Perhaps by now, the leadership of the All Peoples Congress (APC) would have started putting heads together to assemble a team of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) for a legal firework to extricate the party from a self-contrived mire if the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, hadn’t intervened and saved the party’s leadership from committing an eggregious political faux pas yesterday.
As part of the resolutions reached by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, it was initially agreed that all States, Zonal and National Party Structures be collapsed. Of course, the news had quickly spread like harmattan fire, with members of the opposition party celebrating the flaw committed by the ruling party.
Some promoters of the purported dissolution were already celebrating when a little drama aptly played out.
The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, who was nodding his head and taking notes while the meeting was going on signified to talk. The Law teacher was given the floor and by time he finished speaking, the tone of the song changed and changed for good.
Knowing the controversy, confusion and the constitutional error the party would have committed if its entire structures were dissolved, Osinbajo had quickly cautioned the body, pointing out the legal consequences of such action.
He was said to have advised that the dissolution was unconstitutional given that the organs had prescribed tenures and that a legal challenge to it might succeed.
Osinbajo’s intervention was said to have led to the face-saving decision to dissolve the organs and constitute them into caretaker committees in an acting capacity.
Meanwhile, the undercurrent was that some governors actually came into the meeting with prepared resolutions and had successfully sold to their unsuspecting colleagues with the caveat that they (the other set of governors) would be the ones to nominate new caretaker members.
Besides, they have succeeded in selling to President Buhari, the dummy to confer the power of NEC on Buni-led caretaker committee.
This is where they got it all wrong but Osinbajo right the wrong.
Unfortunately, the moment the governors, who had met and concluded before the meeting, got the green light that their idea would fly, they started spinning the news with short sms to their trusted friends in the media that APC had collapsed its structure.
Perhaps this is how the opposition Peoples Democratic Power (PDP) got the hint and acted swiftly by asking the Independent National Electoral Commission to declare all legislative seats occupied by members of the All Progressives Congress vacant.
The opposition party in a statement issued by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbodiyan, titled, ‘PDP Congratulates Nigerians as APC, Their Tormentor, Finally Fizzles’ equally sought INEC to deregister APC.
In the statement, the opposition party congratulated Nigerians across the country, stating that their tormentor for five years, the APC, has finally dissolved out of Nigeria’s political firmament. It categorically stated that the APC had forcefully exited itself from the nation’s political firmament by dissolving all its national, zonal and state structures.
Analyzing the issue in a telephone interview with the AbujaCityJournal, Lagos based Human Right Lawyer, Gabriel Uduafi, who commended the eagle-eye of the Vice President for quickly spotting the anomaly, said were it to be the other way round; APC would have been on auto pilot with no leadership.
Uduafi’s words: “What happened during the APC NEC meeting yesterday before the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo brought his Law prowess to bear would have resorted into constitutional aberration. It’s a simple legal interpretation; dissolving the party structure across board would have simply pointed to the fact that the party is not in existence.
“Those who wanted to make such resolution perhaps were not aware that there shouldn’t be a vacuum in the system. The constitution of Nigeria recognises all those officers but if the NEC now says they are not in existence, then their products and all that they stand for are also null and void. If the structure is collapsed, who then conducts elections into those offices?”, Uduafi stated
Warning the ruling party to always look before it leaps, Uduafi, noted that even the dissolution of the Adams Oshiomhole-led executive was also a constitutional aberration.
“APC has always committed avoidable mistakes and it’s sad. Even the NEC meeting that was held at the Presidential Villa, where Adams Oshiomole led executive was disbanded was also a constitutional aberration. The party has to be careful in the way it conducts itself, otherwise, it will run itself out of existence. Nigerians are watching and it will be suicidal if the party falls for its own antics,” he further added.
For Osinbajo, this is not the first time he would serve as a messiah to his dear party. It would be recalled that a similar intervention played out during the tenure of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun as party chairman.
At the twilight of Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee (NWC), a kangaroo move had been hatched to extend the tenure of the NWC before Oshinbajo quickly called the attention of President Buhari and other stakeholders to the legal implication.
As a result of his advice, President Muhammadu Buhari had declared as unconstitutional the decision by NEC of the APC to make the move.
The president’s position took the NWC and the 36 state chairmen of the party, who would have been beneficiaries of the controversial decision, by surprise at the start of the NEC meeting, which was then held at the national secretariat of the party in Abuja.
Chieftains of the party who felt shortchanged due to the tenure elongation had taken the Odigie-Oyegun-led NWC to court, seeking the quashing of the decision.
President Buhari said notwithstanding the fact that the decision to extend the tenure got the endorsement of the NEC at its meeting, it could not stand since it was against the provisions of Article 17 (1) (2) of the APC constitution as well as section 223 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
He argued that allowing such an illegality to stand would not only deepen the crises plaguing the party, it could provide an enabling environment for members of the opposition to wrestle power from APC in the 2019 general elections.
Buhari, who reiterated the need to ensure internal democracy in the APC, enjoined the NEC to duly elect executive members of the party at national and state levels in accordance with the timetable of the party.
The president disclosed that his position was based on wise counsel of persons knowledgeable in law among the ranks of the party, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN).
With the new development and the bashes that the party and its leaders have so far received, is it not high time that APC started consulting wide before taking decisions? Until the party learns to do things right, those who have consistently argued that the party is divided against itself will always be vindicated.
And for Buhari and Osinbajo, observers believe their silence at this crucial moment is not golden, hence they need to be more active as party men and politicians than adopting a ‘sitdown-look’ posture.