The All Progressives Congress is currently battling no fewer than 208 court cases with some of them challenging the leadership of the party in various states and the legitimacy of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, The Hotmedia.ng has learnt.
The cases, which among others, are seeking a declaration nullifying all state congresses under the leadership of the CECPC, are threatening the party’s national convention scheduled for March 26.
This came to the fore on Thursday as Yusuf Ali, an aide to the Yobe State Governor and CECPC Chairman, Mai Mala Buni, told one of our correspondents that Buni remained the APC chairman.
At a June 25, 2020 meeting presided over by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), where Buni, emerged as the chairman of the caretaker committee, the party had asked all members with pending court cases to withdraw them.
To demonstrate the seriousness attached to the directive, the National Executive Council at its meeting on December 8, 2020, announced the expulsion of the former APC National Vice Chairman (South-South), Hilliard Eta, for going to court to challenge the dissolution of the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee.
A document obtained by The PUNCH on Thursday, however, showed that in the last one year, 208 cases had been instituted against the APC. In some of the cases, litigants had obtained court injunctions restraining the party from conducting its convention or recognising the leadership of some states.
Nine cases challenge caretaker panel, seek indefinite postponement of convention
A breakdown of the document showed that nine of such cases were challenging the validity of the caretaker committee to continue to conduct the affairs of the party and were seeking the indefinite postponement of the planned convention.
One of such cases is the one filed by Mr Salisu Umoru against the APC, the Independent National Electoral Commission and Governor Buni.
In the case marked FCT/HC/CV/2958/2021, the applicant obtained an interlocutory injunction “restraining the 1st and 2nd defendants/respondents, their allies, agents, representatives, associates or whoever is acting for them or through them from organising, holding or conducting the national convention of the APC in January and February, 2022 or at any other date either before or after pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.”
In another case instituted by Christian Abeh against the APC, the applicant in the suit marked FHC/ASB/CS/59/2021 challenged the appointment of Buni and averred that by virtue of section 183 of the 1999 constitution the chairman being the Yobe State Governor, “cannot validly be appointed as the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee.”
The plaintiff is seeking a declaration amongst others, that all decisions and actions taken by the chairman are null and void and of no effect.
In yet another suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1577/2021 filed by Princess Zahrah Mustapha, the plaintiff is challenging the validity and legality of the caretaker committee being that the chairman of the committee is the ‘sitting governor’.
She is therefore seeking for an order of court to “restrain the defendant from carrying out duties as the chairman CECPC and further planning convention.”
In a separate case marked FHC/PH/CS/105/21, the plaintiff, Ushie Eneji and 80 others jointly challenged the constitutionality of the national caretaker committee as well as the states caretaker committee on the grounds that Section 223 of the 1999 Constitution and Articles 17 and 20 of the APC Constitution does not recognise any interim caretaker executive officers at the wards, local governments, states and national levels.
The National Legal Adviser of the APC, Prof. Tahir Mamman (SAN), neither responded to calls nor a text message on Thursday.
Meanwhile, a letter obtained by The PUNCH on Thursday showed that Buni indeed willingly transmitted power to Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello, to act as the chairman of the caretaker committee of the APC pending his medical leave.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State had on Wednesday stated that Buni transmitted power to Bello but Buhari later ordered that Bello take over the affairs of the party permanently after discovering that Buni and others in the party were not serious about holding the convention.
Buni writes handover letter to Bello
The letter dated February 28, 2022, was sent to Bello and other members of the caretaker committee before his departure.
The letter read in part, “This is to inform you that I will be embarking on a medical trip to the United Arab Emirates from today, February 28, 2022. I will resume office upon my discharge from the hospital.
“In my absence, I hereby transmit the functions of my office as the national chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee to you. This is to enable the committee to conclude all arrangements leading to the national convention slated for March 26, 2022 and other duties that may be required of the office.
“I invite all members to cooperate with Governor Abubakar Sani Bello by extending to him all the support that I have enjoyed from you.”
I didn’t receive Buni’s letter – Bello
But addressing a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, the Niger State governor denied receiving the letter.
“No, I haven’t seen it yet,” said Bello, adding that the party had also informed INEC of its planned convention for March 26.
Buni, ‘Yahoo Yahoo’ governors against APC’s progress – Akeredolu
In a related development, the Ondo State Governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, has expressed his satisfaction over the appointment of Bello as the chairman of the caretaker committee.
He said this in a statement he signed on Thursday titled ‘Buni, pocket-filling black legs in corridors of power tried to supplant president’s will-Akeredolu.’
The Chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum declared that the nothing would change the fix date of the national convention.
“We, the governors are for the party except for the few ‘Yahoo, Yahoo’ governors (apologies to Salihu, former DG of the Progressive Governors’ Forum) who were hand in glove with Buni to circumvent the will of the majority of our party members.
Progressive governors in the true name, mostly all of us, are determined to see our party through these patchy parts at all cost.
“None of the scanty numbers has the guts to carry out their imaginary threats as reported in sponsored stories. We dare them to leave the party. Their short-lived antics in arm-twisting Governor Buni and probably, some pocket filling elements within the corridors of power to supplant the President’s will through fake letters, endorsements as well as ‘Black Market’ injunction (procured since November 2021) are despicable.”
The Ondo governor noted that the installation of the CECPC of the APC was beyond a call to service but was a child of necessity moulded to instil discipline in leadership and engender coherence among stakeholders and deepen the rule of law in the party.
Akeredolu said unfortunately, Buni’s leadership turned out to be a huge embarrassment.
“Without necessarily dwelling on details that are known to critical stakeholders, the path taken lately by Governor Mai Mala Buni, the immediate past head of the CECPC and an indivisible few, is an unenviable trajectory undeserving of our dear party. It is a disdainful narrative,” the governor stated.
He added that the governors would confirm Bello as the next chairman of the caretaker committee at the NEC meeting on March 17.
He added, “ With nostalgia, one can recall the moments of our struggle as compatriots from all walks of life enunciated and berthed Nigeria’s most ingeniously successful political network. Without being immodest, APC’s birth was a novel instance. The party’s philosophical beacon woven around its ideological leaning was alluring.
“Undoubtedly, the firm leadership, candour and honesty exemplified by Mr President who heads the administration that is the product of the APC deserve no less of support and complimentary responsibilities from all stakeholders.
“The installation of the CECPC of the APC was beyond a call to service. It was a child of necessity moulded to one, instill discipline in leadership and engender coherence among stakeholders and more importantly, to deepen the rule of law in our party.
“However, the insidious and appalling happenings within our party in the last few months, especially under the immediate-past leadership clearly posit a huge embarrassment. Without necessarily dwelling on details that are known to critical stakeholders, the path taken lately by Governor Mai Mala Buni, the immediate past head of the CECPC and an indivisible few, is a unenviable trajectory undeserving of our dear party. It is a disdainful narrative.
“Nevertheless, the courage and determination as well as shrewd sincerity of purpose demonstrated by most of the APC Governors remain a delight. Significantly, the swift response and prompt action taken by Mr President have, in no small means, salvaged our great party from internal scavengers. We indeed, survived a civilian coup largely inspired by mischief and incurable lust for power through artificial barricades.”
Don’t shift March 26 convention – National caucus member
In another development, a National Caucus member of the APC and former National Chairman of the defunct Progressive People’s Alliance, Sam Nkire, has urged Bello, to make sure that the party’s national convention is held on March 26.
According to a statement he signed on Thursday in Abuja, titled ‘Our convention critical to winning the 2023 presidential election,’ Nkire said holding the convention is a major determinant of APC’s victory in 2023.
He said “Except the National Convention comes and goes, the party cannot move forward to reach its destination of retaining power in 2023. Our President, Muhammadu Buhari is leading from the front and there is no reason whatsoever, why the ruling party should not be leading from the front.
“Nigerians elected us to lead and show the way out of the old order of political rascality, injustice and corruption and that is the legacy we must teach others to follow.”
Nkire also urged Bello to remain focused and deliver the National Convention as promised, to, “excite our teaming and loyal party members and disappoint our opponents and critics”.
The party chieftain also advised the CECPC to restrict access to the national convention only to those prescribed by article 12(1); sub-section I to IX of the APC constitution.
Buni’s aide faults El-Rufai, says Yobe gov remains APC chair
Meanwhile, an aide to Buni, Ali, in an interview with one of our correspondents, dismissed a statement credited to El-Rufai on Thursday.
He stated, “Mai Mala Buni remains the chairman of the APC. Just wait and see what will happen. Mai Mala Buni has the full backing of the President and other governors. We are expecting him back in the country before Saturday.
“Most of those ganging up against Buni are aggrieved politicians who lost control of party machinery in their states and also lost out in the power struggle.
They wanted certain favours from Mai Mala Buni which were against the collective interest of the party and Mai refused them. That’s why they gang up against him.
“Mai Mala Buni will return as the party chairman, just wait and see. They cannot contend with him. He is a smarter politician than all of them.”