Aggrieved members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have continued to mount pressure on Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State to step down as the Chairman, Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the party, even as President Muhammadu Buhari has endorsed his stay.
Daily Independent gathered that Buni is unmoved by the calls since he enjoys the backing of the leader of the party, President Buhari, and has also been assured by Abubakar Malami (SAN), the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, that he had not breached any rule.
Governor Buni was appointed the chairman of APC’s CECPC in June 2020 after the dissolution of the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party based on recommendations from President Buhari.
The NEC also said the Buni-led caretaker committee will run the affairs of the party pending when it elects new officials.
However, Buni, who was the National Secretary of the APC before his election as Yobe State governor in 2019 general elections, has faced barrage of criticisms from within the party as many view his appointment as a clear violation of the APC constitution which forbids officers of the party from holding any executive position in government.
Section 4 under article 17 reads: “No officer in any organ of the party shall hold executive position office in government concurrently.”
Already, the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has dragged the APC acting chairman to the Federal High Court, Abuja. It prayed the court to declare that Buni contravened provisions of section 108 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), by retaining his seat as Yobe State governor while presiding over the affairs of the APC as chairman.
The PDP is asking the court to determine whether Mai Mala Buni had not breached section 183 of the Nigerian constitution when he accepted APC’s appointment as chairman, caretaker committee and proceeded to occupy the office while still the governor of Yobe State.
It also asked the court to determine whether Buni had not ceased to hold the office of the governor of Yobe State going by the provision of section 183 of the constitution.
There has been a sharp division in the ruling party following a Supreme Court judgment that declared Ondo State governor and APC candidate, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), winner of the state’s governorship election held on October 10, 2020.
Even though the court dismissed the appeal filed by the candidate of the PDP, 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.
Calls by senior lawyers in the party which include Festus Keyamo (SAN), Minister of State for Labour and Employment; Muiz Banire (SAN), Babatunde Ogala (SAN), two former national legal advisers of the party for the cancelation of the ward congresses held on July 31 were ignored by the APC leadership.
It was also reported that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) believes that there may be trouble in the days ahead for the party if Buni continues to preside over the congresses. His views were also shared by some governors elected on the party’s platform. They were, however, in the minority.
The party holds its local government area congresses nationwide on Saturday, September 4. However, many members of the party are worried that the exercise may be nullified by the courts due to Buni’s role as the acting national chairman of APC.
Speaking with Daily Independent, a chieftain of the party said just like the leadership crisis in the PDP, there is a serious crisis in the APC over the continued stay of Buni in office as national caretaker chairman.
“There is a serious crisis in the party now as we are preparing to hold the local government congresses this Saturday. Many members of the party are skeptical about participating in the exercise because senior lawyers have spoken on this contentious issue and their verdict is that the exercise may be nullified by the court and all efforts expended on the congress may be wasted.
“The issue, however, is that Buni remains unshaken as he enjoys the backing of President Buhari. One really cannot blame the president because he was acting based on the advice given by Abubakar Malami, who is the chief law officer of the federation”,he said.
Also speaking, a former senator in the South-West, who asked not to be named, said many members of the party seem afraid of protesting against Buni due to fear of being victimised by the presidency.
“Many of us believe that Asiwaju Tinubu would have doused this tension if he really loves this party. We believe he and President Buhari are joint owners of the party. Many of Asiwaju’s protégés have been speaking but it can’t carry weight like when he (Tinubu) speaks. A statement from London where he is currently resting after a successful surgery would have gone a long way in dousing this tension”, he said.
Speaking with Daily Independent, Bosun Oladele, a former member of the House of Representatives, said President Buhari must act fast and provide direction for the party as the ultimate leader.
Oladele, who is the Secretary of the South-West Agenda for Asiwaju (SWAGA) 2023, a political group seeking support for Tinubu’s emergence as president in 2023, said it is surprising how Buni’s tenure which was supposed to be for just six months has lasted this long.
He said, “Ordinarily, the advent of Governor Buni as APC chairman was supposed to be a temporary one. The initial plan was for six months. But the way human beings operate, one cannot decipher until it starts unfolding. That is why the great Lord Dennings said ‘Even the devil himself knows not the intent of man’.
“If we continue talking about Mai Mala Buni from now till tomorrow, the fact remains that he is still there. The president is supposed to be the ultimate leader of the party. It behooves the president to take the best decision.
“However, don’t forget that the president will only act on what he can see or observe and the information that must have been given to him. That is the only thing the president can do. If the president keeps acting this way, I think we may not get the right direction as we approach 2023 elections.
“I believe that with the congresses that are ongoing now, the end of the Buni-led era is in sight”.