Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s backers in the All Progressives Congress on Thursday pressed on with the moves to field the ex-President as the APC’s consensus presidential candidate.
The Fulani group, which on Monday obtained the APC’s N100m presidential nomination and expression of interest forms for Jonathan, said on Thursday that it would submit the forms on Friday.
The group stated this as three presidential appointees on Thursday challenged the directive of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), that all political appointees contesting the 2023 elections should resign.
Also, there were indications on Thursday that the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, would not heed the call for him to resign before the APC primaries scheduled for May 30.
His lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), told The PUNCH that if he was going to resign, he would only do so 30 days before the 2023 elections.
The Minister of information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, after the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday, disclosed that the President had directed members of his cabinet contesting parties’ primaries to resign on or before Monday.
Before the presidential directive, the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, had tendered his resignation.
A few hours after the FEC meeting, the Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, and his counterpart for Technology and Innovation, Ogbonnaya Onu, also resigned.
On Thursday, the President extended the resignation order to other appointees, including Emefiele.
The directive, which was contained in a circular by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, was issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha.
The circular was addressed to all serving ministers, Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, National Security Adviser; Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission; the CBN governor, Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission; Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission; Chairman, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency; Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service and heads of extra-ministerial departments, Directors-General/Chief Executive Officers of parastatals, agencies and government-owned companies among others.
But three presidential appointees were at a Federal High court in Abuja to challenge the threat to disqualify them if they failed to resign.
The first plaintiff, Sodique Abubakar claimed to be a political appointee and currently serving as Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Republic of Chad.
The second plaintiff, Sodique Lawal Abubakar, claimed to be a Special Assistant in the Federal Capital Territory Administration FCTA while the third defendant, Bindir Umar Buba, asserted to be National Coordinator, Social Investment Programme in the Ministry of Humanitarian.
The aspirants are praying the court to stop APC and Independent National Electoral Commission from disqualifying them on the strength of their being political appointees and Section 84 (11) and (12) of the Electoral Act 2022.
The processes of the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/641/2022, instituted on their behalf by Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN) were obtained by journalists in Abuja on Thursday.
The three plaintiffs are contending that Section 84 (11) and (12) of the new Electoral Act is discriminatory against them and unconstitutional and therefore should not be permitted by the court to be used to disqualify them on account of their mere political appointment.
The plaintiffs in their originating summons filed want the court to determine whether being Nigerians covered by Sections 66, 177 and 182 of the 1999 constitution can be subjected to any other conditions, rules or guidelines for the purpose of election into the office of the Governor of Bauchi State and House of Representatives respectively by APC under section 221 of the Constitution other than the qualifications and criteria set out in sections 66, 177 and 182 of the Constitution.
They also ask the court to determine whether being card-carrying members of the APC and political appointees, they can be prevented or barred from participating in its political convention, congress or primaries merely because they are political appointees.
2023: Emefiele ‘ll resign on moral grounds, not law, says Ozekhome
Lawyer to the CBN governor, Dr Mike Ozekhome (SAN), in an interview, insisted that his client would only resign on moral grounds and not on points of law.
He however said the decision to quit would be left to the President and Emefiele.
Emefiele had through Ozekhome applied for an order of status quo ante bellum to be made against INEC and AGF so that he would not be made to resign from office until 30 days to the 2023 general elections.
The plaintiff in an ex-parte application had also denied being a political appointee but a public servant not caught by section 84 (12) of the new Electoral Act 2022.
The CBN governor had asked the court to invoke Section 318 of the 1999 constitution to bar the defendants from asking him to vacate office until 30 days to the February 2023 Presidential election.
Emefiele had expressed apprehension that the sale and submission of the presidential nomination form would expire on Wednesday and that unless the INEC and AGF were ordered to maintain status ante bellum as of May 5 when he filed the suit, he would be made to vacate office before his form would be accepted by the appropriate authority.
But Ozekhome told The PUNCH that while the choice to resign was left for the Presidency and his client, the CBN governor would only resign on moral grounds and not on points of law.
He said, “Whether he (Emefiele) goes or not is his own decision, he has told me to take up the legal aspect for him, that if he wants to go at all, he is entitled to stay in office 30 days to the general elections.
“But it is now left for him to go even before the case is decided or after. But at least the law would have decided.
“Yes, it (resignation) is left for him but not because of legal requirements. If he wants to go, it will be on moral ground, not because the law says he must go now.
Emefiele not a political appointee – Lawyer
“We are talking of the constitution here, we are talking of Section 137 (1g) and Section 318 of the constitution which makes him a public officer and the Court of Appeal decision that Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act is unconstitutional and that Section cannot even apply to him because Emefiele is not a political appointee within the meaning of Section 84 (12).
“If he decides to go, it will be on moral ground not on the legal or constitutional ground because the law does not say he must go. It is entirely his own decision and the decision of the President who appointed him not because that is the position of the law.
“The Court of Appeal yesterday (Wednesday) said Section 84, Sub-section 12 of the Electoral Act (as amended) is unconstitutional for being inconsistent with Section 42 Sub-section 1 of the 1999 constitution which gives the right to freedom of assembly and association.
“But our argument actually goes beyond that; our argument is that Section 84, whether it was validated or not, does not apply to Godwin Emefiele, that section applies only to political appointees, Godwin Emefiele is not a political appointee, Godwin Emefiele is a public officer within the meaning of Section 318 of the constitution of Nigeria.
“And by virtue of Section 137 Sub-section 1(g), a public officer like Emefiele is only required by the constitution to give 30 days notice before the presidential election which is slated for February 25 2023, that is the position of the law.
“The question of whether Emefiele will leave office during this case, before the case is ended or after the case, is entirely left to him and the President who appointed him. I wasn’t briefed to handle the moral and administrative angle to this case, I was briefed to handle only the legal and constitutional area and that is what I have just told you, that is the position of the law.”
PDP, others join Emefiele’s suit
A new twist emerged at the Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday evening as the Peoples Democratic Party and two others joined in the suit by Emefiele, seeking to enforce his right to participate in the 2023 presidential election without re-signing.
The court had on Monday adjourned to Thursday to enable INEC and the AGF to appear before it to explain why the court should not restrain them from preventing the CBN Governor from realizing his political ambition by participating in all the processes leading to the 2023 presidential election.
However, when the matter was called on Thursday, both INEC and AGF were in court in line with the order of the court.
However, instead of proceeding with the case of the CBN Governor, two lawyers stood up to announce appearances for their clients.
First was Chief Sebastiane Hon, (SAN), who informed the court of the intention of his client, the PDP to join as an interested party, which was immediately followed by one John Martins and Olukunle Ebun, who told the court that they were sueing for themselves and on behalf of the Save Nigeria our Fatherland.
Responding, Emefiele’s lawyer, who did not oppose the applicants joining the suit, undertook to serve the applicants with all processes within 24 hours.
After a meeting with Buhari at the Presidential Villa on Thursday, Emefiele told journalists that his fate was still being decided as regards the controversies surrounding his presidential bid.
This is as he said that despite the current outrage by Nigerians, the main opposition, PDP, and the international community, he was ‘having fun.’
Following his meeting with the President on Thursday, the CBN Chief told State House Correspondents “there will be news”.
The Governor had earlier gone to court to challenge the public service rule that requires public office holders to resign their positions before contesting for elective positions.
Asked to respond to reports that Buhari had directed him to resign he said: “There is no news now, but there will be news. You heard me, I said there is no news but there will be news”.
When confronted with the notion that his current position as a presidential aspirant and CBN governor is a major point of concern for the Nigers and even the international community, Emefiele noted “Let them have heart attacks. It’s good to have a heart attack. I am having a lot of fun.”
The main opposition, PDP, after its 96th National Executive Committee meeting on Wednesday night restated its call for Emefiele’s sack, arrest and investigation.
Speaking shortly after the meeting the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said “NEC restated the call by the Party for the immediate resignation, arrest and prosecution of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, for alleged manipulations and financial impropriety in the CBN which contributed to the collapse of our national economy.
Buhari’s resignation order to save APC, candidates from loss – Presidency
In a related development, the Presidency on Thursday said political appointees contesting in the 2023 general elections were asked to resign to save the APC from doom in the controversy over Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022.
According to the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the ruling APC is playing safe until the Supreme Court gives the final interpretation of the controversial section of the Act.
Adesina, while speaking on Politics Today, a current affairs programme on Channels Television, on Thursday, recalled how the President issued the directive at the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday.
He said, “The FEC meeting had held and we were closing. That was when the President now addressed the gathering, that some were interested in running for positions. He was specific about the position of the President. He said those who had collected forms to run for the Office of the President, that it was advisable that they tendered their resignation. And it was in good order for those who had purchased forms to run and for the government.
“One, those who had signified their interest to run could concentrate in their ambitions. If they stayed in the government and they were running their ministries, and then they were also running their political campaigns, it is a distraction. They can’t concentrate. So, it was in their interest that the President said that. (Two), it was also in the interest of the government in that government’s work would not suffer.