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|Legality of APC Congresses by flowbaze: 4:35 am On October 10, 2021|
APC, as a political party that has been accorded recognition by INEC, is a creature of the 1999 Constitution. By the combined effects of Sections 223(1)(a) and (2)(a), “the constitution and rules of a political party shall provide for the periodical election on a democratic basis of the principal officers and members of the executive committee or other governing body of the political party; and the election of the officers or members of the executive committee of a political party shall be deemed to be periodical only if it is made at regular intervals not exceeding four years”. This means that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, did not anticipate a situation where a political party will be governed by an undemocratic or an unelected officers. The operative word here is that the constitution and rules of political parties “shall” provide for the periodical election on a democratic basis. Any attempt by a political party, therefore, to surrender its administration to unelected officers by any means is unconstitutional and their actions may be null and void. Further attempt to allow existing elected officers exceed the four- year term limit is also unconstitutional.
According to the constitution of APC, the executives of the party are elected by the congresses at different levels of the party organisation. The ward, local, state and national congresses elect the party executives for each level. The National Executives, which have the power to administer the entire party, is elected by the highest organ of the Party, the National Convention. Article 13.1.ii of the APC Constitution states, “The final authority of the Party shall rest with the National Convention which shall have the powers to:elect or remove National officers of the Party”. However, conflict in any human organisation is inevitable. There may be a need from time to time to replace a set of executives even before the expiration of their tenure in the event of death, resignation, in- capacity or removal. As a means to replace them, there is nothing illegal for a party to set up a committee to organise the election of the new executives. In this regard, they are serving as an elective committee not a governing committee.
Any ordinary politician in Nigeria knows that convoking a National Convention that will involve the attendance of delegates from the 36 States of the Federation and the FCT is not an easy task in terms of finance and other logistics. This is why the constitution of the different political parties devolved the powers of the National Convention to the National Executive Committee (NEC) to perform in-between National Conventions. Article 13.3.ii of the APC Constitution states, “The National Executive Committee of the Party shall be the Principal Executive body of the Party and shall … discharge all functions of the National Convention as constituted in-between National Conventions”. This, obviously, includes the power “to elect or remove National officers of the Party”. It also has the power, according to Article 13.3.vi, to “create, elect and appoint any Committee it may deem necessary, desirable or expedient and assign to them such powers and functions as it may deem fit”. This means that the NEC has the power to appoint or elect both an elective committee and an interim governing committee for the party.
Since our journey in democracy from 1999, this is the first time the entire National Working Committee (NWC), which is the organ of the Party responsible for the administration of the Party and putting into effect the decisions of the National Executive Committee of a political party, will be sacked by the NEC and replaced with a Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) headed by a serving Governor of a State. The CECPC is functioning both as a governing organ and an elective organ. As a Caretaker Committee, the CECPC is functioning as a governing council. As a Convention Planning Committee, the CECPC is functioning as an elective committee. The initial term of reference for the CECPC was to organise election into the National Working Committee within 6 months and handover power to the new executives. This debunks the claim that CECPC is a temporary committee. Once a position is tenured, it is no longer temporary. The mere fact that the position of a Governor is for four years certain does not make it temporary, it is tenured. You can see that the CECPC has a full life of its own and ends with a peaceful transfer of power to newly elected executives. We note that the tenure of the CECPC has been extended twice. Since the process of establishing the CECPC follows the provisions of the APC Constitution, the actions of the CECPC are legal in law.
However, since the CECPC is functioning as both a governing and elective committee, it will be unconstitutional for the party to elect or appoint a serving Governor to head the committee as this will offend Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution as amended that “The governor shall not, during the period when he holds office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever”, and Article 17(iv) of its Constitution that “No officer in any organ of the Party shall hold executive position office in government concurrently”. The National Chair- man of the Party is purely an executive office recognised by the Constitution and the Party’s Constitution. See Sections 223(1)(a)(2)(a) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 14.1.i-ii of the APC Constitution. The National Working Committee of the party is the main governing organ of the Party in charge of the day to day running of the Party. See Article 13.4 of the APC Constitution. Whoever is exercising the functions of the National Working Committee or that of the National Chairman must not be a serving member of the executive of the government because all his actions as Executive Chairman of APC may be null and void.
However, the issue here is whether the congresses organised to elect the executives of the party at all levels are legal, despite being chaired by a serving Governor of a State. This action constitutes the internal affairs of the Party and has nothing to do with the governing of the party. This is buttressed by the fact that even when there is an existing legitimately elected members of the National Working Committee of a party, the NWC can legally appoint a committee to over- see the election of the new executive members into the Party in a convention. For the purposes of emphasis, when we organised the convention that brought Oshiomhole to power as National Chairman of APC, in which I had the privilege of serving in the Venue and Protocol Commit- tee, the Chairman of the Convention Committee was the serving Governor of Jigawa State, His Excellency Badaru, while John Oyegun was the National Chairman of the Party. This was purely legal and the resultant elected executive members purely legitimate. Even the opposition PDP, that was shouting everywhere that every act of the CECPC is null and void because it is headed by a serving Governor, recently established two committees, headed by two serving Governors of their Party, after sacking their National Chairman, through the back door. One committee is a convention planning committee headed by Gov Fintiri of Adamawa, and the other is a zoning committee headed by Gov Ugwuanyi of Enugu State. Does it mean that every action taken by these Governors is null and void? No, because their actions do not amount to the governing of their Party. They are simply helping their Party to perform specific functions which is their internal affairs not subject to questioning by external parties. It follows, therefore, that if the CECPC had restricted itself strictly to organising the convention within six months and handed over, there wouldn’t be any problem.
The apprehension for the legality of APC Congresses stemmed from the Supreme Court Judgement on the Ondo State governorship election in which the Petitioners filed their petition on the ground that Akeredolu and Deputy were at the time of the election not qualified to contest the Ondo State Governorship election held on 10th October, 2020 because their sponsorship by APC as its candidates for the said election was invalid because the letter of 27th of July, 2020, written by APC, submitting the names of Akeredolu and Deputy to INEC, as its candidates for the election, was signed by Gov Mai Mala Buni, who signed as its acting National Chairman, when he is also the Governor of Yobe State, in contradiction to Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 17(iv) of the APC Constitution. There’s no doubt that the two offices were executive offices which Gov Buni was unqualified to occupy at the same time and the Supreme Court Judges held as such. In the words of the majority Judges, “the contention that Governor Mai Mala Buni as Governor of Yobe State has violated S.183 of the Constitution by holding the office of acting National Chairman of the 2nd respondent is a very serious one with grave consequences for him and no doubt for the 2nd respondent (APC) as well”. Justice Mary Odili of the minority Judgement was of the opinion that when APC put up a person not qualified to author its nomination by virtue of the provision of Article 17(iv) of its Constitution and Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution to do so, that document has no validity, and thereby void.
However, this grave consequence does not deny the Governor, as a member of APC, from rendering his services to his party, in his capacity as a member, not as the Acting National Chairman of the Party. Any act that is done by the Governor to perform specific function for the party in an Ad-hoc Committee tailored towards achieving aims for the party to strengthen its internal affairs is purely legal and cannot be questioned by non APC members. Heading an elective committee to organise congresses for his party is not illegal and portends no grave danger to him and to the party. However, the committee must continue on that trajectory and complete the entire congresses which terminates with the National Convention in which the national executives will emerge. Therefore, an elective committee, is a committee saddled with the responsibility of electing party officials who will govern the Party not to govern the Party themselves. Moreover, even if one per- son is sitting in a body illegally, it does not have the power to nullify all the acts of the body. The personal acts of the official may be null and void but not that of the entire body. A typical example is that of the National Assembly, where the vote of any unqualified member cannot render the whole resolution void. In this regard, APC Congresses being held are legal.
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