President Muhammadu Buhari’s legal team in the ongoing election tribunal is doing an excellent job, writes Steve Adepoju
Undoubtedly, one of the most discussed topics in the nation at the moment is the hearing of election petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in the recently concluded general election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, against the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, President Mohammadu Buhari, who was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
It is on record that well-meaning Nigerians and groups from various quarters prevailed on Alhaji Atiku not to challenge the victory of President Buhari, rather he should congratulate him. Atiku, however, decided not to toe the path of the advice offered to him, therefore headed to the election tribunal.
In response to the petition filed against the incumbent president, the All Progressives Congress filed out a legal team it supporters were confident would be able to rise to the occasion, based on the brilliance and intellectual sagacity of members of this legal team.
As expected of such prime prize, the Buhari Team sought for and boasts of the best. The list consists of Senior Advocates, who are veterans in electoral issues and they are Wole Olanipekun, SAN, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, Akinlolu Olujinmi, SAN, Niyi Akintola, SAN, Charles Edosawan, SAN, Dipo Okpeseyi, SAN, and others. These are lawyers that have removed and installed kings.
Also on the list is a new comer like Festus Keyamo, SAN, a vibrant and brilliant lawyer and activist. Hon. Babatunde Ogala, a Bola Tinubu loyalist, former Lagos State legislator and APC Legal Adviser naturally made the list.
Expected, Kayode Ajulo, Abuja-based cerebral lawyer and activist is included. Reason behind his debut is not farfetched, judging from his out-of-the-box legal approach to some national and international issues.
At the moment, the whole place is agog as the hunter, Atiku, now becomes the hunted, on account of a salvo fired by the Buhari’s legal team in defense of their client. Atiku presently battles a submission by this legal team that he was in the first place not eligible to contest elections in Nigeria as he’s alleged not to be a Nigerian Citizen by birth.
However, while Buhari’s legal representation is being commended for this move, revelations have attributed some of the ingenuity being hatched by this team as clues provided by Kayode Ajulo. That the lawyer is part of the APC Presidential Team is not a surprise judging from his ingenuity and tailor made back to back legal approach to issues.
It is on record that prior to the presidential election, Ajulo did a comprehensive research, published same and proceeded to Federal High Court through a Civil Society Organisation, Egalitarian Mission for Africa to contend that Atiku was not eligible to contest the presidential election on allegation of not being a bonafide citizen of Nigeria by birth, as the Constitution only permits a Nigerian Citizen by birth to contest for the exalted office of the President of Nigeria. This singular gesture of this legal practitioner has shored up both cheers and jeers from different quarters as his gesture has continued to break new grounds for him and place greater responsibilities on him.
Part of such responsibility was his recent inclusion in the committee saddled with responsibility of resolving the crisis between the federal government and Academic Staff Union of Universities. A few among other highly placed individuals in the committee include are the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Chief Edwin Clark, Ooni of Ile-Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi and Barrister Femi Falana.
As laudable as Kayode’s moves may be, it doesn’t absolve him of allegations that some of his gestures were tainted with quest for personal gains. The onus therefore rests on him to prove he didn’t go to court over Atiku’s controversial citizenship as a way of seeking audience with the power of the day.
To a large extent, his role as the secretary of a Buhari Support group makes it difficult to prove any innocence. This same Ajulo, who has suddenly fallen in line with the principles of the ruling party, it will be recalled, once took on the immediate former governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and dragged him to court over a constitutional issue of insanity.
Facts and events have shown that this former National Secretary of Labour Party, Ajulo, is not new to coming up with novel initiatives as there are handful of such developments at his instance that could be pointed at. During the days of President Umar Yar’Adua’s illness that resulted in his passing, it would be recalled there was a desperate move by a cabal to prevent the then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan from becoming the substantive President.
As counsel to the Ijaw leader, who doubles as Jonathan’s Godfather, Chief Edwin Clark, Ajulo came up with a thesis after which he approached a Federal High Court, Abuja, to compel the cabal and National Assembly to make Jonathan acting-President and thus, the emergence of doctrine of necessity as adopted by the National Assembly.
As it is, with the quality of defence at the disposal of President Buhari through his lawyers, not a handful will agree that it is almost impossible to reverse Buhari’s victory from the 2019 general election.
-Adepoju, a journalist, wrote from Lagos