Contrary to expectations that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would hold its national convention in two weeks’ time, emerging facts on Thursday suggested many factors that would stop the exercise.
The Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) had scheduled Saturday, 26th March 2022 for the national convention of the party for the purpose of electing national officials.
But DAILY POST reliably gathered on Thursday morning, that, aside from the in-house crisis bedevilling the ruling party, there are other legal and technical impediments standing against the national convention.
Already, the CECPC Chairman, Gov. Buni has been edged out, paving way for the Governor of Niger State, Abubakar Bello, to take over affairs of the party at the national secretariat. He has since inaugurated chairmen of various state chapters of the party.
Aside from court suits emanating from the conduct of state congresses, DAILY POST gathered that a subsisting court order restraining APC from conducting its national convention has not been vacated nor appealed.
A Bwari division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, in suit number FCT/HC/CV/2958/2021, had restrained the ruling party from holding its convention, until a substantive suit has been heard and determined.
The suit, filed by Hon. Salisu Umoru at the court, had the APC, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Governor Buni, as respondents.
“That the 1st Defendant/Respondent can only conduct its national convention after the hearing and determination of the substantive suit pending before this honourable court,” the court order seen by DAILY POST read.
Justice Bello Kawu, also ruled that “in the interest of justice, accelerated hearing of the substantive suit is hereby ordered.
“That this matter is hereby adjourned to the 10th day of January 2022 for hearing of the substantive suit at High Court No. 15, Kubwa, FCT-Abuja.”
It was also gathered that the court had recently adjourned a hearing of the substantive matter to March 30, when the party shall know its fate on whether to go ahead with its national convention or not.
This development has unsettled some governors and leaders of the party.
The implications of this unappealed judgement and the limited timeframe given by the INEC’s guidelines would spell doom for the party during the 2023 general elections.
With two subsisting judgements in respect to Rivers and Zamfara states APC candidacies in the 2019 general elections, it would now translate to the party not fielding any legitimate candidate in any of the general elections in 2023.
Worried by this development and the impending lacuna, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, one of the arrowheads in the engine room of the APC, confirmed that the court order was a waiting calamity against the party in 2023.
Speaking on Wednesday in an interview with Channels Television, El-Rufai said the court order was a “hidden nuclear weapon” designed to destroy the party’s chances in the 2023 general election.
“This court order was obtained in November. A member of the party went to court to say that there must be no convention until his case against the party is disposed of, which can take months or years,” El-Rufai said.
The fact remains that, the court order restraining INEC and the APC/CECPC is still in force and valid until it is vacated. As of Thursday morning, two weeks to the planned convention, the order had not been vacated.
Another hidden factor that may impede the conduct of the election was a section in the newly passed and signed amendment to the Electoral Act.
Section 82(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended), reads: “Every registered political party shall give the Commission at least 21 days’ notice of any Convention, Congress, Conference or Meeting convened for the purpose of ‘merger’ and electing members of the executive committee, other governing bodies or nominating candidates for any of the elective offices specified under this Act”
The simple interpretation of this clause means that, after the order is vacated, APC/CECPC needs to give INEC 21 days’ notice that it wants to conduct a national convention. Today is 10th March, the order still subsists, already making a notice of 21 days for convention impossible.
With INEC having published an elections timetable, the APC is now under pressure to meet stipulated timelines, failing which it may not be able to field candidates in the 2023 general elections.
Already, the inglorious manner in which Buni was ousted is currently causing disharmony amongst the Progressive Governors.