A total of 2,517 members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 26 local governments of the State of Osun have approached a Federal High Court, sitting in Osogbo, the state capital, to challenge the Ward Congress of the party, held on July 31, 2021 in the state.
The APC members, in a court process sighted by OSUN DEFENDER yesterday, demanded for the cancellation of the Ward Congress conducted by the party through the Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye-led committee.
Joined in the suit are the APC, Chairman, Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Committee of the party, Governor Mai Mala Buni, Chairman, Ward Congress Appeal Committee in the state, Amb. Obed Wadzani, Elegbeleye and the State of Osun chapter of the APC respectively.
The plaintiffs claimed that they are bonafide members of the APC and aspirants in the elective positions in their various wards across the 30 local governments of the state.
They stated that they filed the suit for themselves and all other aspirants/ candidates who paid prescribed fees for procurement of nomination forms for the purpose of contesting the APC elective positions during the congress which was supposed to be held on July 31, 2021.
According to the plaintiffs, they were wrongly excluded or prevented from participating by voting or being voted for in the congress by the party.
They argued that the supposed congress held by the defendants was totally in conflict with the guidelines of the exercise and the spirit of justice and fairness expected of the conduct of such programme.
Faulting the congress, the plaintiffs said they all came to the party secretariat to obtain the nomination forms within the stipulated timeframe, but were told that the forms were not available by administrative staff of the APC.
The plaintiffs said they resorted to paying individually to the account of the party to obtain the forms when it was apparent that the team sent from the National Secretariat to sell the forms to aspirants in the state was nowhere to be found.
They also stated that they repeatedly visited the party Secretariat, in anticipation of the screening for the ward congress between July 29 and 30, 2021, but were told that there was no screening committee on ground.
According to them, while at the party secretariat, they read on facebook that the Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye-led Ward Congress Committee had arrived Osun and was addressing the press with some selected stalwarts of the party at the Government House, Osogbo.
They stated that they presented themselves at their various ward Collation Centres on July 31, 2021 the date scheduled for the Ward Congress, with the belief that the screening and congress would go simultaneously, but neither the screening nor congress took place.
All eligible members of the APC from their respective wards were present at the ward collation centres, in readiness for screening and congress for elective positions of the party as early as 7am, but to their surprise, some leaders just walked into the venues of the congress and announced that the ward will have consensus candidates and they brought out lists to be read to members, said the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs averred that they refused to accept the consensus that the various leaders of the party sought to impose on them in their respective wards without the congress or complying with the constitution of the party.
Upon the refusal of the party and the congress committee to organise a congress in their respective wards across local governments in the state as scheduled, the plaintiffs said they elected their respective ward officers of the party.
They said no congress was held by the defendants and neither were any meetings held to their knowledge in which the purported consensus referred to by the various ward leaders in the respective wards was reached.
They averred that the consensus candidates imposed on them by the defendants at their respective ward congresses did not make the required payment for the nomination forms for the elective positions and hence cannot be recognised as valid candidates.
The process reads in part: “The plaintiffs aver that the purported consensus that was purportedly adopted by the APC was done in flagrant violation of Article 20 of the Constitution of the party, which provides for elections and appointments.
“The plaintiffs further aver that the action of the 1st – 5th defendants amounts to imposing a consensus on them and all Wards of the State, and same is null and void for being in contravention of the guidelines for the conduct of Ward Congress released by the 1st Defendant.
“The 4th and 5th defendants, in connivance with some other members of the 1st defendant, Osun State Chapter, particularly Governor Isiaka Adegboyega Oyetola and the Chairman Caretaker Committee of the Osun State Chapter of the 1st Defendant, bought all forms that were meant for the prospective aspirants of the elective positions of the 1st Defendant Political Party. The plaintiffs plead and shall rely on UBA deposit Slip No. 608445 dated the 29th day of July, 2021.
“The name of the depositor in the said UBA deposit slip reads “Congress forms, Osun State” with Telephone number 08063440042 and the bulk purchase of the said forms was in the sum of N26,892,000.00 (Twenty-Six Million, Eight Hundred and Ninety-Two Naira).
“The bulk purchase of the said forms and the attempt by the officials of the 1st defendant to deny the plaintiffs and other aspirants from participating in the congress, the right to buy forms and contest, to be screened are unlawful and show an ill motive to determine the outcome of the congress in the 1st Defendant’s Party, Osun State Chapter without complying with the provisions of the constitution of the 1st defendant and the guidelines for Ward Congress.
“The 1st – 5th defendants, through the various leaders of the respective local government chapters of the 1st defendant in Osun State did a bulk purchase of forms for Ward Congress and hoarded them, thereby denying the plaintiffs their constitutional and political rights to vote or be voted for in the Ward Congress.
“That the consensus candidates imposed by the 1st – 5th defendants on the plaintiffs at the respective Ward Congresses did not purchase the nomination forms for the elective positions as the said forms were purchased in bulk on the authority of the 1st – 5th Defendants and hence, the consensus candidates cannot be recognised as validly elected officials for the respective elective positions.”
The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration that all of them and all other aspirants/candidates who individually paid the prescribed fees by the party for the procurement of nomination forms for the ward congress are the only eligible aspirants and emerged unopposed.
They also want the court to declare that act of buying and hoarding forms by way of bulk purchase from the National Secretariat of the APC and hoarding sale as to deny them the opportunity to contest for elective positions in their respective wards in the ward congress are illegal and ultravires.
Their further prayers are: “A declaration that the ward congress of the 1st defendants, Osun State Chapter, allegedly conducted by the ward congress committee headed by Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye on the 31st day of July, 2021, was illegal, null and void and ultra vires; the powers of the 1st-5th defendants for contravening the guidelines for ward congresses, 2021 and the constitution of the 1st defendant’s party.
“A declaration that the purported consensus by the 1st-5th defendants and their minions for the elective positions of the first defendant’s party in Osun State for reasons of non-compliance with the provisions of the guidelines for ward congress, 2021 and the constitution of the 1st defendant’s party and thus, illegal, null and void and has no effect whatsoever.
“A declaration that the 4th defendant-led committee’s act of allegedly conducting ward congress across the Osun State Chapter of the first defendant’s party on the 31st July, 2021 without complying with the Guidelines for Ward Congress, 2021 and the constitution of the 1st defendant is fraudulent, ultra vires, null and void and has no effect whatsoever.
“A declaration that the report of the Ward Congress Appeal Committee headed by the 3rd defendant-led appeal committee is in gross violation of the rights to natural justice and fair hearing, having collected petitions in ward congresses in Osun State from 28 local governments but gave a report based on only 10 local governments.
“A declaration that the list of the plaintiffs and all other aspirants/ candidates who paid the prescribed fees by the 1st defendant for procurement of nomination forms for the purpose of contesting and participating in the 1st defendant ward congress elective positions scheduled to hold on the 31st day of July, 2021 is the authentic list of the duly elected ward officers.”