Sagay: Political Appointees Can Resign One Month To Presidential Election
There has been uproar over Section 84 (12) of the recently amended Electoral Act 2021 which stated 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.” If you recall, President Muhammadu Buhari had expressed his reservation about this particular clause to the National Assembly and asked the lawmakers to delete it. What is your take on this?
I have always been in support of the president’s view that Section 84 (12) is illegal, null and void. What that section is trying to do is that it is trying to add to what is already in the constitution. The law is very clear that once the constitution contains a provision, you cannot alter, add, subtract from it. Even if you make another enactment that is exactly like that, it is still illegal not to talk of now trying to extend it. What they have done is that they have created a situation in which political appointees have to step down from their position before primaries. Whereas, the constitution is saying you can only step down one month to the actual election between parties. So, there is a major difference here. If you look at the situation now, for example, if the APC presidential primary is held in May and the presidential election will take place in February 2023; if you follow the constitution as it is, any political appointee who wants to contest as president can resign in January 2023, that is a month to the election. But under the amendment which the national assembly is trying to do unconstitutionally by amending the constitution under an ordinary bill, such a person will have to resign before May 2022. So, the level of amendment and tampering with the constitution is just too huge. In my view, this is unacceptable.
Justice Evelyn Anyadike, in her judgment, held that the Section of the Act was unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever. She said it ought to be struck down as it could not stand because it was in violation of the clear provisions of the Constitution. Do you agree with her ruling?
I agree entirely with the judge, Justice Evelyn Anyadike on this matter even though everybody is trying to run her down. I agree with her absolutely on this matter except on the fact that she should not have made the order that the provision should be deleted by the executive. Once she has said that provision is null and void, then it is dead, whether deleted or not and can only be revived by the decision of a higher court. But until that higher court makes a pronouncement on the contrary, what she says is the law. So, there is no need deleting it.
Your party, the APC adopted the consensus method in choosing its new party executives last week and given the peaceful manner the convention went, some stakeholders are clamouring for the same method in the presidential primary. Do you also share that view?
On the issue of consensus presidential candidate, the law provides for it. However, it states clearly that all the candidates must agree in writing to the person picked as the consensus candidate. I think I prefer that because it means if they all agreed in writing, then nobody can go to court to challenge the outcome after the consensus candidate has been adopted. Now, what this means in effect is that if everybody does not sign accepting that particular candidate, then the election remains open for everybody to contest. That is the implication of not agreeing to the choice of a consensus candidate. If by tomorrow, even if the president’s preferred aspirant does not have the written endorsement of all the aspirants to become the consensus candidate, then the election will be thrown open so as not to invalidate the decision of the party”.
People think consensus is the same as imposition. Instead of a consensus candidate, don’t you think there should be an election where the best aspirant can emerge as the presidential flagbearer?
If those who are contesting, come together and agree that the person who is the consensus candidate is the best to handle the position, there is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is where the aspirant is imposed on unwilling aspirants as the consensus candidate. That to me is not being fair and unacceptable and there has to be an election. If all of them agree on one person as the consensus candidate, then there is no need for an election. That is also very good.
Senator Adamu Abdullahi, a former PDP chieftain is now the new national chairman of APC. Do you see anything strange in that given the APC’s constant criticisms of PDP’s 16 years in power?
I know Senator Abdullahi Adamu very well as Nasarawa state governor from 1999 to 2007. He must be an old man like myself. That is my main worry whether he will have the vigour to do the job. I think the matter should be thrown open so people will be in a position to assess him whether he can do the job or not.