Both the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have been enmeshed in some form of worrisome leadership crises from time immemorial.
Often, at the base of these crises is the monstrous problem of lack of internal democracy, absence of political ideology, promotion of individual egocentrism above collective interests buoyed by over-monetization of the democratic process.
Yet, these are the two prominent political parties that are being looked up to and expected to drive the wheels of Nigeria’s democratic advancements by entrenching the culture of good democratic principles and values anchored on rule of law and internal democracy.
The two political parties have, however, certainly not lived by example and have not shown any semblance of institutions ready to shoulder the responsibility of being the bastion of democracy advancements in Nigeria.
In the opposition PDP for instance, the last few days and weeks have witnessed a dramatic characterization of a political lunatic of the highest order as the party’s leadership lowered their guards and fought with least regards to the rule of law.
Last week for the PDP saw court orders flying left and right as a Rivers State court in Degema, on Monday Barred Prince Uche Secondus
from parading himself as a member or National Chairman of PDP.
The court reportedly gave the order while ruling in a suit brought before it by one Ibeawuchi Alex and three others – Dennis Amadi, Emmanuel Stephen, and Umeziriki Onucha.
But by Thursday, Secondus resumed in his office parading a counter order from a Birnin kebbi court reinstating him as the National Chairman of the party.
Monday’s court order appeared to be the height of a crisis that has been brewing within the party which has been hit by a gale of defections of governors elected on its platform to the APC in the past few months.
Governors David Umahi of Ebonyi State, Ben Ayade of Cross River, and Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State defected to the ruling APC in the last 10 months.
About a month later, seven members of the National Working Committee (NWC) resigned, citing Mr. Secondus’ leadership style.
Some support groups within the party also recently called for Mr. Secondus’ ouster. The groups under the aegis of Save PDP Group and Coalition of PDP Youth Groups made the call during a protest at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja.
The leader of the groups, Tamunotonye Inioribo, while addressing the media, said the protest was organized by a coalition of different PDP support groups, that were dissatisfied with the leadership of Mr. Secondus.
Mr. Secondus, who has defiantly said he would not resign, held a meeting behind closed doors with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, amid efforts by various organs of the party to save the worsening situation.
The embattled chairman, who is fighting hard to retain his position, has been given the option of organizing a convention in October, instead, he had insisted on completing his tenure.
Secondus was elected at the December 2017 national convention of the PDP held at the Eagle Square in Abuja, along with other NWC members, and his tenure of four years is supposed to end in December 2021.
The BoT and PDP Governors Forum had previously met separately to intervene in the crisis, especially after the resignation of seven members of the NWC.
The development came despite earlier efforts by stakeholders to resolve the leadership crisis that has rocked the party in the last few months.
The crisis had led to calls for the resignation of Secondus from different quarters.
As a way to pacify those calling for the chairman’s resignation, the PDP Governors Forum and the party’s Board of Trustees had recently met in Abuja, where they reached a resolution to bring forward the national convention of the party to October instead of December when the tenure of the Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC) would expire.
This made the party on Wednesday adopt its Deputy National Chairman (South), Elder Yemi Akinwonmi, as acting Chairman.
However, Prince Uche Secondus on Friday resumed office following an order from another court of coordinate jurisdiction in Kebbi on Thursday that reinstated him as the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Secondus resumed ahead of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) extended meeting scheduled for 10 a.m.
Based on the order of the Kebbi court, Secondus stormed the PDP headquarters in Abuja on Friday, insisting that he was the authentic chairman of the party.
However, he was prevented from attending a stakeholders’ meeting presided over by Elder Yemi Akinwonmi, Deputy Chairman (South).
The PDP had named Akinwonmi acting chairman after the court suspended Secondus.
But on Friday, Secondus told journalists that he was still in charge of the party since another court had overturned his suspension.
On Friday, another court in Calabar, Cross River State, restrained Secondus from presiding over the NEC meeting of the party, which is ongoing
Justice Edem Kufre gave the order based on an application brought by a member of the party, Enang Wani.
However, on Saturday, Secondus wrote to Akinwonmi, asking him to take charge of the meeting.
“I hereby request you to preside over the National Executive Committee meeting of the Party, taking place today, 28th August, 2021@ 12 noon, in my absence. Thank you,” the letter read.
As for the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, the constitution and choice of Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, as the chairman of APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, CECPC, has been a major source of dispute and legal contestations within the party.
Following a protracted leadership crisis that almost tore the party into pieces, the National Executive Committee, NEC, presided by President Muhammadu Buhari, on June 25, 2020, dissolved the National Working Committee, NWC, led by its embattled erstwhile national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomole and appointed a 13-man caretaker committee headed by Mai Mala Buni to oversee the affairs of the party with the mandate of reconciling aggrieved members and conducting an extraordinary elective convention to elect fresh substantive leaders of the party within the timeframe of six months.
Intriguingly, the Buni-led committee, by employing some sardonic delay tactics, has refused to convene the party’s convention as mandated within its stipulated six-months timeframe but has rather perpetuated itself in office for over 14 months and counting.
This prompted some aggrieved members numbering one hundred to approach a federal high court sitting in Abuja to seek the dissolution of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Coñvention Planning Committee, CECPC, headed by Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni.
The plaintiffs, through their lawyer, Barr. Samuel E. Irabor, asked the court to declare the 13-man caretaker committee illegal and to nullify all activities so far presided over by it including the recently conducted ward congresses.
They contended that the committee falls short of the statutorily required 24 members that must be spread across not less than two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
In the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/938/2021, the plaintiffs added that the headship of the caretaker committee by a sitting governor holding dual executive offices is prohibited by Section 183 of the Nigerian constitution and Article 17(4) of the APC constitution.
It is also the contention of the plaintiffs that Nigeria’s Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, lacked the legal backing to administer an oath of office to Mr. Buni as caretaker chairman of the party.
The plaintiffs argued that only the National Working Committee of the party could constitute a Caretaker Committee as provided under Article 13(4)(xvi) of the APC Constitution.
Listed as a co-defendant in the originating summon registered as Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/938/2021, are the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and others.
The row over the status of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has for a while threatened the fragile peace within the ruling party.
While disgruntled factions of the APC hold that there is a flaw in having Governor Mai Mala Buni remain as Chairman of the CECPC, others argue that there is no constitutional breach in having a serving governor lead the party at the moment.
In a recent communique aimed at making clear its position on the controversy over the legality of the CECPC and that of its chairman, the APC stated that “on both issues, we will state the position and decision of the Supreme Court only. The decision here is the majority judgment of the Supreme Court which is now the Law.
“The decision and judgment were read and concurred to by the justices who were in the majority. Any other statements in their various additional contributions by the justices complement the lead judgment.
“It is therefore right to say that the issues and ratio in the lead judgment reflect the views of the majority. The minority judgment, although important as it is, is not the judgment of the court.”
The statement further notes that the Supreme Court in its judgment affirmed the legality of the CECPC, adding: “the court stated that the NEC under Article 13 (3) IV of the APC constitution has the power to create, elect and appoint a committee and endow it with powers and functions. It drew a parallel with Article 33(3) of the PDP constitution (2012) with similar powers granted to its National Convention which in turn appointed a National Caretaker in 2016, which the Supreme Court ruled legal in Sheriff VS PDP.
“On the status of the Acting National Chairman, His Excellency, Mai Mala Buni, the Supreme Court held that he was appointed only in an acting capacity, on a temporary basis to carry out and fill in the seat of the National Chairman, pending the election of new officers.
“The Apex Court also held that Mai Mala Buni’s position as Acting Chairman of the Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee is not contrary to the provision of Section 183 of the CFRN because the appointment, ad-hoc, is on a temporary basis which is not akin to Executive office or paid employment as envisaged by Section 183 of the CFRN.”
The latest court suit came barely three weeks after a minority judgment of the Supreme court which questioned the eligibility of Mai Mala Buni, as the CECPC chairman triggered a flurry of legal opinions, interpretations as well as implications of the judgment on the fortune of the ruling party in future elections.
These ugly developments are part of what made the former Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission of Nigeria (INEC), Professor Attahiru Muhammad Jega, to submit that both APC and PDP have failed Nigerians.
Prof. Attahiru Jega, former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in a BBC Hausa Service interview on August 2, 2021, submitted that ‘the two big parties had failed to engender good governance and development in the country.’ Consequently, he called on Nigerians not to ‘give their trust to the parties again.’
Jega went ahead to call on Nigerians not to vote for the All Progressives Congress ( APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party( PDP) in the next election coming up in 2023.
This is because he alleged the two major political parties in the country were like Siamese twins of Corruption.
Thus, the former INEC boss said it was high time Nigerians look for a credible alternative.
Speaking in a BBC Hausa program on Monday, Jega a professor of political science noted, ‘Nigerians should dump the two parties because of their bad antecedents over the last 20 years.
He stressed,’ Looking at their inability to change the economic fortunes of Nigeria for 20 years now, it is now apparently clear that they would not do anything even if Nigerians vote for any of the two parties again,” he alleged.
‘ The bad things these parties have committed in those past years, Nigerians should never give their trust to the parties again. It is now very clear that these parties would never change, even if they are given another chance.”
“The APC and PDP have formed governments, we were all witnesses. They did not come with a good intention to make amends. If you look at the fight against corruption, all these corrupt people that were supposed to be prosecuted, sneaked into the APC.”
He also alleged that those in the major political parties have destroyed everything and had made the parties so stigmatized that whichever good person joins the parties would be considered like them.
” Since 1979 I’ve been teaching in the university, for 40 years now. So, from what I read and observed, when I was Chairman of INEC, honestly the way I see our politicians conducting elections and from the manner, they represent their people when elected, honestly, it is something to be afraid of,” he said.
But in one of his academic papers titled “Nigerian Politics and Fallacy of PDP – APC Semblance (Part one)”, the Director-General of Progressive Governors Forum, PGF, an umbrella body for governors elected under the platform of APC, Dr. Salihu Moh. Lukman argued that coming from Prof. Jega, the claim that both the PDP and APC are the same and had failed Nigerians should not be taken lightly.
He contended that Prof. Jega wasn’t just the former Chairman of INEC. He is a respected political scientist internationally. He is both a theoretician and practitioner whose commitment to Nigeria’s development cannot be faulted. He grew through the ranks of radical activism to become the leader, both intellectually and in the practical field of politics, and was able to inspire and influence the emergence of generations of both activists and leaders in the country. As Chairman of INEC, it cannot be disputed that he successfully led the reform of electoral management in the country.
The APC Chieftain however faulted Jega for failing to provide facts to show that both APC and opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have failed Nigerians.
Lukman stated that the problem of one-dimensional politics, being practiced in Nigeria, which is about opinions and not facts is responsible for painting both APC and PDP with same brush.
The PGF D.G acknowledged that the ease with which politicians switch between parties, especially from PDP to APC and vice versa, also justified why the same semblance is ascribed to both parties.
The party chieftain further explained that the absence of political ideology, in Nigerian politics is another evidence of why the two parties are the same.
He however faulted Prof. Jega for failing to present facts to prove that APC is a failure before lumping it together with PDP.
“Prof. Jega spoke more like a politician in that interview than the thorough scholar he is. Being a PRP member, it was more about justifying his choice of PRP as opposed to any of the so-called big parties. In many respects, it wasn’t necessary at all. He doesn’t need to justify his political choice with reference to other parties. Doing so, cheaply bring him down to the basement of one-dimensional politics, which he is way above. As a result, at least from the BBC interview, he didn’t make any attempt to present how his party, PRP, will be different,” he said.