APC will collapse – Muiz Banire 

February 21, 2020
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  • Places party losses on Oshiomhole, supports call on National Chairman to resign

The former National Legal Adviser of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and former AMCON MD, Barrister Muiz Banire, has warned that the ruling APC will collapse considering the leadership pattern of the party’s National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole. Declaring his support for the Supreme Court judgment on the Bayelsa State governorship election the party lost to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the court, blaming the APC leadership, he advocated for urgent halt of the disintegration of the party and electoral misfortunes in the past one year.

The former national legal adviser berate APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, for his leadership failures, celebrating when the Supreme Court judgement favoured APC in Imo State and assaulting the Supreme Court on its judgment in Bayelsa which favoured the PDP.

Banire held that the Supreme Court cannot be faulted on its the judgment on the Bayelsa State governorship election which the victory of the APC governor-elect was nullified following the certificate forgery case of the deputy governor-elect.

He reiterated that the court voided the election of the APC candidates in the gubernatorial election on the simple ground that no valid ticket existed at the time of the election by the ruling party. Banire maintained that “The electoral jurisprudence is settled for decades now that, for there to be a valid ticket, both the governorship and deputy governorship candidates sponsored by a political party must be qualified in all ramifications.

“Once there is an affliction on one, the candidature of the party collapses in its entirety, rendering a joint ticket to be no ticket at all.”

He affirmed: “the two subsections of Section 187 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered), carry neither ambiguity nor vagueness in this regard.

“Little wonder, therefore, that the votes accrued by the ruling party were discountenanced on the ground that there was no valid nomination as at the time of the election.”

Without being perturbed of the propriety or legality or correctness of the decision, Banire was more concerned about – who is actually to be blamed?

Banire declared: “Without mincing words, I stand with the Supreme Court in all the decisions made so far. “Therefore, I share in the confidence reposed in the apex court by my brother silk and Honourable Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo.

“In fact, I am glad that someone else is thinking right on this issue. The party leadership, in my very strong view, is the most culpable in this regard. “Coincidentally, as at Tuesday, there were several comments in this regard and along the same direction that the blame be heaped on the party’s leadership.

“I equally share their position on the ineptitude of the leadership in the circumstances of this case and other issues alluded to in the various statements.”

The former APC national legal adviser stated that the party is now an arena where truth is regarded as poison and must, therefore, not be administered. “This explains why there is huge deficit of good people in the conclave,” he added.

He remarked that APC birthed the government that runs the country, adding that it is loaded substantially with party members who have the capacity to make or mar the nation. Banire decried that with the deluge of losses continuously suffered by the APC since last year, he was beginning to be worried that the labour of the founding fathers of the party, which he belongs, might end up in vain. “Hence, the need to lend a voice to the call for an urgent halt of the disintegration of the party and the electoral misfortunes,” he said.

Bnaire acknowledged that by the current Electoral Act, unlike in the past, the responsibility for the screening of candidates devolves on the political parties.

“As a matter of fact, by Section 31(1) of the Electoral Act (as amended), once a political party submits its list of candidates to INEC, in accordance with the statutory stipulations, INEC does not have the power to reject or disqualify candidates for any reason whatsoever.

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“Thus, it is expected that the leadership of each political party carry out diligent verification of her candidates’ credentials, apart from integrity and fitness into the manifesto of the party criteria.

“Where a political party fails in the screening of the candidates and presents an unqualified candidate, the sanction is not only disqualification but also penalty of N500,000, which the Supreme Court probably forgot to impose on the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Bayelsa case.

“In the circumstance of this nature, therefore, rather than the ranting and unremarkable volte-face of the all-knowing national chairman of the ruling party, Adams Oshiomhole, who few weeks ago was full of praises for the Supreme Court after its decision on the Imo State governorship election, one would have expected the party to embark on a careful postmortem of its process that led to the presentation of the unqualified candidate in Bayelsa, even after the Federal High Court’s verdict,” Banire highlighted.

He stated that this is not happening is not a shock to him, having observed the fact that the party structures are either comatose or failing to operate optimally in recent times.

The APC former national legal adviser noted the impropriety of the national chairman being chairman of the appeal panel of the party for complaints from primaries, and further headed the appeal screening committee from which appeals arising from the screening exercises terminated.

“The deliberate fusion of these vital responsibilities in one man must also reflect the standards expected of him: if he has failed so calamitously, in other climes, he would immediately step down and institute a review of the entire process,” Banire advocated

He noted that apart from the suggestions of various compromises in the screening and clearance processes, the enormity of the assignment, coupled with time constraints, can certainly not allow for any proper scrutiny. He recalled the rife allegations that the Directorate of State Services (DSS) uncovered bribery of several millions of dollars against Adams Oshiomhole during the 2019 primaries that prefaced the general election: citing saharareporters publication of November 15, 2018.

Banire protested: “It still disturbs me today that, despite the gravity of the allegations, including the patent criminal element inherent in them, the issue went under the carpet without any whimper to convince the public of a proof otherwise.”

He argued that as they were no public allegations of bribery in the Bayelsa process, “it will appear that no thorough investigation of credentials of the candidates was ever carried out by the party before the election held.” He remarked that “a situation where all manner of questionable characters succeeds in representing the party, even those who do not even believe in the ideals of the party speaks volumes of the screening mechanism of the party.”

He recalled that in his days in the APC National Working Committee, multiple screening committees existed with two levels of appeals, unlike the singular appeal panel that now exists in the party.

“How would there not be this kind of slips, putting it diplomatically? “I give it to Chief John Oyegun and Chief Bisi Akande, the latter of whom I worked with both as chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria and interim chairman of the ruling party during its formative days.

“In those days, no major decision was ever taken without reference to the national legal adviser. Even when I was out of the country, my opinion would always be sought,” he stated.

Banire complained of a report  on how the office of the current APC national legal adviser had been rendered redundant by the national chairman and decisions were being taken without recourse to him or to the constitution of the party.

“This is appalling… The office of national legal adviser is a professional office constitutionally insulated against the vagaries of politics. It is the party’s own office of the chief law officer from whom legal guidance must always be sought. It is the office of the attorney-general of the party. Law remains law regardless of the political parties or personalities involved.

“Under the current constitution of the APC, the office of the national legal adviser is an independent office not subservient to the office of the national chairman and meant to be so in the wisdom of the drafters of the party’s constitution,” he declared.

On the rule of law, Banire reiterated that the only substitute for the rule of law is the rule of man; insisting that the import of the latter is anarchy, citing Thomas Hobbes, he said it is a return to the state of nature, where life becomes nasty, brutish and short, with the strong devouring the weak.

Banire maintained that from the candidate nomination angle, the Constitution of Nigeria, the Electoral Act, the party constitution, both the INEC and party guidelines govern the nomination process. These instruments bind all members of the party, including the leadership, as held by the Supreme Court in an avalanche of cases, he said.

Banire lamented that the rule of law has been replaced with the elevation of personalities and processes above the dictates of these rules, in the APC under the leadership of Oshiomhole.

He noted further that in several instances, the apex court has warned politicians against violation of these sacred documents, but they will not listen.

Banire asserted that it is when the Supreme Court now does its job by enforcing the compliance with the instruments that politicians commence their shenanigans. “As conventional with our people, particularly politicians, they search for where to deposit the blame. It is never in their character to be humble enough to admit their faults,” he said.

Banire emphasised that building institutions, much more, strong institutions, largely depends on the upholding of the rule of law.

“The party, itself, will continue to be weak until it collapses except the rule of law is respected,” he declared.

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The former national legal adviser espoused that a party is a conglomeration of people and not the exclusive preserve of one man or a few. “It is in order to eliminate conflicts and build an enduring institution that the constitution exists. No act or omission must be taken outside the confines of the constitution,” he advocated, citing, as the Supreme Court rightly admonished in the case of PDP v. Sherrif [2017] 15 NWLR (Part 1588) 219 at 287, para. B, (per I. T. Muhammad, JSC) that: “Where a member or members of the party feel too powerful to be governed or controlled by the party constitution or guidelines, and in contravention of such control mechanisms, then, certainly, democracy is thrown overboard by anarchy.”

Banire blamed APC leaders and stakeholders for sitting idle watching some “powerful” individuals’ inglorious effort to throw democracy (internal or otherwise) overboard. He insisted that the woes suffered by APC in Zamfara, Rivers, Bayelsa and several others in which elections were lost were substantially due to the infraction of internal democracy and party discipline.

He stated that in most of the cases that the party has lost seats technically, it is not a third party that has dragged the party to court but members of the same party. He observed that for some years now, it has become difficult for a stranger to a political party process, particularly in pre-election matters, to challenge the candidates of the party as the law makes it the exclusive preserve of a party member who also participated in the primary election to challenge the results. “It is only in cases of making false statements or forgery of documents submitted for qualification of an aspirant, for instance, under Section 31(5) and (6) of the Electoral Act that a stranger may challenge the qualification of a party’s candidate to make the rule of law prevail. Therefore, it is the internal wrangling, mostly due to party constitution infractions, that have given birth to various electoral misfortunes suffered by the party.

“In Rivers, we had Amaechi and Magnus Abe; Zamfara, we had Marafa and Yari.

“In Bayelsa, although the current situation is different in that the litigation was initiated by PDP pursuant to Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act (claiming that the APC’s nominated running mate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, made false declaration in his Form CF001, the current situation), there was also the internal case of Sen. Lokpobiri that he, and not David Lyon, won the APC gubernatorial primaries in Bayelsa,” Banire highlighted.

He maintained that in all of these, what stands out is the falling of the roof as the house is on fire.

He warned that they must not allow the leadership of APC to fiddle while the party burns. “For the sake of clarity, my position is that politicians must stop laying blame at the door of the courts after their misconduct or misbehaviors.

“Let the leaderships of the various parties retrace their steps and engage in propriety from now on.

“As for the ruling party, just as predicted by many, the survival of the party depends on how urgent a major restructuring is carried out in its leadership structure,” Banire declared.

Banire further declared that the relevance of Oshiomhole leadership has expired, particularly in the face of the apparent painful failures and the degree of fractionalization within.

“The embarrassing one is even that in the backyard of the national chairman, himself.

“There is fire on the mountain as things are hastily falling apart;” he said, citing  William Butler Yeats in his poem, “The Second Coming,” that the falcon does not hear the falconer; remarking that things are falling apart, and the centre can barely hold any more between the national chairman and the incumbent governor in Edo State.

He affirmed that whatever prejudices may dictate political activities of politicians, the judiciary is the last hope of the common man. “Any attempt to desecrate the institution unjustifiably must, therefore, be resisted,” he declared.

He remarked that the tweet by Festus Keyamo summarised the entirety of his message that members of the political class must desist from laying blame of their failures at the doorstep of the judiciary and must review their activities towards remedying their deficiencies.

He chided Oshiomhole, who he said virtually assumed the role of the judiciary in interpreting the judgment and pouring vituperations on the Law Lords, particularly, stating that the Bayelsa judgment lacks the fruit of justice.

“He, therefore, supplied the required juice by declaring that nobody would be sworn in come the 14th day of February, 2020. The inflammatory statements contained in the speech allegedly led to the arson and burning that subsequently took place in Bayelsa, rightly or wrongly, immediately after the judgment of the Supreme Court.

“The temerity and indiscretion exercised in the circumstances fell short of that of a statesman, much less, the chairman of the ruling party,” Banire declared further.

He stated that the judiciary is an important arbiter when it comes to political party’s administration and dispute resolution. “Just a few weeks ago, the same national chairman of APC condemned the PDP leadership for similar statements and protests in Imo State. This about-face is unhealthy for the polity. A party that had the guts to do this would not have been expected to descend to that level by joining the fray of the opposition in attacking the judiciary, which, few weeks ago, the party praised when it obtained a favourable judgment in Imo State,” Banire said.

He said that the speech of Oshiomhole  should not represent the APC’s position, adding that a sensitive issue of that nature warrants convening an emergency meeting of the National Working Committee of the party, if not that of the National Executive Committee, to review the development, critically engage the process that led to this disgraceful outcome with a view to remedying the wrong.

“It is at such a meeting that a party statement would be made, laced with intellectual considerations and deep political maturity expected of a leadership-providing party of a populous country like Nigeria; a statement that the international community would respect and would accord much recognition showing that the party does not condone criminal tendencies in producing leaders for the country.

“Unfortunately, I must confess that I get disheartened these days about the party’s position as a lot of juvenile tantrums are represented as the party’s position, and on many occasions such would come from the national chairman.

“Officials of the party need to know that their personal opinions must not be made to represent the party’s position. Party’s positions are derivable from outcomes of the sober deliberations of the organs and not personal unrefined thoughts of an individual whose state of senility on occasions may be queried,” the former national legal adviser said.

He pointed out that if the appropriate meeting had been held, the national legal adviser would or should have pointed out to the leadership of the party the legal options available to adopt rather than engaging in area boy “appellate” condemnation of a judicial determination.

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He commended the INEC for humbling the party/chairman in compelling the consideration of the decent option of legal process.

“I am not, however, disappointed by the party chairman when I reckon with the occurrences in his home state, where decency and decorum have been made victims of political imbroglio.

“It is so bad that a Ward Executive Committee is suspending the national chairman of the party. My counsel here is simply that the chairman needs to start exercising restraints in view of the pre-eminent office he occupies. He must recognise that he is no more Adams Oshiomhole of the labour unions, where pretence to toughness is used by some to project self-image into national recognition.

“He ought to have learnt from his utterance in Benin against a widow in 2013 for which he had to apologise after a national embarrassment.

“A political party chairman only makes occasional speeches since he is not the publicity secretary. Remember, your actions that have attracted commendations to you several times could be the source of your condemnation on another occasion. “Caution is, therefore, the word. In fact, putting it in a pedestrian manner, too much talking renders your utterances eventually impotent.

“Please, guard against it. Beyond all these, did the chairman watch himself in the mirror before staging that market drama? If this had been done, I am sure wise counsel would have compelled the party to conduct an autopsy before the aggressive attacks on the judiciary.

“May I, therefore, advise that he learns from our leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on this point. As recent as a few weeks ago, he did not only uphold the sanctity of the judiciary but counseled against any attack on the institution. The chairman certainly needs a course in Tolerance 001 from him.

“A person that cannot stand the heat must get out of the kitchen. If the chairman is not receptive to contrary views, he needs to excuse himself from the arena,” Banire admonished Oshiomhole.

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