HomeElection2023: Uncertainty Hangs Over Future Of Amaechi, Malami, Ngige, Others

2023: Uncertainty Hangs Over Future Of Amaechi, Malami, Ngige, Others

Any litigation arising from the controversial Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022 must be resolved not later than May 3, 2022. Otherwise, any political appointee who fails to resign by that date stands ineligible to seek elective office next year.

And any political party that fields any such candidate will also be embarking on a futile pursuit, for nomination to all elective offices in 2023 must be concluded by the parties not later than June 3.

That is according to the 2023 election time table issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The section provides thus: “No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.”

The implication is that aspirants wishing to be voting delegates at their party’s primary elections must quit their current public offices before the primary elections in order to be able to vote or be voted for at the shadow polls.

President Muhammadu Buhari kicked against the section, arguing that it “constitutes a disenfranchisement of serving political office holders.” Consequently, he asked the National Assembly to amend that section.

The two arms of the National Assembly wasted no time in letting the executive know that they were in no mood to accede to the president’s request.

Soon afterward, a Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia voided the section and authorised the Attorney-General of the federation to delete the controversial provision from the Act.

The National Assembly’s response was to appeal against the high court ruling.

Prior to the last judgment, INEC had adjusted the 2023 general election timetable earlier released in 2021. INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, at a news conference on February 26, in Abuja, said the presidential and National Assembly elections would take place on February 25, 2023; the governorship and state houses of assembly elections would follow two weeks later on Saturday, March 11, 2023.

Other dates contained in the publication of notice of election include: “Conduct of party primaries, including the resolution of disputes arising from them – Monday, April 4, 2022 to Friday, June 3,2022; “Submission of nomination forms to INEC via the online portal for Presidential and National Assembly election – Friday June 10, 2022 to Friday June 17, 2022.

In other words, political appointees seeking election in 2023 must resign before the primary polls. But some aspirants are refusing to follow the directive, perhaps hoping that the Appeal Court will vindicate President Buhari’s objection to Section 84(12) soon.

However, INEC insists that it is guided by the provisions of the Electoral Act as signed into law by President Buhari.

Investigation by The Nation revealed that about a dozen ministers in President Buhari’s cabinet are currently having to make choices on whether to quit their current political appointments before the primaries.

Party sources claimed the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led NWC has been bombarded with questions by many of these aspirants and their supporters on what his position is on the matter. But the party, it was leant, has not been able to take a definite position on the issue owing to its complex nature.

A party source said: “They have been asking us to state a categorical position on the matter. They want to be able to quote the leadership when they take a position and it turns out contrary.

“They want to know what the party intends to do on the matter. But the current situation is that even the NWC cannot categorically say this is how the matter will be addressed. It is now a matter of litigation and we are not the judges.

“With the National Assembly and the Presidency refusing to back down on their positions on the controversial section, it is difficult for anybody to say this is how the matter will end.

“What is most likely for us is to ensure that we stay on the safest lane where, whatever happens, the collateral damages will not affect the party’s participation in the general election. It is better to err on the side of caution.

“That is why we are likely to go all out and appeal to those who want to contest in the primary election to resign their positions in line with what obtains currently. That is a possibility. It is not a confirmed line of action yet. It is to just let you know that it is not correct to say we are totally confused. We are discussing the issue as a party.”

Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi did not say yesterday, during his declaration for the presidential race, whether or when he would resign from the cabinet.

Aside the Transport Minister, there are other members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) who are said to be nursing 2023 political ambitions. Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, is reported to be working hard to achieve his aspiration of becoming the Governor of Kebbi State.

Posters and banners announcing his ambition are already flooding major towns of the state while several groups are championing his gubernatorial cause across the state.

Also, the Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, are rumoured to be nursing senatorial ambitions ahead of the 2023 general election.

Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah, is also being tipped for the governorship of his state while Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, is also reported to still be consulting.

Labour Minister Chris Ngige, Niger Delta Minister Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Prof. Isa Pantami, Minister of Science and Technology Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, among others, are said to also be nursing political ambitions ahead of 2023.

Reacting to the confusion, former Nigerian Bar Association President, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), said the appeal instituted by the National Assembly will go a long way in resolving the matter.

He said: “I wonder why the National Assembly, whose legislative power is being questioned, was not party to this suit? I feel an appeal might assist to resolve these matters.

“Personally I feel section 84(12) is questionable. But it must be determined by a court of competent jurisdiction with no features inhibiting its assumption of jurisdiction.”

A law lecturer at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Wahab Shittu, however believes that the Federal High Court judgment will stand the test of time, describing it as “sound.”

A law lecturer at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Wahab Shittu, however believes that the Federal High Court judgment will stand the test of time, describing it as “sound.”

“The intent of the draftsman running through all the referred constitutional provisions is for all those rendering ‘public service’ to resign 30 days before the date of the scheduled elections. This consistency will not permit discrimination in the case of political appointees who are also rendering public service.

“If this is the position and considering the supremacy of the constitution, which is the ground norm, the Electoral Act – an inferior legislation to the Constitution – cannot legislate otherwise. That will be ultra vires to the constitution and therefore void.

“The learned Judge relied on Sections 66(1)(f), 107(1)(f), 137(1)(f) and 182(1)(f) of the Constitution to hold that the section of the Electoral Act which stops political appointees from participating at the primaries as delegates or as aspirants is in conflict with the Constitution.

“What does section 66(1)(f) of the Constitution say? ‘No person shall be qualified for election into the Senate or House of Reps: if he is a person employed in the public service of the Federation or of any State and has not resigned, withdrawn or retired from such employment 30 days before the date of election,’” he argued.

But another legal luminary, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) urged more stakeholders to challenge the judgment, believing that it is faulty. He would rather advise political office holders with political ambitions to resign in obeisance to the Electoral Act as signed. He faulted the judgment, arguing that the Electoral Act being an act of the National Assembly, the lawmakers ought to have been made a party to the suit.

“How can you ‘nullify’ an Act without joining the institution that made the Act, so that they can be heard concerning what they did?” he asked.

Adegboruwa, however, agrees that the decision of the court has compounded the confusion over the issue.

“Why do you want to hold on to your office as a political appointee and at the same time be a candidate in an election?

“Let more interested parties join the appeal against the judgment,” he said.

Credit: Excluding Headline: The Nation.

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