Barrister Wasiu Ajiboye is an Abuja-based Legal Practitioner and a politician. In this interview with TOPE SUNDAY, the Kwara state-born Politician, who just returned to the Peoples Democracy Party (PDP) from the All Progressives Congress (APC) speaks about the chances of PDP in his state and Nigeria in the 2019 general elections.
As a lawyer, what is your reaction to the alleged gale of certificate forgery that we now have in Nigeria?
If a government is not to be partial about forgery, any minister or any individual who perpetrates forgery of a certificate, be it NYSC, be it secondary school certificate; be it testimonial or what have you, has committed a criminal offence. And that person must face the wrath of the law and the punishment that is attached to it. That is the law. So for somebody; a minister, who was discovered to have forged an NYSC certificate and she resigned honourably without being tried in court is illegal. The government is being partial about it. I am a lawyer and that is the law.
So, what about the Minister of Communication who was said to have skipped the NYSC service?
I think there is a court judgement in the Minister of Communications’ case which was not appealed. There is an existing court judgement which is not appealed and that judgement favours him. That is the reason why Alhaji Adebayo Shittu still remains the minister. So if the government or the opposition has gone to court to appeal against the judgement which favors Shittu, he would have been removed too. He may not be tried, but he would have been removed too.
Are you saying that despite his refusal to participate in the one-year NYSC mandatory service, he is not occupying his office as a minister of the federal republic of Nigeria illegally?
No, he is not occupying his office illegally. There is a judgement that backs his sitting or stay in the office up. I’ll collect the citation of the judgement for you from a colleague, who is his friend.
But that Judgement was to have been delivered in 1970s, can it still subsist?
The law still exists, unless and until the appellate court upholds or upturns the judgement. If I am to deliver a judgement today and it is not appealed against for the next 20 years, the judgement still remains, unless and until a similar case happens in another place, in another time and the court has overruled the judgement. That is when the judgement is open for lapses.
But President Buhari is also enmeshed in certificate scandal. What is your legal opinion?
My legal opinion is, for example, the man claims he attended secondary school. In 2015, they called him to present the certificate. If he has a certificate, which is the minimum of secondary school level, let him bring it. He should bring it out and submit it at the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). And if he has an equivalent, because the constitution says, secondary school certificate or its equivalence; let him present it. If he does not present it, people can go to court and challenge it.
But he rose to become a general in the Nigerian Army and later became the Head of State. Are you saying that despite all this, he doesn’t have a certificate?
In the Nigerian Army, when those people were in the 50s, I think secondary school certificate was the minimum. I believe the man will have a secondary school certificate, but if he does not have it, it is the court that will determine any other certificate that is equivalent of WAEC. So they can determine that in court. It is the court that can determine it. It is the duty of the court to tell us the interpretation of the law.
In 2015, you defected to APC and now you are back in PDP. What is responsible for your action?
We thought the party, APC was focused on economy, education and security, but it is not. When I discovered that, that was why I returned to PDP. PDP has a party has done a lot for this country. And on the economy, the PDP introduced GSM into the country; it established NDDC and the Ministry of Niger Delta. The party came on board with a lot of brilliant people that Nigerians cannot forget. Among those people are the late Dora Akunyile, former NAFDAC Director-General; Mallam Nasiru el-rufail, the current Governor of Kaduna state, Mallam Lamido Sanusi, the current Emir of Kano, among others. The PDP government also maintained the exchange rate at the minimal level until the APC government and things are worse. I have not seen what this government has done because the economy is bad and people are suffering. The way things are, we can’t give its members another four years. The party and its members lack focus.
But it has been argued that the anti-corruption war of the APC-led is one of the reasons that people are criticizing it. What is your reaction to this?
Well, the fight against corruption is one sided. Who are those who are being prosecuted? Are they not members of the opposition? The major convictions this government got were initiated by the PDP government.
Let us talk about the chance of PDP in general elections, both at Kwara state and at the national level. What are the chances of your party?
With what Nigerians have seen in the hands of APC, PDP is coming back to power. PDP will wrestle power from APC come 2019 because Nigerians are tired with the anti-people policy of the present government. Also, in Kwara state, PDP will retain the state.
Are you saying that Atiku will defeat Buhari?
With a wide margin, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar will defeat President Muhammadu Buhari. People are tired and Atiku is the best option for Nigerians now. Atiku will revive the Nigeria’s economy which is now in comatose.
But opposition is ready to take over Kwara from Saraki come 2019. Are you still confident that your party will retain the state?
Let me tell you, taking Kwara away from the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki is a tall dream. That is a dream that cannot come to a reality. Let me ask you, who are those that will defeat Saraki in Kwara state? These people, are they on ground? Saraki is on ground and he is a man of the people, he knows what they what and has been around all-year-round.
The APC in the state is in disarray because the party has erred in law by dissolving a constitutionally-constituted executive led by Hon. Ishola Balogun-Fulani and imposed a caretaker committee led by Hon. Bashir Bolarinwa. As it stands, the party is confused and can that party whose house is in crisis win an election? With or without federal might, Saraki will deliver Kwara state.