WHY FESTUS KEYAMO SCORED AN OWN-GOAL By Dr Daniel Bwala Barrister Lincolns Inn (NP)
By now it is no news that the Supreme Court in Jegede v Akeredolu while dismissing Jegede’s suite expressed concern about the functions of the Extraordinary Caretaker and Convention Planning Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the leadership of HE Governor Mai Marla Buni. Relying on Section 183 of the Constitution of Nigeria which states in effect that the Governor shall not, during the period when he holds office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever
Festus Keyamo, SAN is a party stakeholder and a cabinet member; a position that only few privileged members of APC enjoy. By virtue of that position which he occupies, he is under a duty of care and obligation to observe the tenets of those offices by exercising caution and decorum in his conduct towards the party before he lets out his opinion which has now gain traction in all the social media and brought the party to disrepute. He does not enjoy the privilege of a nominal party member like me who can make noise on party affairs. Such publication of his opinion can cause party insurrection, especially when he opined that anybody can simply go to court and join Governor Mai Buni led caretaker committee. It is instructive to note that there are already issues that the party is grappling with as we head to congresses and primaries. On a party WhatsApp forum, I saw where someone alleged that he should have known how to manage his interests with the overall interest of the party since he participated especially in the legal opinion that brought the Caretaker committee into being; anything other than that would demonstrate his inconsistencies. At best he could have utilized his privilege and access to party leadership and/or to the government leadership and expressed those opinions without grandstanding.
Firstly, the Supreme Court never made a conclusive decision on the subject because they said since Governor Buni was not joined, the justice of the case would not be served to decide on the issue of the legality or otherwise of executive acts under his leadership. The Supreme Court justices are wise on that because they know, no case is decided on merit when both parties are not heard, and secondly, since the justices are not spirits they are in no position to know what Gov. Buni would conversed to justify his position of leadership. In other words, the statements of the Supreme Court in passing are not premised on a live issue and therefore, Festus Keyamo goofed in assuming it does.
Now, having said that let me state that in considering any issue relating to any political party and its affairs, the courts have never failed to look into the party’s constitution or any document which confers legitimacy on them. In other words, section 183 of the constitution must be read in conjunction with article 17 of the APC Constitution which deals with tenure of office. For the avoidance of doubt article 17 (iv) states in clear terms
“No officer in any organ of the party shall hold executive position office in government concurrently”
It is given that Gov. Mai Buni is a sitting governor and other members of his caretaker committee are appointees of government in various capacities. It is also true that when section 183 of the constitution makes an express provision of what is an executive position and what is a paid position it means what it states. Let’s take the liberty to state the section here.
Section 183 of the 1999 constitution “
the Governor shall not, during the period when he holds office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever”
It is also a trite law that the word “or” in section 183 where it states “..any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity..” has been interpreted to mean that it is to be used in its disjunctive sense. Meaning either of the two applies and stands. So even if the executive position is not a paid one it still satisfies the disqualification ground; or that it is a paid position but that it is not an executive position it still satisfies the test. However, the key issue and defense of the party may mean that article 17 of the party’s constitution relates to tenured offices. Meaning offices in the organs of the party that are tenured for four years subject to re-election whether an elective office or appointive offices. You will find in article 17(I) the tenure of offices that article 17 (iv) contemplates restrictions. Article 17 (1) states thus
“Except as otherwise provided in this constitution, all office of the party elected or appointed into the party’s organs shall serve in such organs for a period of four (4) years and shall be eligible for re-election…”
Therefore, section 183 of the constitution of Nigeria and Article 17 (iv) refer to these positions. Positions that are tenured for four years and subject to re-election. The Caretaker committee positions are however not tenured for four years with an option of re-election; they are positions in caretaker capacities for the sole aim of organizing the convention and other ancillary matters. With respect to the judgment of the Supreme Court, it does not apply here and cannot be used to sustain an argument against the caretaker committee or Gov. Mai. Buni. That’s why Festus Keyamo scored an owned goal.
Dr Daniel Bwala writes from New York Thursday, July 29, 2021, [email protected]