* Court judgment won’t affect Tinubu’s nomination, says Ogala
*It’s judicial rascality, Benue APC chair fumes
Adedayo Akinwale and Alex Enumah in Abuja
Chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have dismissed the fears that the nomination of Senator Bola Tinubu as the presidential candidate of the party may be in jeopardy following a judgment of the Federal High Court that nullified the nomination of Osun State Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola and his deputy, Benedict Alabi, as candidates of the party in the July governorship election.
Justice Emeka Nwite had on Friday in Abuja held that the nomination of Oyetola and his deputy were unlawful and unconstitutional because Governor Mai Mala Buni, who submitted their names to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), violated the provisions of Section 183 of the Constitution and Section 82(3) of the Electoral Act 2022.
The suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/468/2022, has Buni, former Acting Chairman of the APC and four others as defendants.
Buni organised the party’s convention where Senator Abdullahi Adamu emerged as the party’s National Chairman.
Adamu subsequently conducted the APC presidential primary which produced Tinubu as the party’s candidate for the 2023 election.
This has generated anxiety in some quarters that since something cannot be built on nothing, the emergence of Tinubu from an exercise initiated by Buni could also be declared a nullity by the court.
But THISDAY checks revealed that a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, had earlier affirmed the Buni-led Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee of the APC when it struck out a suit challenging the competence of the committee.
Justice Pheobe Msuen Ayua held that the action was non-justiciable and incurably incompetent, noting that the substratum of the matter bordered on the internal affairs of the ruling APC.
The Port Harcourt ruling corroborated a Supreme Court judgment, which held “that the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party is empowered to create, elect and appoint committees (including the instant CECPC) or any other committee it may deem necessary to act in any capacity.”
The latest judgment has, however, raised concerns about courts of coordinate jurisdiction giving conflicting judgments on almost the same dispute, especially since the earlier court that cleared the coast for Buni to operate was the same High Court.
Reacting to the latest judgment, a former National Legal Adviser of the party, Babatunde Ogala (SAN) said the Supreme Court had previously ruled on the matter, saying maybe the High Court did not averse itself to the apex court judgment.
He explained that he did not know how anyone could imagine that the APC convention would be affected by the judgment.
Ogala stated: “I have not seen the judgment that you talked about. I may not be able to make an informed commentary on it. If indeed a court in Port Harcourt had validated Mai Mala Buni’s committee, then it would appear that there are conflicting orders of the court.
“However, I am conscious of the fact that the same issue came up in the election petition between Eyitayo Jegede and Rotimi Akeredolu on the governorship of Ondo State and the Supreme Court has ruled on it. The Supreme Court is the highest in the land whose decisions, and pronouncements are laws and must abide by every other court of the land.
“I might choose my word carefully here, if the facts are the same, it would appear the Federal High Court that gave that judgment either did not averse its mind to the judgment of the Supreme court, that’s if the facts are the same. As I said, I have not read the judgment; I do not have details of the judgment, I have only seen snippets in the newspapers.
“As to the convention, I do not know how this would affect the convention, where the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party sat down and fixed a date for its convention. I do not know how anyone imagined in the widest imagination that the convention would be affected because Mai Mala Buni attended as head of the Caretaker Committee. I stand to be corrected or educated on that, but I don’t know how.
“What is the correlation between Mai Mala Buni being the head of the Interim Committee and participating in a convention that was called by the National Executive of the party or indeed even by any member of the party or by members of the party where the convention was properly convened.
“Let me also quickly say here that APC has two conventions, one in March that gave birth to the Abdullahi Adamu-led executive and the other in April that led to the emergence of the presidential candidate, which was the convention midwife by the National Working Committee of the party by the party’s constitution.”
For Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN), there is no conflict between the earlier judgment and the recent one.
He said: “I don’t have any of the two judgments but it appears that the Abuja judgment looked into the merit of the case while the Port Harcourt court did not go into the merit. Accordingly, there appears to be no contradiction”, he said.
Raji, further noted that the judgment is that of the high court may end up in the Supreme Court, “when the highest court may revisit the case of Jegede vs Akeredolu which once scratched the issue,” he said.
“I would rather we await the authoritative pronouncement of the highest court on the point”, he added.
Equally reacting, another senior lawyer, Mr. Dayo Akinlaja (SAN) argued that adjudication is not science.
“Because of that, it does not enjoy the immutability or luxury of exactitude. That is the monopoly of science. From the standpoint of this position, it is not out of place to have conflicting decisions from two or more courts of coordinate jurisdiction.
“That is why the appellate courts are put in place to review such decisions and harmonise the position of the law on such conflicting decisions”, he said.
Akinlaja expressed confidence that the two decisions will be subjected to the appellate courts for review,” he said.
But the former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Yekini Nabena, said since there were two conflicting judgments from courts of coordinate jurisdiction, the party is going to appeal.
He said it was worrisome considering the timing of the judgment.
Nabena added: “If for instance, anything goes wrong, that means the foundation is dead and once the foundation is dead, everything the party has done is gone.
“As it is now, the judiciary is now the problem because what they are supposed to do at that point, they are supposed to appeal. At this point, there is nothing we can say until the judiciary takes its full course,” he added.
On his part, Benue APC chairman, Hon. Austin Agada lamented that courts of coordinate jurisdiction giving conflicting others were part of the judicial rascality they have been crying about.
He stressed that Buni did not emerge through a convention, but was brought on board in an acting capacity, adding that his role as acting Chairman was not in conflict with his executive position as the governor of Yobe State.
According to him, “It was not in a convention that he emerged. It was just like the party giving him a responsibility to do, like an ad hoc assignment. Which of course, the party said, have a date for the convention that brought about a substantive National Chairman in the person of Abdullahi Adamu, which also did the whole primary that brought about the candidates of our party – whether governors, presidents or what have you,” Agada added.
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