Kwara APC at mercy of judiciary
However the Wednesday December 18 2018 judgment of an Ilorin High Court in favour of a faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kwara state turns out, may be the decider of who wins the February 2019 general elections in the state.
Technicalities of relevant laws rather than superiority at the polls may decide the eventual winners at the proposed elections that are already generating some ripples across the state.
It would be recalled that Ishola Balogun Fulani the Plaintiff in the decided case had been elected the APC chairman along other members of the executive arm of the party in Kwara.
But the cross carpeting of the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had meant that all elements within the APC under his tutelage would promptly follow suit.
However, Fulani and a few other members of the APC executives, especially the Secretary of the party Christopher Ayeni, refused to vacate their offices, laying claims to the leadership of the party in Kwara.
The development had promptly led to the composition of a Caretaker Committee in the state by the Adams Oshiomhole-led National leadership of the APC “but without the dissolution of the existing excos,” according to Fulani in a chat with reporters in Ilorin. But the Publicity Secretary of the APC in Kwara, Aro Folaranmi had since debunked the claims by Fulani of the alleged non-dissolution of the party exco before the appointment of the Caretaker committee.
Bashiru Bolarinwa Omolaja, a former member of the House of Representatives, who is also a native of Kwara South Senatorial District, was made the Chairman of the interim committee.
Fulani and others had to approach an Ilorin High Court seeking among others a declaration that they remained the defacto leaders of the party in the state. The development signaled the commencement of parallelism in the local leadership hierarchy of the APC.
As the hearing on the suit so filed continued, the APC but without the Fulani’s faction held its Congress in which Omolaja emerged the substantive Chairman of the party in the state.
Chief Wole Oke, a Second Republic Leader of the Kwara State House of Assembly, but now a chieftain of the APC offered his perspective on the development in a chat with The Guardian in Ilorin thus:
“The State High Court’s decision was on Caretaker issue. But today, that judgment is of no relevance to us because what we now have is a substantive executive led by Omolaja. Besides, we had conducted our congresses in which names of the winners had been sent to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Also, as far as we are concerned, Oshiomhole-led exco reckons only with Omolaja-led APC and not a mole like Fulani’s 10 member APC population in Kwara.”
In a judgment read by Justice T.S. Umar, which lasted for about one and half hours, the court held that the purported dissolution of the executive committee of the APC led by Balogun-Fulani was illegal, null and void.
The court also held that, as at today, (Wednesday December 18 2018) it recognised the executive committee led by Balogun-Fulani as the authentic executive committee of the Kwara state APC chapter.
Besides, the court judgment held that the INEC should recognise the list of members of the executive committee presented by the Kwara APC executive committee led by the Balogun-Fulani faction.
Speaking with journalists after the court sitting, counsel to Isola Balogun-Fulani faction of the APC, Abdulazeez Ibrahim, said that no cost was awarded for the judgment secured since they did not ask for cost. Ibrahim also said that the effect of the judgment got was that the court recognised candidates of the Balogun-Fulani faction of the APC, “since it’s the authentic executive committee of the state”.
Also speaking, counsel to the Bashir Bolarinwa faction of the party, Kamaldeen Gambari, said that they were not satisfied with the judgment, adding that the court acted contrary to the facts placed before it.
Gambari, who said that the judgment would not stand, added that he had already filed an appeal against the judgment by the High Court, expressing the hope that the Appeal Court would upturn the judgment.
Savouring the joy of the judgment of the court, Fulani while addressing his faithful at the GRA Ilorin factional party secretariat, urged the INEC to disregard the Bolarinwa his list of winners of all the primary elections conducted in the state but embrace the list of his own faction.
If the INEC should yield to this demand, it means that Kayode Omotoshe would be the Governorship candidate of the APC in Kwara ahead of the February polls.
According to Fulani, “we are calling on the INEC to obey the order of the court by doing the needful. We are the authentic leaders of the APC in Kwara and our own congress should be respected by the electoral Umpire.”
But Bolarinwa said the high court judge had since been reported by his faction to the National Judicial Council (NJC), alleging professional misconduct “especially in granting the Plaintiff what he did not ask for.”
Bolarinwa added, “without prejudice to the right of the APC to appeal the judgment of the Ilorin High Court, we wish to inform the general public and indeed our supporters that whatever ruling the court has given on Ishola Balogun Fulani Versus Bashir Bolarinwa does not in any way directly determine the Governorship candidature of Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq and those of other candidates of our great party.
The issue in contention before the court was not that of nomination of candidate but the constitution/dissolution of State Executives of the APC.
“Omotose and Balogun Fulani will have to challenge the nomination of Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq before a Federal High Court — not a state High Court since it has no jurisdiction in matters affecting any agency of the Federal Government like INEC, to determine who is the authentic candidate of the APC.
“The Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) stipulates that only the National Body of a political party is recognised by law to present candidates for election, since it was the one that was registered before the INEC. This means only the National body led by Comrade Adams Oshiomole can, on behalf of APC, nominate candidate to the INEC.
“An example is the case between Buruji Kashamu and Ladi Adebutu, both of Ogun state Chapter of the PDP. Whereas the state executive recognised by the existing court ruling is that of Kashamu’s faction, the Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan ruled on Tuesday that the National Headquarters of the PDP has the singular right by law to nominate the candidate of its choice for any and every elected office.
Subsequently Ladi Adebutu remains the governorship candidate of the PDP in Ogun says Court of Appeal. What this means is that whatever ruling of the Ilorin High Court cannot and does not make Omotose the candidate of APC.”
However, as the legal tussles over the leadership baton continues in Kwara, it is apt to consider the political implications of the extant positions of the state’s political landscape as it exists.
At present, the political party playing a major opposition role against the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara is the APC. The Governorship Candidate of the APC recognised by the INEC, AbdulRasak who is also the biological son of the first Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in the defunct Northern Nigeria, A. G. Folorunsho AbdulRasak, is like a parallel line to the political godfather of the state’s politics, Dr Bukola Saraki. Therefore, a more titanic political fiasco should be expected during the polls than against the candidature of Omotoshe.
A political Scientist at the University of Ilorin, who clamoured for anonymity, is of the opinion that a legal conclusion of the matter would boost the nation’s burgeoning democracy. Besides, he cautioned against media trial of the development, just as he clamoured for an accelerated hearing of the appeal before the appellate court.
Already, Folaranmi has disclosed that intensive campaigns by his party had commenced among the eligible voters across the rural areas of the state. According to him, “no kangaroo judgment can stop the moves to get to the government house in the year 2019. The people have all resolved to effect the much-needed change in the leadership structure of the state. No lackey of any godfather in the state political hegemony will remain there.”
For Suleiman Yusuf Maja, a stalwart of the PDP in the state, “we are returning to power and nothing can stop this. It is not by boasting on pages of newspapers. We are very sure of the love of our people for our great party and our great political leader, Dr Bukola Saraki. “
Some political pundits are predicting the emergence of a third force in Issa Aremu of the Labour Party (LP). Aremu, a national labour activist had since taken his campaigns to the less privileged segments of society, just as he has promised labour reform policies that would confer dignity on all categories of workers in the state.
According to Dr. Yomi Alebiosu, a public affairs analyst, “if both the APC and the PDP are threatening the much-needed change in Kwara political structure then, people would not hesitate to turn the way of LP.
Aremu is astute and capable of taking this state and her people to their next level of socio-political and economic developments.”