THE People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in a suit filed on August 12, has asked an Abuja Federal High Court to sack Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni for allegedly violating Section 183 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution by holding the offices of state governor and party national chairman.
Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution stated: “The governor shall not, during the period when he holds office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever.”
Buni is currently acting as national chairman of the APC by virtue of his position as chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), the body which is running the affairs of the party since the dissolution of the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC).
The NWC was dissolved after Oshiomhole, the party’s national chairman at the time, was suspended from his ward in the build-up to the 2020 governorship election in Edo State. Oshiomhole was eventually removed from office after the election.
The APC National Executive Committee (NEC), in 2020, initially appointed the Buni-led caretaker committee to manage the affairs of the party for a period of six months, but the Yobe governor’s tenure as acting national chairman has been extended twice.
* PDP lays judicial ambush on APC
In asking the Abuja Federal High Court to sack Buni and his deputy Idi Gubana, and replace them with its candidates in the 2019 governorship poll in Yobe State, the PDP is hoping to take advantage of a pronouncement made by the Supreme Court on July 28 while delivering judgment in the petition against the election of Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of the APC.
Although the Supreme Court declared Akeredolu winner of the election and dismissed the petition filed by the PDP Governorship Candidate Eyitayo Jegede, some justices on the panel of the apex court, in a minority judgment, declared that the composition of the leadership of the APC was not in compliance with Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution, which states that a state governor cannot hold any other executive position while in office.
The Supreme Court minority judgment led to sharp divisions in the APC as major party stakeholders spilt into pro-Buni and anti-Buni camps. The development was at the heart of the recent crisis in the party.
A group known as Concerned APC Stakeholders, reportedly backed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who believed that the Supreme Court pronouncement rendered Buni’s leadership illegal, wanted the CECPC disbanded and the July 31 ward congresses organised by the caretaker committee nullified.
A leading member of the anti-Buni camp, Minister of State for Labour and Employment Festus Keyamo, warned that the Supreme Court pronouncement could be the basis of the disqualification of APC candidates in future elections on the grounds that they emerged from a flawed process organised by an invalid party leadership.
However the pro-Buni camp appeared to have had their way after governors elected on the platform of the APC, under the aegis of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), on August 10, backed the Buni-led CECPC and endorsed the ward congresses organised by the committee.
Buni is a member of the PGF.
The PGF, in a communique released in Abuja, urged members of the APC to support Buni’s leadership, arguing that, contrary to claims by some major party stakeholders, the full judgment of the Supreme Court in the Ondo governorship election petition had authenticated the legality of the Buni-led caretaker committee.
But just two days after the APC governors appeared to have settled the leadership crisis rocking the party, the PDP, in what amounted to a judicial ambush, is now asking an Abuja Federal High Court to remove Buni on the grounds that he (Buni) violated Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution when, as governor of Yobe State, he accepted to serve as chairman of the APC caretaker committee.
The PDP is also asking the court to sack Buni’s deputy, Gubana, based on the provisions of Section 187(1) of the 1999 Constitution.
Insisting that Buni ceased to be a governor from the moment he accepted to act as chairman of the APC caretaker committee, the PDP wants the court to install PDP candidates in the 2019 governorship election in Yobe State as governor and deputy governor in the place of Buni and his deputy.
The suit was filed by Umar Damagum and Baba Aji – PDP governorship candidate and running mate in the 2019 Yobe gubernatorial poll – through their lawyer, Emeka Etiaba, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
Buni, Gubana, the APC and the Independent National National Electoral Commission (INEC) are the defendants in the suit, which is yet to be assigned a date for hearing.
In the originating summons, the PDP has asked the court to determine whether Buni did not violate provisions of Section 183 of the Nigerian Constitution by accepting to serve as APC caretaker committee chairman, and whether he has not ceased to be governor of Yobe State as a result of his position as party caretaker chairman.
Should the court determine that Buni violated the provisions of Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution, the PDP wants the court to declare that he (Buni) has ceased to be the governor of Yobe State.
The court has also been asked to declare that actions taken by Buni as chairman of the APC caretaker committee while he remains the governor of Yobe State are wrongful, null and void.
The PDP has equally asked the court to declare that Gubana (Buni’s deputy) cannot lawfully occupy the office of the governor or deputy governor of Yobe State upon Buni’s removal from office.
The court has in the same vein been asked to order the chief judge of Yobe State to immediately swear in PDP gubernatorial candidates in the 2019 election as governor and deputy governor of Yobe State.
The PDP has stressed that the offices of governor and deputy governor of Yobe State have become vacant.