Politics

S’Court verdict: How Osinbajo came to APC’s rescue

The timely intervention of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on the crisis in the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) through strategic meetings with senior legal members of the party to proffer a solution to the problems that might arise following the Supreme Court verdict on the Ondo State governorship election has successfully doused the tension. MURITALA AYINLA reports

 

The Ondo governorship legal battle might have come and gone but the controversies generated by the spilt judgement of the Supreme Court may last longer. In the much-publicized verdict of July 28, the apex court upheld the electoral victory of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State.

 

In a split decision of four-to-three, the apex court dismissed the appeal that was brought before it by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the October 10, 2020, governorship election that was held in the state, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN).

 

A seven-man panel of justices of the Supreme Court heard the appeal. While Justice Emmanuel Agim delivered the majority judgement that affirmed Akeredolu’s victory, the dissenting minority verdict that upheld Jegede’s appeal was delivered by Justice Mary Peter-Odili, who was the head of the panel.

 

Before the verdict of the nation’s apex court, the Court of Appeal had also affirmed the decision of the Ondo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which dismissed the joint-petition Jegede and the PDP filed against the declaration of Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the valid winner of the Ondo gubernatorial poll.

 

The apex court, in its majority verdict, said it found no reason to set aside the concurrent judgements of both the Court of Appeal and the Ondo State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, which earlier dismissed Jegede and PDP’s case for being incompetent.

 

In what the PDP candidate, Jegede and his party observed as legal valid points, they had challenged the constitutionality of Akerodolu’s nomination by the National Caretaker Committee of the APC headed by the Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni.

 

They also sought the court’s determination on whether Buni as a sitting governor could also double as the national chairman of the APC to sign the nomination forms of Akeredolu for the governorship election.

 

Although the appellate court acknowledged that the issue raised by the appellants, had constitutional implication, it however held that the non-joinder of Buni as a party in the matter nullified Jegede’s case.

 

Hence, the Justice Theresa Orji-Abadua led panel of the appellate court dismissed their case, which it said only succeeded in part. Following the split judgment by the apex court, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN); the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Babafemi Ojudu; the Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Ita Enang and others cited serious legal implications of the continued retention of the Buni-led APC Caretaker Committee.

 

They also warned against going ahead with the July 31 ward congresses of the party, saying that the exercise  could negatively affect APC’s outing in the 2023 general election. There were accusations and counter-accusations among the party chieftains.

While some vehemently warned that the apex court’s verdict was a dangerous sign, others believed that the Buni-led caretaker committee is still in order.

 

But Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said: “The little technical point that saved Governor Akeredolu was that Jegede failed to join Governor Buni in the suit. Jegede was challenging the competence of Governor 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.

 

In other words, had Buni been joined in the suit, the story may have been different today as we would have lost Ondo State to the PDP.”

 

Keyamo’s view was corroborated by the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Ojudu and the Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Enang, who in a joint statement, warned the party of the dire consequences should it go ahead with the ward congresses.

 

The party, however, at an emergency press briefing by Secretary to the Caretaker Committee, John Akpanudoedehe, described the trio’s views as personal opinions, which has little effect on the legitimacy of the party’s interim leadership. Acting on the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari,

 

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, met with senior legal members of the administration to proffer a solution to the problems that might arise following the Supreme Court ruling on Ondo State.

 

The vice-president, who is also a Professor of Law, was concerned about the interest of the APC and believes that the Supreme Court ruling is clear and is determined to ensure that the party has a safe landing through an array of options.

 

Osinbajo summoned a session with the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN); Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola (SAN) and Keyamo (SAN) and Minister of Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, as well as Keyamo.

 

To also squash any rumours or misunderstanding on the stance of the APC Caretaker Committee, Governor Buni was also reported to have dashed to the Aso Villa to explain the position of the committee to Prof. Osinbajo.

 

The move was meant to douse the tension sparked by the minority ruling of the apex court on the legality of actions taken by the party’s Caretaker/ Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) headed by the Yobe State governor.

 

A source in the presidency, who pleaded anonymity, said the vicepresident, having understood the legal implication of the development and the possible negative impact on the party’s fortune in future, sought an ingenious way of resolving the aftermath of the judgement of the Supreme Court in way that it will not cause internal wrangling within the party.

 

The source said: “The matter is very sensitive and has some legal implications, which could only be handled or discussed by legal minds. Prof. Osinbajo, expected to get back to the President on the aggregate opinion of the meeting.

 

Although the President mandated him to take appropriate decision, he will still defer to the number one leader.

 

“But I can assure you that the vicepresident is working out a safe option to resolve the internal political crisis that followed the Supreme Court ruling on the fate of the current APC national caretaker leadership.”

 

Another Villa source said Osinbajo was determined to ensure that the interest of the party is what is paramount, hoping that all stakeholders will eventually find a way in the interest of Nigerians.

 

“The vice-president is of the firm view that the Supreme Court ruling is a clear legal ditch that is best avoided.

 

And he wants to ensure that the interest of the party is what is paramount, hoping that all stakeholders will eventually find a way in the interest of Nigerians, who have reposed so much confidence and support in the party,” the source said.

 

Meanwhile, the matter seems to have been resolved as emerging facts revealed that the vice president has been holding consultations with party leaders and governors on a solution that would save the party from future legal traps and at the same time be acceptable to all within the APC.

 

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