Can Jimi Lawal Profit from Dapo Abiodun’s Certificate Uncertainty?

Dapo Abiodun

Following the charge that Mr. Dapo Abiodun was economical with the truth in the latest details he submitted in INEC FORM 001, the chances that he might still fly his party’s flag in the governorship elections in Ogun State appears uncertain. But the big question is: can Mr. Jimi Lawal, Abiodun’s main traducer, who was believed to have exposed the scandal, profit from his predicament? Asks Olaseni Durojaiye

For Mr. Dapo Abiodun, governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ogun State, this is not the best of time, politically. A raging storm with the potential to engulf his political ambition and indeed career appears to be encircling him even as it stretches his political sagacity to the limits.

Matter-of-factly, if the allegations against him are true as it is looking like, only a political solution could save his skin. That is if the APC apparatchik and the federal government play by the rule and allow the course of law to run without the slightest interference whatsoever.
The latest political storm threatening to consume his ambition to govern the state is certainly fiercer than the one he weathered to clinch the Ogun State governorship ticket of the APC.

Abiodun’s battle this time around stemmed from an allegation that he gave conflicting details regarding his academic attainments at two different times – 2015 and 2018. Suspicion arising from the conflicting claims was that he dodged the mandatory National Youth Service (NYSC) draft even when he was within the age bracket for the national assignment, which is even more worrisome.

Adeniyi Baruwa, a lawyer and member of his party blew the lid, when he approached a Federal High Court in the Abuja division with the allegations and asked that he be stripped of the ticket and disqualified from the gubernatorial race. According to media reports, Baruwa averred in court filings that Abiodun made false claims in the details he filed with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

In the suit, Baruwa asked the court to disqualify Abiodun from the race over “false information” in the academic qualification he filed with the INEC. Baruwa, a lawyer, also urged the court to declare that Abiodun’s refusal to disclose all his educational qualifications as demanded by INEC in FORM CF 001 amounts to fake information.

According to the report by an online news medium, TheCable, he declared only his West African School Certificate (1978) in the form CF 001 submitted to INEC on October 23, 2018, whereas when he ran for the Ogun East Senatorial seat in 2015, he submitted to have attended the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and graduated in 1986 and Kennesaw State University, Atlanta Georgia, US (1989) in his INEC FORM CF 001. He reportedly backed the claims with an affidavit he swore to at the High Court Abeokuta, Ogun State.

Abiodun’s decision not to include the two degrees in the Form CF001 submitted for the 2019 election then fuelled suspicion that he didn’t undergo the compulsory NYSC scheme – which is punishable under the law even though he finished his first degree in 1986.
Baruwa further averred that he knew Abiodun graduated from the University of Ife before he was 30 years old but neither participated in the NYSC exercise nor obtained any exemption certificate even though he was 26 years old at the time, having been born on May 29 1960.

Interestingly, his profile posted on the website of Heyden, an oil and gas company he owns, reads that he bagged degrees in engineering and accounting.
Abiodun’s travails, though interpreted as politically motivated given the rancour that h trailed his emergence as his party’s candidate, it speaks to the character of Nigeria’s politics, where fair is fast gaining a reputation of being foul while foul on the other hand is believed to be fair. Besides, it underscores the penchant among the political class to leverage their connections to cut corners and circumvent the laws only to try to cover their tracks much later when they aspire for public office.

Even at that, observers contended that if a cursory look at the storm encircling Abiodun was politically motivated by the interplay of political intrigues and power tussle within the APC, a deeper interrogation of the issue speaks to a moral burden, which borders on dishonesty and an attempt to side-step the laws of the land and hoodwink his party.

It is also one more signal that gradually, Ogun State is making a strong case as one of the states to watch in the countdown to the general election next year considering the intriguing and interesting political enactments playing out in the gateway state particularly, in the nation’s two major parties – the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

As things stand, it goes without saying that the AbiodunGate thrusts the APC a quandary. Even so is that it is an indictment of the party’s internal process in terms of records verification. Observers opined that whether the gaffe, if it turned out so, can be excused as part of teething problems associated with a growing democracy is a matter for another discourse.
But other observers contended that whether it is part of a learning process or not, it is an indictment on the internal workings of the APC particularly, as it relates to its handling of records.

Those who hold this view based their submissions on two vital questions: Did the party notice the conflicting claims or not? Does the party, and by extension political parties in the country have any mechanism in place to back check claims made by aspirants?
Whatever the answers are, certainly the APC is not likely to come off this smelling like a freshly plucked Rose flower.
Rather, it revealed a lack of diligent internal checks and poor record keeping within the party if academic entries made by its candidates are inconsistent from election to election, unnoticed and ended causing the party such embarrassment as the case is now.
Unfortunately, Abiodun may not be the only casualty of the latest push by Baruwa. While the Iperu-Remo born oil magnate may end up losing the ticket he fought tooth and nail to win, and, as some extremist predicted, suffer the consequence of being economical with the truth under oath; the APC could end up without a governorship candidate in the state.

Pundits who predicted a scenario where the APC does not field a candidate in the state’s gubernatorial polls if the court so pronounce hinged their permutations on the closure of the INEC stipulated deadline for substituting candidates for the election even though Baruwa in his court filings asked that another aspirant, Jimi Lawal, be made to replace Abiodun as the party’s candidate, since he allegedly came second in an election that Lawal himself said never held.

As the drama unfolds, what many discerning political watchers are waiting to see is how the APC maneuver the tidal wave threatening to subsume Abiodun’s governorship ambition. And in the case that it drowns him, whether the party will be able to field another candidate for the election in the gateway state.
How the APC apparatchik handles the seemingly tough crisis remains to be seen even as it is still locked in battle with the INEC on the Zamfara State challenge, where it is looking like it may not field a governorship candidate remains to be seen.

What’s more, how the party handles the Ogun conundrum will also test its resolve last September not to tolerate any of its members who dodged NYSC draft in the wake of the revelation that the Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu did not take part in the NYSC scheme, the same situation that forced a former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun to resign and also denies Ogun a slot in the Federal Executive Council as currently constituted.

How it manages the situation without being seen to contravene laid down rules or bully the electoral umpire to have its way will also tell a lot on the ruling party’s commitment to free, fair and credible elections next year. Above all, it is doubtful if Mr. Jimi Lawal, the man, whose protégé exposed this whole mess can profit from it. Apart from the fact that if the request for disqualification is granted by the court, since it is an Electoral Act matter, which is guided by timing, it is a total loss for the APC, however, that Lawal himself is said to have a history of certificate scandal, completely precludes him from reaping from the fallout at the end of the day.
The Ogun case is a tricky one and the jury is still out.