By Ismail Omipidan
Before the advent of the All Progressives Congress, APC, many Nigerians were made to believe that impunity and lack of respect for party’s laws and regulations start and end with the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which was in charge of government and governance at the centre and in most parts of the country, from 1999 to 2015.
But since the APC emerged on the stage in May 29, 2015, following the historic defeat of the then ruling party, the PDP, there appears to be no much difference between the two parties in terms strict adherence to the rule of law and even to the rule and dictates of the party. From flagrant disobedience to court orders and pronouncements, to abuse of power by persons perceived to be close to the seat of power, APC appears to have elevated impunity to a ridiculous level.
Its recent handling of the Osun-West senatorial district by-election primary, has again brought to the fore the party’s flagrant disregard for its own constitution, which ordinarily should be its guiding principle.
Interestingly, from the day the party’s screening committee from the National Headquarters, Abuja, led by the Zamfara State Assembly Speaker, Sanusi Garba Rikiji arrived Osogbo, the State capital, the State government, which is in control of the State party structure, gave itself away, as a group ready to do anything to ensure the Adeleke family, who were also bent on having one of them replace their late brother, Senator Isiaka Adeleke, does not come close to participating in the primary, let alone pick the party’s ticket.
Prior to the arrival of the screening committee, stories had gone round that Ademola Adeleke, younger brother to the late Senator, was not a member of the party. He also pulled a fast one on the party in the State, as he did not pick his nomination form from Osogbo. He picked it from Abuja.
Daily Sun can however reveal authoritatively that he was not the only one who picked his nomination form from Abuja, as there are about two other supporters of Governor Rauf Aregbesola, who also picked their forms from Abuja.
On arrival in Osogbo, while welcoming the committee, the State’s party Secretary, Razak Salinsile, declared to the members of the committee that Ademola Adeleke was not its member.
But Rikiji cautioned Salinsile, saying his job was just to welcome them and not to teach them their job. He further added that if they have any objection to Ademola Adeleke’s candidature, such objection should be forwarded to the party’s screening committee in writing.
The Screening Committee
Barely 24 hours to the screening four other aides of Aregbesola who had earlier indicated interest in the primary, were persuaded by the governor to step down for Senator Mudashiru Hussein, the State’s commissioner for Cabinet Matters. At the said meeting, this lasted till about 3am, Daily Sun further gathered that party faithful were practically begged to support Hussein’s aspiration. But if the governor knew Hussein was his joker for Osun West senatorial district, why did he swear him in as a commissioner even after Adeleke’s death? Adeleke died in April. The Commissioners were sworn in, in May, 30th 2017, to be precise.
After the screening, the committee disqualified Hussein, on the grounds that he had not resigned his appointment before aspiring to the position of a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The committee was said to have relied on Article 31 (iii), of the party’s constitution and the 2014 APC Guidelines on the Nomination of Candidates for Public Office.
The committee held that “In conformity with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, qualification for aspirants to respective offices in State House of Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate, Governor and President, the party’s guidelines prescribe that an aspirant seeking public office on its platform shall not have remained as an employee of the Public Service within 30 days preceding the date of the election.”
Interestingly, the committee further held that Hussein had admitted while appearing before it that he was indeed a Commissioner in the Aregbesola’s cabinet, even after obtaining a nomination form, an action they noted was at variance with the party’s guidelines. It however advised Hussein to seek redress through the party’s Appeal Committee in case he was not satisfied with the committee’s verdict.
Dissatisfied with the verdict, Hussein approached the National Appeal panel, led by its chairman, Rt. Hon. Abdullahi Bello and Alhaji Shehu Nguru, as Secretary, to seek redress. At the end of the panel’s sitting, it upheld the decision of the Screening committee.
The Appeal panel held that “during the petitioner’s appearance before it, he confessed that his nomination form did not satisfy the full requirements of a legal document which could stand him for election.”
In the report made available to Journalists, and signed by the Committee, it stated among other things that “an objective view of the petitioner’s nomination form for the primary was not duly sworn to before a magistrate or a notary public and his failure to do this constitute an incurable defect.
“The failure of the petitioner to submit his nomination form for the purpose of certification and oath before a magistrate or a notary public is fatal to his cause. Upon the above consideration, the appeal for reconsideration and reversal as presented by Senator Mudashiru Hussein lack merit and is hereby dismissed.
“Consequently, the disqualification of Hussein by the 5-man election screening committee for the Osun West Senatorial District primary election of the APC is hereby upheld.”
The drama, the U-turn
But in the afternoon of Monday, June 12, 2017, the date earlier set aside by the party for the primary, news broke that the primary had been postponed till Tuesday, June 13, 2017. Curiously, news of the postponement came through officials of the State government, and not the screening committee. Ironically, one of the State government official claimed that the postponement was at the instance of Chairman, APC appeal committee, “overseeing the screening and choice of candidate for Osun West Senatorial Election.”
By evening of the same day, another statement emanated from the party in the State, purportedly clearing Hussein to contest. It was signed by Kunle Oyatomi, its Director, Media & Strategy.
It reads: “The National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress has Monday cleared Senator Mudashiru Hussein to contest the party’s primaries for the Osun West senatorial district holding tomorrow, Tuesday June 13, 2017. This is the outcome of the meeting of the NWC in Abuja which reviewed the decision of the Appeal Panel which had earlier dismissed the appeal filed by Senator Hussein on Sunday.”
Interestingly, Oyatomi is neither a member of the National Working Committee, NWC of the party, nor was he the committee’s spokesperson, as at the time he issued the statement on behalf of the party’s national headquarters.
However, there was no any contrary position to the statement from Abuja. Hussein became the sole candidate of the party, following the withdrawal of Adeleke from the race. In the end, while Adeleke emerged as the PDP’s candidate, Hussein is APC’s candidate, and former member of the House of Representatives Hon. Bade Falade got the ticket of the Social Democratic Party, SDP.
The APC’s arguments in favour Hussein’s sudden clearance
Oyatomi, had while reacting to Adeleke’s allegation that the process was manipulated in favour of Hussein, said: “Contrary to his erroneous claim of obvious manipulations and interference, paragraph 16(d) of the 2014 Guidelines for the Nomination of Candidates for Public Office makes it clear that the National Working Party (NWC), acting on behalf of National Executive Committee (NEC), is the ultimate authority on the qualifications of candidates to contest a primary election.
“This is more so if an appeal is lodged by any aggrieved aspirant or candidate. Therefore, the decision of the NWC cannot be seen as manipulation as this has been the standard practice of our great party since its formation.”
Speaking on Hussein’s disqualification earlier before his sudden clearance, Bashiru Ajibola, Osun State Attorney-General, and Justice Commissioner, had said based on Section 66(1) of the Constitution, the position of the law that no person shall be eligible for election into the Senate if he/she fails to resign from the Federal or state public service 30 days before the date of the election, was only applicable to those issued letters of employment by the Federal or State public service.
“Senator Husain, as Commissioner, Cabinet Matters, is not a public officer within the definition of public office of a State in Section 318(1) of the 1999 Constitution, so as to bring him within the purview of section 66(1)(f) of the 1999 Constitution as ultimately decided in Dada v. Adeyeye (supra) per Onnoghen, JCA at 24.”
He also submitted that the aspirant had formally resigned his appointment as Commissioner on June 6, immediately after the inaugural meeting of the State Executive Council “in furtherance of his intention to contest the Osun West Senatorial bye-election. Clearly, this is more than the 30 days before the date of election slated for the 8th Day of July 2017. Therefore, on all scores, Senator Husain is eligible to contest the elections, having fulfilled the constitutional requirements. Secondly, by the provisions of Article 31(1)(iii) of the APC Constitution, it is only party office holders, who are interested in contesting for elective office that is mandated to resign and leave office 30 days prior to the date of nomination or party primary. Senator Mudashiru Husain’s appointment was in relation to membership of the Executive council of the State Government of Osun and not an official position within the hierarchy of party.
“Therefore, I am of the firm conviction that it is absolutely wrong and manifestly unjust for the Screening Committee to disqualify Hussein from contesting the primary, as there is no basis to do so in the light of the compelling provisions of the 1999 Constitution, the Electoral Act, the Constitution of APC and APC’s 2014 Guidelines for the Nomination of Candidates for Public Office.”
How the election will be won and lost
Late Senator Adeleke was warming up to contest next year’s governorship before his sudden demise. Campaign vehicles, material and resources were already in place before his demise. And since all his brothers are aware of the plan, all that is needed is to deploy the resources initially meant to be spread across the State, to just one senatorial district. Besides, Adeleke’s generosity in Ede in particular and Osun west in general, is legendary. Also, the people of the area are still bitter with Aregbesola and his supporters over the demise of their benefactor. All these, including the people’s disenchantment with Aregbesola over some of his policies and programmes, are supposed to work in favour of Adeleke. Besides, the two factions of the PDP in the State are united behind him. Though a novice in politics, he is expected to ride on his late brother’s political benevolence and popularity.
Hussein was in the Senate from 2011-2015; but his stay was at best colourless. Apart from the fact that he has no deep pocket, he is seen as a “very stingy” politician. Unlike late Adeleke who has an army of persons that he has assisted to political limelight, Hussein is still struggling to have a foothold in the politics of Osun, in spite of the fact that he had been a member of the House of Representatives. He is from Ejigbo, no doubt, but he is seen more as an “outsider,” especially because he is also “tekobo.”
If he eventually makes it, Ejigbo alone will have the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, and will also have the member of House of Representatives, representing Iwo/Ejigbo Constituency. It is however doubtful if the Osun West electorate will allow it happen. But his promoters are working seriously on the electorate from the Iwo axis, pleading with them to support Hussein, in return for a governorship ticket, come 2018.
Interestingly, the third candidate in the race, Bade Falade, who is a former member of the House of Representatives, is also from Ejigbo. He is contesting on the platform of the SDP. His participation in the contest would no doubt reduce Hussein’s ballots in the area.
Regardless, the by-election, Daily Sun can reveal, is a contest for pride and ego between the Adeleke family, his political dynasty and the Aregbesola political dynasty. If either of the parties tries to employ extra legal means to win the contest, it may result in a bloody violence. July 8 is the date.