An atmosphere of nervous apprehension and disquiet has continued to pervade the ranks of ministers and appointees of President Muhammadu Buhari, who are aspiring to contest elective offices in 2023 as they weigh the option of resigning their executive positions.
A check by Persecondnews.com shows that fear has gripped some of the aspiring appointees who are required by the 1999 Constitution to resign at least 30 days to the election.
Currently, there is a lull in the government offices of the aspiring ministers as they have abandoned their statutory duties for politicking in the past weeks.
Some officials in the ministries at the Federal Secretariat in Abuja were seen discussing in groups that their ministers appeared disquieted by the mandatory resignation to contest.
“The ministers are panicky and breathless about quitting their jobs to participate in the process to get party tickets to contest 2023 polls.
“Some of them do not want to leave their plum appointments because of some unconcluded contracts, other jobs, and the shady deals in their ministries,’’ an official, who did not want to be named, said, adding some of them have not been coming to office regularly.
“But they have no choice than to quit their jobs so that the ministries can have a new lease of life.’’
Persecondnews reported on Saturday that Transportation Minister, Mr Rotimi Amaechi had made a public declaration at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital to contest the party’s ticket for the 2023 presidential poll.
Other ministers eyeing one office or the other are Dr Chris Ngige (Labour), Mr Babatunde Fashola (Works), Malam Abubakar Malami (Justice), Mr Rauf Aregbesola (Interior),Emeka Nwajiuba, (Minister of State for Education), and Sen. Godswill Akpabio, (Niger Delta Affairs).
The 1999 Constitution stipulates that public office holders resign “at least” thirty days before the elections they are interested in, which presupposes that such public officers could indeed resign earlier than the 30 days, however, the Electoral Act stipulates that political appointees must resign before party primaries/congresses where candidates are to emerge.
But Malami had got a judgment from a court in Abia State nullifying Section 84 (12) of the amended Electoral Act which requires political appointees at any level participating in primaries, convention, and other electoral activities to resign 30 days before participating in such activities.
Per Second News had reported that lawyers and pro-democracy advocates had condemned the decision considered as undoing a legal provision put in place to check abuse of public office during political party elections.
Members of Buhari’s cabinet, who are nursing political ambitions ahead of the 2023 general elections, are, however, against the provision.
President Buhari had written to the National Assembly to delete Section 84(12) from the Electoral Act.
Section 84(12) states that “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”, while Section 29(1) of the act mandates political parties to submit names of candidates not later than 180 days before the election.
However, in the event of the quashing of the Umuahia judgment by the Appeal or Apex Court, the president has advised appointees to resign, Persecondnews also gathered at the weekend.
Following the latest advice from Buhari, a band of political appointees met late Thursday night trying to strategise on their next steps with some of them planning to resign this week.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo Monday announced his intention to contest for the president of Nigeria in a video gone viral. ”I formally declare my intention to run for the office of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, on the platform of our great party, the All Progressives Congress, he said.
INEC has updated its timetable, giving political parties between April 4 and June 3, 2022 to conduct primaries. This means that political appointees seeking election must resign before June 3 — when INEC expects that all issues on party primaries must have been resolved.
Meanwhile, Commissioners, other state appointees in Ogun, Delta, Bauchi, Kaduna, and Niger have resigned to contest for the party’s tickets for Senate, House of Representatives and governorship seats.
Commenting on the situation, a former member of the House of Representatives, Prince Lanre Odubote, said by law it is mandatory for the ministers and other appointees to resign 30 days before the party’s primaries.
“If they risk it and refuse to resign by not complying with the law they will be penalized or sanctioned. INEC cannot shift the goal post for any party.
“You can’t eat your cake and have it. They should choose between staying in office till 2023 May or resign now to contest the offices they are eyeing,’’ he told Persecondnews in Lagos.
Odubote recalled that APC had lost Zamfara state in 2019 with the Supreme Court nullifying its primaries and voided all votes cast for the party during the general elections from guber poll to state assembly and ordered that the runner-up candidate (PDP’s Bello Matawalle to be sworn in.
Another politician, who craved anonymity, said resignation by public office holders would save the nation the enormous government resources and instruments they use in advancing their political interests.
“They will use the state’s resources to fund their elections thereby having an undue advantage over other contestants who are struggling with funds for the same election.
“Political appointees who want to contest elections will leave their offices and spend most of their time visiting constituencies,” she also told Persecondnews.
A veteran journalist and one-time Political Editor of Radio Nigeria, Mr Gbenga Onayiga, also harped on the need for ministers and other appointees not to hide under the Electoral Law now under litigation by failing to resign.
He said:“I think political appointees at the federal level should also comply with the provision of the new Electoral Act. Good their counterparts in the states are doing so honourably.
“That is the law. They can’t be here and there. Until the Act is amended by the National Assembly, compliance is non-negotiable.’’
Also reacting, Mr Frank Tietie, the Executive Director of the Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), aligned himself with the position of the law, insisting that aspiring ministers and other categories of government appointees at federal and state levels should resign to pursue their ambitions.
“If they have not resigned we assume that they are not contesting as there is no formal declaration by them.
“Section 84 (12) has not been set aside and unless they want to contest it in the court of law, they should comply accordingly,’’ Tietie, a lawyer said in an interview with Persecondnews.
On Amaechi’s declaration at the weekend, he said declaration has nothing to do with taking party nomination form for the presidency or any office he wants to contest.
“If Amaechi declares interest and expressed interest publicly to run for president it is different from picking the form.
“I don’t think he is serious; otherwise by tomorrow Monday, April 11, he should proceed to submit his letter of resignation to Mr President.
“If he fails to do that and goes ahead to run, we will take legal steps to declare him as unfit for the office of Nigeria’s President.’’he said.