Chuks Okocha holds a conversation with the former National Secretary of Labour Party and constitutional lawyer, Dr. Kayode Ajulo who is crusading on the need for a legal interpretation to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s administrative decision to award all nominated offices in the 2019 national elections to the Peoples Democratic Party
The Zamfara case has disenfranchised almost half a million people. Constitutionally, is there a way we can ensure that people are enfranchised?
Let me quickly correct one impression, not that the Supreme Court cases cannot be repealed. Supreme Court can reverse itself, going with our laws. There are some instances where the Supreme Court can reversed itself. For example where it’s shown that the judgement is gotten through fraudulent means, and when it’s so obvious that what was given should not have been given. We should understand that the Supreme Court is the highest law of the land and after that, you can only appeal to the Almighty God, as we say. If you look at what happened in the Zamfara case, we all agree that injustice has been done. Our law and courts is not a court of sentiments. The court will look at the whole issue as it is, take the issue from both parties. Let everyone come with their case and the court will give judgement. In as much as it’s so painful that we believe these number of people should not be disenfranchised the way it is now, but we try to understand with the reasoning of the Supreme Court. In trying to say that those people they cast their vote for are not supposed to be on the ballot. Because of that, whatsoever vote is cast for them is void. As it is, the court has given its judgment. We have to understand that this is not a mere judgement. It’s a judgment that requires the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). If I have my way I will urge some people to go and test that decision of INEC.
In this case, after the judgement of Supreme Court, they referred the case to INEC for the administrative interpretation of the decision of the Supreme Court, where more than 500,000 votes were voided
From my own understanding, I don’t want to believe it gave the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) the necessary vote. The Supreme Court mentioned something about the one who won as prescribed by law, which means that there are some provisions of the constitution to be met. The first question is, can we say that the person that won and now the governor has the prerequisite number of votes cast? This, I believe, needs interpretation. INEC has made its own interpretation by so declaring, but I want a situation that we can have judicial decision on that which has not been done. I think for such a controversial decision, it’s necessary to have it interpreted in our courts.
You know for any election, especially the gubernatorial or presidential, for somebody to be declared a winner, there are some constitutional provisions you must meet, and one of such is that you must have the 2/3 vote cast in 1/4 of the constituency. If you check the spread in Zamfara, do you see any lacuna in that decision of INEC.
What was decided by INEC is an administrative decision as the umpire. What could be done is that whosoever feels otherwise could go to the tribunal to raise it. That interpretation has different meanings. Some of us may agree with INEC and some won’t and it’s expected that those who are not in agreement with INEC need to take a recourse to the tribunal to file a petition and ask the court to make a proper decision, unfortunately I don’t believe anybody has been able to do that.
That case as it is now, has some peculiar circumstances, will it be seen as a status bar?
Because of its peculiar circumstances, from the way I see it, what is supposed to happen is that immediately INEC made such a decision, that the said party has been declared winner and returned ‘so and so’ person, it’s expected that within 21 days, anybody that fails to agree, particularly among the candidates or the party should raise an objection to say this return is improper. Unfortunately, I’m yet to see anyone.
Take a look at former Governor Yari, do think that his nemesis is traceable to playing the godfather role or that his enemies were smarter than him?
Apart from being a lawyer, I was the National Secretary of a political party. It’s one of those things that should be expected. If want to have an enemy, just call yourself a politician. Anyone that refuses to agree with you or feels threatened with what you are doing will attack you. I want to believe that it is expected. Just mention any political actor that has never been attacked in this country. Former Governor Yari, whether you like it or not, is somebody that rose from being a party member to be a member of the federal legislator, chief executive of a state and chairman of all the governors in this country. He’s someone that has huge potentials, what he has done is so grand that the array of enemies that will stand against him will be as huge as what he has attained. It is expected. But we should not foreclose the fact that during his time, the synergy between the state and the federal government increased. It was the same between the governors and the Presidency. It was the first time you see them not having issues. In the past administration, you see the way governors were going to court every day, call each other names; and fighting ministers of the federation. You see that what the states got was unprecedented. I believe that some people just want to be heard. You can’t just wake up and say you are expelling someone.
Former Governor Yuri is at the centre of the crisis in Zamfara, what role can President Buhari play to resolve it?
We don’t need to apply the law here. One needs to apply his common sense first. When it comes to political issues, we don’t need law to settle political differences. I think what the president needs to do as the National Leader of that party is to call the two parties. It’s a family affair. It’s political differences and not personal issues that needs to be resolved as soon as possible.
We are in the ‘Next Level’ since May 29, the President has not announced members of the federal executive council. Are we not going back to the familiar road?
I pray that we are not going back to the familiar terrain. I say this because I believe the President is aware of that and in two or three of his utterances he has already tried to reassure Nigerians that all the past mistakes of the first term will not be made. One of the mistakes was to wait for almost six months to appoint his cabinet. I want to believe that this is the 21st day after the inauguration. I want to believe that from the body language of the President, he’s trying assiduously to ensure that the cabinet members are appointed. And we should not forget the fact that he has been making some appointments. Immediately after he was sworn in, he reappointed the Central Bank Governor, that shows the importance he places on the economy. He has made one or two appointments including those at the NNPC. You can see all these areas are those that hold the life of our economy. For the president to be doing that, I think he’s on course.
Still on Zamfara, a political sacrilege has been committed, do you agree with the school of thought that former Governor Yari should be made a minister?
If I have my way, I think that’s the best thing and I want to believe that if there should be anybody in this current dispensation particularly before, during and after the election that deserves to be in the government of Muhammadu Buhari, I think it should be former Governor Yari. This is someone that tried to bring artisans and technocrats, politicians, organized Labour together and also tried to bring those that are not even members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) together to form a very strong advocacy group and move round the whole country with other Buhari support group. For him to have such foresight, I think he still has a lot of service to render to Nigeria.
If you want to give advice the new governors forum, from the antecedence of Yari as chairman of the governors forum, who you think brought stability, what issues do you think the new chairman of the governors forum should engage?
The first thing is to synergize with the federal government like the immediate past leadership of the governors forum. It was previously perceived that the governors seem to be antagonizing the federal government, which is natural, particularly when we are talking about sharing of power and resources, then there are lots of issues to trash out. I think the Nigeria Governors Forum need a leadership that will understand their disposition and understand how to persuade the federal government to get whatever they need and that’s what Yari did. I think at that level, Dr Kayode Fayemi needs to emulate Abukakar Yari, particularly with the way he tried as much as possible to stabilize the nation.
Talking of bail out, it’s a new financial terminology under the present administration, does bail out really make sense in a federation?
We may believe we are having problems, if we go constitutional. Mind you, the basic work of government is to see to the welfare and security of people and whatsoever needs to be done to ensure that should be allowed. Bail out is to ensure the security of the state. What matters most is that some amount of money is made available to enable the state to function properly because without bail out, you can imagine what will happen. Before that, you can see some governors were owing several months, our civil servants were crying. With the bail out, immediately civil servants can walk over to the governor and say pay our salary after all we learnt that you received our Paris club fund. These are the things that stabilized the country and make Nigeria run smoothly. Without payment of these two funds, what will Nigeria turn to?
On the state of security, especially in Zamfara where banditry has become the order of the day and this has led people to clamor for state police. Boko haram in the North-east and general insecurity all over the country, what do you think is the way out?
When we talk of banditry and other forms of insecurity, in as much as many people talk about state police, I want to believe with my experience, what we need is community policing. Each community is supposed to look for a way to police themselves. What matters most is that we need to deepen the quest for community policing. Whether you are in uniform or not, you must be able to know how to police your area. Recently, the Yorubas have already given the bandits ultimatum to leave Yoruba land, after that we move in and know how to flush them out. That is what is expected from every part of the country. Don’t wait for the federal government or Nigerian police to do the whole thing.
How do know herdsmen with sticks and the ones with a gun?
We have been able to profile the Fulani bandits. The herdsmen we know go with sticks. The communique is so clear. Any herdsman with a gun or AK47 is not a herdsman, he’s a criminal. Our laws doesn’t permit you to carry such weapons. If you carry that, you are a criminal who needs to be flushed out.