Political appointees at both the federal and state levels, who are seeking elective positions at the 2023 general election, are being forced to make the difficult decision of either resigning from office in line with the provisions of section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022 or remain in office at the risk of losing out in court.
Many aspiring lawmakers, governors and presidents are unwilling to take risks and are resigning due to the uncertainty shrouding the fate of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022, which was declared unconstitutional by a federal high court. A ruling by the Court of Appeal rejecting the high verdict could put the candidacy of political appointees who refuse to resign their positions ahead of party primaries in jeopardy.
The deadline for political parties to submit the names of presidential candidates and those of the National Assembly is June 10, 2022. Parties must pick flag bearers before then. For governorship and state assemblies, the deadline for the submission of candidates is June 17, 2023.
While the opposition PDP will hold its presidential primary on May 29; which gives political appointees just over two weeks to resign or take their chances in court, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is yet to set a date for its primaries. The PDP has however become a party to the litigation asking the appellate court to dismiss the lower court ruling.
LEADERSHIP Weekend investigations revealed that political appointees across the states are battling with the decision of whether to resign or not, even as some of them are however following directives from the governors.
But the attorney-general of the federation and minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who happens to be the chief law enforcement officer of the nation has insisted that he will not resign from office ahead of the 2023 governorship election. Malami is rumoured to be interested in the governorship election in Kebbi State. Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has even gone as far as declaring to run for president but has made no indication he plans to resign from office. Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act says political appointee should resign their appointment before party primaries while contesting for any elective position in the next general election.
Justice Evelyn Anyadike of a Federal High Court in Umuahia, had declared the section unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever and ought to be struck down as it cannot stand when it is in violation of the clear provisions of the Constitution.
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had while signing the amended Electoral Act urged the National Assembly to delete the provision on grounds that it violated the constitution and breached the rights of government appointees.
The president further wrote a letter to both Chambers of the National Assembly seeking amendment by way of deleting the provision an amendment the Senate rejected in plenary. A source close to the office of the AGF said until the judgement that ordered the AGF to delete that same action in the electoral act is set aside, the AGF will abide by the judgement. ‘’As we speak, the AGF has no plan to resign from office. There is a judgement in place and the judgement must be obeyed until it is set aside. The position of the law as we speak is that political appointees cannot resign from office simply because they are interested in elective positions until about a month to the election’’, the source said.
An appeal has, however, been lodged at the Court of Appeal, Owerri Division, against the judgement of Justice Anyadike. Last week, the Court of Appeal ordered the AGF and others to stop taking steps that could frustrate the hearing of an appeal filed against judgment of a Federal High Court in Abia, which ordered removal of section 84 (12) from the new Electoral Act. The Appeal Court gave the nod to the PDP to join as an interested party in the appeal. The court granted PDP’s request to file its appeal as an interested person against the decision of the high court.
Meanwhile, more than 36 political appointees in Bauchi State have tendered their resignation letters to enable them contest various elective positions in the 2023 general elections. Those who tendered their resignation to the state government include commissioners, special advisers, special assistance, and senior special assistants. A source who did want his name in print told LEADERSHIP Weekend that already, the office of the secretary to Bauchi State government has compiled 36 names, though details of the names are not yet in the public domain.
LEADERSHIP Weekend however learnt that despite submitting their letters of resignation to the state government, the political appointees still parade themselves as government officials due to the uncertainty over section 84(12) which is now a matter of litigation.
In Sokoto, the number of political appointees who have resigned in the administration of Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal to vie for elective positions is still shrouded in secrecy. Efforts by our correspondent to get authentic lists of those who have resigned were rebuffed both at the party secretariat and office of the secretary to the state government. Though the state commissioner for Environment, Sagir Bafarawa, has declared his intention to contest for the governorship seat, no one was willing to volunteer information whether he has resigned or not.
Rumours are however rife that the commissioner for Land and Housing, Bala Bodinga; his Security and Career Matters as well as Youths and Sports Development counterparts, Colonel Garba Moyi and Comrade Bashir Gorau, have resigned their appointments. Bodinga is rumoured to be warming up for the Sokoto South senatorial seat, with Moyi and youthful Gorau setting their eyes on the House of Representatives seats.
In Niger State, five commissioners have so far resigned to contest for the 2023 general election. They will be contesting the House of Representatives and House of Assembly tickets. The state government had earlier directed political appointees wishing to contest in 2023 to resign their appointments before the end of March 2022.
Findings by this paper revealed that in all, 19 political appointees have so far resigned to contest while there is still a window for more people to resign. The commissioners that have so far resigned are that those for Investment, Dr Jibril Mustapha; Information and Strategy, Malam Mohammed Sani Idris; Lands and Housing, Barrister Muktari Nasali; Mineral Resources, Sunday Daniel Kolo, and that of Youth and Sports, Abdulmalik Sarikindaji.
The secretary to the state government, Ahmed Ibrahim Matane, who confirmed the resignation of the five commissioners, said others who resigned were two special advisers, one director general, one coordinator and 10 senior special assistants”.
In Kaduna State, the only known appointee who has resigned to contest election is the commissioner for Planning and Budget Commission, Muhammad Sani Abdullahi (Dattijo). He was appointed as the chief of staff to the state governor, Nasir El-Rufai, before he was redeployed back to the commission. He is contesting the governorship position on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2023 general election.
But appointees in Imo State have refused to resign, even though they have ambitions as their body language implies. Most of them are yet to muster enough courage to unfold their ambitions and make pronouncements in this regard. LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that they are still watching the political tide in the state and are consulting secretly before unveiling their ambitions.
However, the APC structure in the state is also not helping the situation, as the party is tailored towards what many describe as “one man show”. It was learnt that the commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba; his Transport counterpart, Rex Anunobi, and other political appointees all have political ambitions but have not mustered the courage to declare their intentions due to the disposition of Governor Uzodimma on the issue.
In Benue State, following the directives by the state governor, Samuel Ortom, that all his appointees seeking elective positions should resign on or before October 1, 2021, the chief of staff to the governor, Terwase Orbunde, four commissioners and the chief press secretary, Terver Akase, have resigned. However following the recent zoning of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship seat to Vandeikya in the Tiv-speaking area and Otukpo local government area in the Idoma-speaking area, the governor directed the reinstatement of some of the political appointees who had resigned but were not favoured by zoning. He said this privilege was only for those whose positions were not replaced.
In Taraba State, six appointees of Governor Darius Ishaku have resigned their appointments to contest in the state. Those who resigned are former commissioner for Youths and Sports, Ibrahim Imam; former commissioner for Urban Development, Saleh Sa’ad and former commissioner for Power, Bedina Garba. Others include former chief of staff to the governor, Istifanus Gbana; special assistant to the governor on New Media, Nelson Len, and the former special assistant to the governor and the Taraba State correspondent for Daily Independent, Jenate Audu Nyajon.
In Ekiti, a number of political appointees in the state have resigned from their positions to either contest the 2022 governorship or other elective posts in 2023. Top among them is the former secretary to the state government, Biodun Oyebanji, and former commissioner for Infrastructure and Public utilities, Engr Bamidele Faparusi. Oyebanji and Faparusi had tendered their resignation to contest in the APC governorship primary election in the state. The former SSG who was among the eight APC governorship aspirants that contested the shadow election held in January clinched the party’s ticket.
Faparusi who is also a former member of the House of Representatives is said to be eyeing the party’s Ekiti South senatorial ticket. Several other people within and outside APC are believed to be interested in the seat presently being occupied by Senator Biodun Olujimi who is also seeking reelection.
Also in March, a special assistant to Governor Kayode Fayemi on Electoral Matters, Olaiya Kupoluyi, resigned his position. In addition to his resignation, Kupoluyi also dumped the ruling APC for the Social Democratic Party (SDP). He clarified that his resignation was in line with the new Electoral Act, which stipulates that every appointee seeking political office should resign accordingly, saying he intends to contest for the House of Assembly on the platform of SDP. Among those going for elective post but are yet to resign from their current position is the Chief of Staff to Governor Fayemi, Mr Biodun Omoleye.
Omoleye’s posters for 2023 have flooded towns and villages in Ekiti Central senatorial district, suggesting that he may soon declare to vie for the seat. There are several other heads of agencies, advisers and aides to high ranking political office holders who are set to contest the National Assembly and state assembly seats. Some are flying their posters on social media while others have theirs pasted in the constituency to register their intention.
In Enugu, our investigations revealed that out of the government appointees with ambitions to contest for positions come 2023, only the commissioner for Environment, Chijioke Edoga, has resigned. His resignation was informed by his ambition to contest the 2023 governorship election in the state.
Many are of the view that he may likely succeed Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi based on the zoning arrangement of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state. It was gathered that other appointees that may contest for various positions are yet to resign because they are possibly waiting for direct or indirect signal from the governor.
In Kwara State, at least eight aides of the state governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, are eyeing elective offices as the 2023 general election draws nearer. The political appointees seeking various elective offices include five commissioners: Barr Salman Jawondo (SAN) (Justice), Dr Raji Razaq (Health), Hajiya Sa’adatu Modibbo Kawu (Education), Mrs Harriet Afolabi – Oshatimehin (Mineral Resources) and Hajiya Arinola Lawal (Enterprises). Others include two special advisers; Alhaji Yinka Aluko (Special Duties, Alh Gidado Alakawa (Political) and the senior special assistant on Community Intervention, Kayode Oyin-Zubair.
As of the time of filing this report only Hajiya Saadatu Modibbo Kawu had resigned her appointment as commissioner for Education. The remaining seven political appointees are yet to resign their appointments. However, Governor AbdulRazaq had given any of his aides seeking elective office in the coming general election up till April 15, 2022 to resign. He gave the directive in a memo signed by the secretary to the state government, Prof Mamman Jibril.
In Cross River State, an appointee of Governor Ben Ayade who served the state as commissioner for Health, Dr Betta Edu, had no option than to resign to contest election for the position of the APC national women leader. Dr. Betta, who also served as the state chairman of COVID-19 committee, won the election as national women leader of ruling the APC. Apart from Edu, Cross River State is yet to record another resignation of a political appointee intending to contest election.
However, a close source at the governor’s office who did not want his name to be mentioned told our correspondent that although he doesn’t have names of those who have tendered resignation letter, he is aware that there are some persons in the Ayade administration who may have quietly resigned to pursue their political ambition but wouldn’t want people to know.
In Rivers State, six political appointees resigned their appointment to enable them contest the 2023 general election. LEADERSHIP Weekend learnt that the appointees are interested in the governorship ticket of the PDP. However, their resignations were yet to be made public as at the time of filing this report.
They include the secretary to the Rivers State government, Dr. Tammy Danagogo; special adviser to the governor on Special Projects, Dr Dax George Kelly and the commissioner for Finance, Isaac Kamalu. Others are immediate-past PDP chairman and sole administrator of the Rivers State Waste Management Agency (RIWAMA), Chief Felix Obuah; commissioner for Sports, Boma Iyaye, and the Accountant-General of the state, Siminalaye Fubara.
In Plateau, the state governor, Simon Lalong, had directed political officer holders who are nursing ambitions to contest to resign before February 28. Governor Lalong, in a circular signed by the secretary to the state government, Prof Danladi Atu said the essence was to provide a level playing ground for all those who are contesting the poll. Governor Lalong said the directive was meant to reduce to the barest minimum political distraction in governance and allow those concerned to focus on their political activities. But finding showed that as of the time of filling this report, no political appointee has tendered his/her resignation letter with the view to contesting in the 2023 general election in the state.
In Jigawa State, no single political appointee has resigned from his position in the bid to contest for any elective position in the forthcoming general election. Although there are speculations that some appointees are interested in contesting for various positions, no one has officially declared his aspiration in the state.
However, the state governor, Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, is yet to give directive to political appointees interested in contesting to resign. According to the special adviser to the state governor on Media and Public Relations, Comrade Habi Nuhu Kila, no information about resignation of a political appointee has been released from the governor’s office. When contacted, the Public Relations Officer in the office of the secretary to state government, Samaila Ibrahim, they did not receive a letter of resignation from any of the political appointees in the state.
In Delta State, at least nine serving commissioners and other political aides have resigned as members of the State Executive Council (SEC). While some are resigning to vie for elective positions, others resigned to participate as delegates of the PDP during the party’s primary as statutory delegates. Ovie Agas, the chief of staff to the state governor, has equally resigned his appointment to enable him participate as a statutory delegate during the election. Among the commissioners who have resigned are Bridget Anyafulu, Evelyn Oboro, Basil Ganagana, Christian Onogba, Julius Egbedi, Ovie Oghoore, Jonathan Ukodhiko and Chika Ossai. Oboro, commissioner for Water Resources Development, resigned to contest as member of the House of Representatives for Okpe, Sapele and Uvwie federal constituency. Hon Joan Marakpor, Director General, Asaba Capital Territory Development Authority, also resigned to contest for the state assembly seat.
Basil Ganagana, erstwhile Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, until his resignation was the commissioner for Transport. Sources close to the former lawmaker disclosed that the Patani-born politician is running for the Patani/Bomadi federal constituency seat. Also, Jonathan Ukodhiko, commissioner for power and energy, resigned to vie for the Isoko federal constituency seat.
Similarly, Christian Onogba resigned as commissioner for Environment to contest the Ethiope West constituency seat in the Delta State House of Assembly. Anyafulu, commissioner for Humanitarian and Support and Chika Ossai, commissioner for Primary Education, resigned to run for the state assembly seats. Julius Egbedi and Ovie Oghoore, who were both commissioners for Project Monitoring & Audit and Agriculture & Natural Resources, are also running for elective positions in 2023.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta had urged political appointees in his administration with ambition to contest in the 2023 elections to resign. According to him, the call became necessary to enable his administration to finish strong in delivering dividends of democracy to the people.