Despite the massive mobilization of resources by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to ensure victory for their candidates in the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in Edo and Ondo states, there are emerging indications that APC candidates – Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and his Ondo counterpart will be disqualified if the courts ruled that the caretaker committee chairman, Yobe Governor, Mai Mala Buni who signed the party endorsement form of the APC candidates is illegitimate; hence his actions are null and void.
APC bigwigs, who spoke to Huhuonline.com on condition of anonymity, ostensibly not to be seen as giving advice to the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), expressed concern that history might repeat itself when the party won in Zamfara state but its candidates were all disqualified because of failure to conduct a legitimate primary. The same situation occurred in Rivers state where the APC candidates were all disqualified.
The palpable fear intensified after another lawsuit was filed yesterday, challenging the legitimacy of APC caretaker committee. Despite the appeal by the new national caretaker committee and the National Executive Committee (NEC) to all aggrieved members to withdraw all their cases from the courts, an APC chieftain in Lagos State filed a lawsuit against the party at the Federal High Court in Lagos, seeking the sack of the caretaker committee.
The APC member, Chief Lateef Arigbaruwo, in the suit number FHC/L/CS/789/2020 is faulting the NEC meeting of the party held on June 25, which sacked the party’s National Working Committee and replaced it with the caretaker committee. The suit has the APC, Chief Victor Giadom who convened the NEC meeting, NEC and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as first to fourth respondents respectively.
Arigbaruwo, who claims to be a chieftain of the APC in Ojo LGA in Lagos State is asking the court to declare whether having regards to Article 25, paragraph B (i) and (ii) of the APC constitution, the 24 hour-notice given by the 2nd defendant (Giadom) for the June 25 NEC meeting was valid and legal.
The lawsuit, which was filed on July 1 on behalf of the plaintiff by Dimien Edonkumoh, is also seeking “an order of the court setting aside all the decisions taken in the NEC meeting, which he declared illegal on the grounds that it was conveyed on June 24 and held on June 25, contrary to Article 25 of the APC Constitution,” which mandates a 7-14 day prior notice. The plaintiff is also asking the court to restrain the caretaker committee members from parading themselves as such. Chief Arigbaruwo also wants the court to grant an order allowing the APC National Vice Chairman (South-south), Mr. Hilliard Eta, to pilot the affairs of the APC as acting national chairman and to preside at all meetings of the National Working Committee and NEC.
When the case came up on Tuesday, Justice Mohammed Liman, to whom the case was assigned, declined, insisting the matter be heard at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) where the defendants reside. He then transferred the case file to the Chief Judge of the court in Abuja for re-assignment.
This came a day before the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal fixed July 16 for hearing in the appeal brought by APC members in Rivers state loyal to the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi. A three-man panel of the appellate court, led by Justice Stephen Ada, announced the date for hearing in the substantive suit after the court dismissed the preliminary objection raised by the Acting Chairman of APC in Rivers State, Igo Aguma, who is of Senator Magnus Abe’s group.
Justice George Omereji of a Rivers State High Court had on June 9 declared Aguma as the acting APC chairman in Rivers state. But the sacked Chairman of the party’s Caretaker Committee, Isaac Ogbobula, who is a loyalist of Amaechi, had approached the Court of Appeal to challenge the judgment of the Rivers State High Court that sacked his committee and affirmed Aguma as the acting chairman of the APC in the state. Aguma, APC and APC former suspended national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, are first, second and third respondents.
If the courts rule that the caretaker committee was born out of an illegal process, then the APC is jinxed because every action that ensued following that illegality, including the validation of APC candidates by the caretaker committee chairman, will, in the eyes of the law, be a nullity and of no effect. It was the famous British Justice Alfred Lord Denning who said, you cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand.