer of the All Progressives Congress runs contrary to provision of the Constitution and as such may be an albatross on the party, as all he had done before would be null and void, including nomination of candidates within the period of his so called Leadership of the party.
 
Others who added their voices to the call for suspension or total cancellation as well as immediate dissolution of the Buni-led committee included  two aides to President Muhammadu Buhari who are Special Adviser to the President On Political Matters, Sen BABAFEMI OJUDU and Senior Special Assistant to the President, Niger Delta Affairs, Sen ITA ENANG. Comrade Okpokwu Ogenyi , Convener of Forum of Concerned APC Members
 
But despite all these calls and warnings, the party still went ahead to conduct the congresses as scheduled, relying on legal advisories from its in-house legal arsenal. One of such was a prominent legal luminaire and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN,  Chief Niyi Akintola, who was also one of the lead counsel to the party in the case in question.
Given that all these were happening less than 48 hours to the planned Congress scheduled for July 31, 2021, the party was thrown into utter confusion prompting the national secretariat to call for emergency press conference.
Addressing the press conference in company of the secretary to the national caretaker committee, Sen. James Akpanudoedehe, at the national secretariat of APC,  Chief Akintola described the minority judgement as mere academic exercise with no relevance in legal jurisprudence.
Akintola, who is also a chieftain of the APC, advised the party to go ahead with its congress as scheduled as the minority judgement is of no legal value since it cannot be cited in any case in court and can only remain in the realm of academic discourse.
” I told our client yesterday, Buni and the Secretary not to be intimidated by anybody. Our party remains firm, the Congresses of the party will go on as scheduled on Saturday. By the grace of God everything that has been put in place will come to fruition. You can imagine the kind of confusion that the country would have been thrown into if the judgement of yesterday had gone the other way. It would have meant that everything that we have being doing as a party will have come to naught. 
“There is no where in the judgement of the majority where the efficacy of the Office of our National Chairman was questioned. If anything, what happened was that the judgement of the Tribunal that says that the holding of party position doesn’t contravene section 183 of the Constitution still stands. That was the judgement that was given by the Tribunal and upheld by the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. I don’t know why people are attributing so much to the judgement of the minority. It is of no value.”
Akintola’s position was corroborated by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the federation, Abubakar Malami, who maintained that despite the misgivings that arose as a result of the Supreme Court decision, the party was on firm ground and should proceed with its programmes unperturbed.
In what appeared like a twist, Nigerian Pilot gathered that Malami’s position was contradictory to the consensus decision at a meeting chaired by Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo over the lingering legal conundrum on the order of president Muhammadu Buhari.
According to a report credited to The Nation newspaper, “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.”
Backed by legal advice from the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, the APC Caretaker/ Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee directed its members across the country to proceed with the scheduled ward congresses regardless of the fears raised by stakeholders of the party.
The ward congresses did hold as scheduled, albeit, not without rucus and controversies. The report that emanated  from the States indicated that  the congress did not hold in many of the States while in States where it was held, it was riden with crises and commotions.
 
Our correspondent gathered that from Southwestern States of Osun, Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti to South-Southern Delta, Akwa-Ibom, Rivers, Southeastern Enugu, Imo to the North central Kwara and many other states, the congress was replete with crises amidst parallel congresses by opposing factions.
Before the day of the congress, there was ominous signal that the exercise would be crisis-ridden. This prompted leadership of the party to issue stern warning to members a day before the exercise.  The national leadership of the party warned that it will not hesitate to wield the big stick on any of its members who conduct parallel exercises or open parallel party secretariats.
The national secretariat also reminded party members of the December 8, 2020 resolution of the National Executive Committee NEC of the party which directed all aggrieved members to withdraw cases from the courts and warned others not to institute litigations against the party.
The NEC had ordered that “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”.
The party therefore insisted that all activities that may be carried out by persons to put the party and its officers in bad light, before, during and after the congresses should be jettisoned.
The party added that “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, parallel party organ and or parallel party office, is to say the least a nullity”.
The APC leadership vowed to dish out maximum punishment to offenders in accordance with its constitutional provisions. However, in spite of the above warnings however, there have been protests in some states of the federation regarding the conduct of the exercise.
Some of the allegations that characterized the exercise included allegations of  hoarding of forms by some factions who also allegedly prevented members of opposing factions from gaining access to the congress ground.
Another contentious issue was the consensus arrangements  proposed by the National Caretaker Committee of the party, which did not go down well with some interest groups in the party.
In Osun state, it was a battle of wits between the state governor, Gboyega Oyetola and his predecessor and incumbent Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. A group within the party, Progressive Minded People PMP had accused the “Ilerioluwa faction” of the party of buying up the over 18, 000 forms dispatched to the state for last weekend’s Ward Congresses of the party.
Convener of the PMP, Sunday Oriolowo who is a loyalist of Aregbesola said “majority of party members in the state had proceeded to the bank to pay for the forms as directed by the party guidelines.
However, we were surprised when on Wednesday, 28th July 2021 – the day the payment for the forms was supposed to close- we still hadn’t seen the officials who were sent to Osun for the assignment.
“Findings revealed that the national party officials who were sent to the state had actually arrived Osun, but were held incommunicado by officials loyal to the governor. Many members of the party were then forced to pick up their form from our national headquarters in Abuja.
“Of course, it is true that the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Committee for Osun State Ward Congress, Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye arrived the state less than 12 hours to the congress and held a meeting with selected individuals inside the governor’s house, however, we would like to know if he asked about the whereabouts of the officials sent ahead from Abuja to sell forms to majority of the party members.
“By the way, we have it on good authority that over 18,000 forms given to the party officials from Abuja were paid for in bulk on a single teller and collected from the officials by an official loyal to the governor as against our party’s Ward Congress Guidelines.
“This information is verifiable and evidence exists to back this up when the time comes”, he added.There had been several protests by different groups against the outcome p the exercise.
However, the Osun State Government has debunked the allegations, saying no such thing happened. Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Ismail Omipidan disclosed this in response to the allegations. He said; “The truth is, no such thing happened and you can cross check with your man here. The committee’s chairman also addressed the issue during the stakeholders’ meeting held on Friday evening shortly after their arrival.
In Lagos, a splinter group within the Lagos APC, Lagos4Lagos which has been trying to upstage the Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu political structure also claimed to have held a parallel congress. The claim was however dismissed by the chairman of the party in the state.
The neighboring State of Ogun was no difference as despite warnings from the national leadership of the party, loyalists of Governor Dapo Abiodun and those of his predecessor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, held parallel congresses across some wards in the state. Though the governor has debunked the claims but news reports indicate that there were parallel exercises in some parts of the state.
While the situation in Oyo was not too pronounced, party members loyal to the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, and those loyal to former governor, Mr. Adebayo Alao-Akala held different ward congresses in Ogbomoso North Local Government Area.
Still in Southwest, seen as a battle for supremacy between the supporters of the National Leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, and those of Governor Kayode Fayemi, the exercise in Ekiti was one of the most rancorous following the reported killing of one person in Ado Ekiti, the state capital.
In Kwara, where there has been no love lost between the state governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq and the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, loyalists of the minister have also kicked against the exercise.
While the Mohammed group had opened a parallel state party secretariat, the party leadership in Abuja had threatened sanctions against the minister. Mohammed’s loyalists have also complained about the processes leading to the Congresses and the actual exercise itself.
In Delta,  two days before the exercise in Delta state, there was a fracas at the state secretariat of the party where the three-man committee sent for the conduct of the congresses narrowly escaped being lynched by aggrieved aspirants, but for the intervention of some party members.
Forms for the exercise were in short supply as most of the aspirants who had paid in the bank could not be issued forms when they presented their bank tellers.
Head of the three-man committee, Mr George Ojong Egbe said; “as at today 29th July, thousands of tellers were presented to me and there were no forms to issue out. In the course of explaining, violence erupted, but for the intervention of the State Deputy Chair, Organising Secretary and other party members, we would been lynched.”
Some stakeholders of the party in the state have however kicked against the exercise, accusing the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege of hijacking the process.
Those who are aggrieved include the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr Festus Keyamo SAN; Executive Director in charge of Projects at the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, and former governorship candidates of the party, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor and Chief Great Ogboru.
The situation was not any different in Rivers where the state chapter of the party have been enmeshed in persistent crisis. In the state, loyalists of Senator Magnus Abe boycotted the congress which was seen as favouring the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi.
While the CECPC of the party awaits report from the states, it is left to be seen how it intends to resolve these issues in the lead up to the party’s national convention.
In Akwa Ibom, loyalists of the National Secretary of the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee of the APC, Senator John Akpanudoedehe including the state chapter of the party have declared the exercise as successful.
However, supporters of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, have on their part accused Akpanudoedehe of manipulating the process through officials sent from the national secretariat to conduct the exercise.
In Enugu, some chieftains of the party have faulted the inauguration of ward executives by state chairman, Dr Ben Nwoye in alleged violation of congress guidelines. Nwoye had on Tuesday, inaugurated a five-man party executives in the 260 political wards at the party’s state secretariat, claiming that there was no provision in the APC constitution that forbids him from inaugurating them.
According to him, “the leadership of the party gave us the go ahead to conduct the congress and there is nothing in our constitution that prohibits me from inaugurating you.”
However, APC chieftains — General Chris Eze, retd; an APC BoT member, General JOJ Okoloagu, retd, and former governorship aspirants — Chief Tagbo Ogara, Chief Ben Eche and Mrs Ginika Tor as well as other party leaders like Ejike Njeze described the action of the chairman as “a show of rascality.”
In Imo, it was a walk over for the state governor, Hope Uzodinma as loyalists of Senators Rochas Okorocha and Ifeanyi Ararume, reportedly boycotted the exercise.
In the final analysis, as the party headquarters await the official report of the outcome of the Congress, it is apparent that the leadership of APC now have its hands full with controversies emanating from the exercise.
The usual practice with APC is to move on and pretend that all is well while turning blind eyes and deaf ears to the concerns raised by protesting and agitating members.
Recall that similar scenarios played out in the case of the then ruling party and now opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which revelled with the penchant of ignoring the concerns and objections of aggrieved members to injustice within the party. We are all witnesses of where that has led them today.
But in the light of these recent crises and ugly developments, the APC cannot and should not pretend that all is well. There is urgent need for party hierarchy to show sincerity by looking into bone of contention in these crises vis-a-vis addressing the concerns of aggrieved members now that there is still time.
Anything other than that may amount to postponing the evil days for the party that only gained national prominence less than eight years ago.

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