Dr Kayode Ajulo is a lawyer and rights activist. In this interview with KUNLE OLASANMI, he speaks on the controversial Executive Order 6, 2019 elections, anti- corruption war and other sundry issues.
What is your perspective on the implementation of Executive Order 6 by the Presidency whereby 50 prominent Nigerians were placed on watchlist?
The way I look at it is that it is an overkill, and whether you like it or not, we need to call a spade, a spade. It is usurpation of the rules of the power of the Judiciary. This is Executive Order, and going through what the Attorney General of the Federation has explained, and particularly which is written in that order, with due respect, he is entirely wrong. Unfortunately, the Attorney General of the Federation who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria is totally uninformed. He turned the law upside down. He cited two sections of the constitution; the first one, Section 5, and the second one, Section 18. These two Sections have nothing to do with Executive Order. It would have been better if he had mentioned Section 3, and the sub sections that followed it. The section 5 that was mentioned contained only one word that is close to Executive Order, which is Executive Policy. Policy is different from order. Policy is so clear, but when it comes to order, order comes with sanction, directives, what to do and what not to do. Order has a force of law on its own.
For you to now use that to make execution order, the question is under which of the sections of the constitution are you using to make that order? I believe we don’t need to interrogate the fundamentals of our constitution. That is why the Supreme Court, in several cases, particularly the cases ICPC and Adebayo Adefarati, the former governor of Ondo state, our Supreme Court said that when it comes to interpreting the constitution, it must give it literary meaning, which means you should not infuse or read anything to it. In our constitution, I am yet to see where it is specifically stated that this is how the Executive Order will be. Let’s even assume that is what it is. Two weeks ago, the High Court, when trying to give the legality of Executive Order, was even trying to reshape and remodel the Executive Order by saying that in carrying out this order, you must take recourse to the doctrine of the rule of law and separation of power. The separation of power means that every arms of government have their own function.
When it comes to interpreting the law, it is the Judiciary; when it comes to executing the law, it is the Executive; and when it comes to making the law, it is the Legislature. By doing this, it means that before you can give any order, you still need to take recourse to the court. If you really want to ban anybody, it does not lie in your hands as an executive, you need to go to the court to say this is the reason. One question is what is this order trying to achieve? We are talking about seizure of properties, it is so clear in the ICPC Act, the EFCC Act and our Administration of Criminal Justice act because provision was made for how you can seize or ask for the forfeiture of any property. Are you now saying that you are using that order to override what it is?
That is why you see that provisions are made in those Acts for interim forfeiture but now, where lies the position of interim forfeiture? If you can believe that I am a new Pharaoh on the job, and you choose to use your table to turn to a court of law to make such order. On this issue of travel ban, it is so clear that most of those people on the list are facing one criminal charges or another. The first thing the EFCC or ICPC or any of the government agency that is prosecuting them needs to do is just to seize their passport, and anytime you feel like travelling, you need to go to court to make another application. Now, what about those who have made applications and the court agrees having considered the reason why they are asking for this? Are you now saying you are constituting yourself as a Court of Appeal or Supreme Court to override what the court says? ? I want to believe that gradually, Nigeria is getting to another form of dictatorship. This is a dress rehearsal that the government is moving to fascism.
Some Nigerians have argued that since majority of the 50 prominent Nigerians are from the opposition, it is targeted at weakening or muzzling the PDP ahead of the 2019 general election. Do you share this view?
It is very obvious in the sense that when you look at the list, we have the Babachir Lawals of this world; we also have many friends of government that have been indicted, why are they not on the list? I am not a fan of Ayo Fayose, I am one of those that believe that a governor should not behave the way he behaved as governor, but the way he is being treated and hounded, to me, is unfair. I have no problem with APC, but the way the party is being turned into the proverbial kingdom of heaven where once you run to it, you will be saved is appalling.
APC is now turning into a sanctuary for looters, because it is so obvious now that you can commit any acts of impunity but once you come and raise the broom that you are a member of the ruling party, your sins are forgiven. APC to me seems like another form of immunity clause, which shouldn’t be. Look at the case of Kemi Adeosun, former Minister of Finance and Senator Ademola Adeleke, who was the governorship candidate of the PDP in the just concluded Osun election. They were both involved in certificate forgery issue but while Adeosun was allowed to travel out of the country, Adeleke was summoned by the Police for interrogation. How do you explain that? During the time of PDP, we spoke out against their ills and infamy, so I think we should be courageous enough to do the same with APC.
Looking at the 2019 general election, we have 91 political parties registered by INEC, but a lot of people believed the contest is actually between the PDP and APC, especially the presidential election. Do you share that view?
Inasmuch as one may share that view, don’t also forget that what happened in Osun is a pointer to what is to come. Today, we have over 90 political parties. Out of the 90, almost 40 to 50 have presidential aspirants. In Osun state, the main leading political parties happen to be PDP and APC, and at the end of the day, you can see what the likes of Omisore did. Omisore determined the outcome of the election. I am sure that given the circumstances, there will be a new election in Osun because a lady Jumoke Lawoyin was unlawfully excluded from participating. We may not know what would happen; God does His things in His own way that marvels people. Now, we have the likes of Olusegun Mimiko contesting on the platform of Zenith Labour Party, we have Donald Duke of SDP, Omoyele Sowore and others. So, we may not tell now what may happen, maybe these ones I mentioned may spring surprises.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo endorsed Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate for the 2019 presidential election. Do you see his endorsement carrying any weight?
I want to believe that Olusegun Obasanjo only has one vote to start with, and he contested for presidential election twice in this country, and we know the position of the Yoruba during that time. Despite the fact that he was the candidate, his people refused to vote for him, how much more now that he is not even a candidate. So, the question we need to ask is ‘what will his vote do?’ We have to give it to him; he remains one of the greatest Nigerians alive today. I am not looking at the moral aspect of it, but for somebody to be a president twice, and in peculiar circumstances, I want to believe that the Almighty God is saying something. But when you want to say whether that one will now translate to votes, I think with my little experience in politics as a former National Secretary of a political party, I must say there are indices, sentiments that always come with election, and I don’t think it really matter. However, as Christian, I think we need to congratulate Obasanjo for bearing no grudges against anybody. We should applaud him for that.
Atiku also said that he will restructure the country in six months if he becomes president, do you see this as a reality?
Atiku really does not even need six months to restructure. I think two months is even too much to restructure the country. I think we need to realise what we call restructuring. The only time Nigeria have been allowed to talk without any form of interference, that passed through the test of time legally and morally, was during the London Constitutional conference, during the time of Tafawa Balewa, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe, that was when all the ethnic nationality came together, and were allowed to talk. We deceive ourselves when we say we have one nation, because there are lots of nationalities in Nigeria. I have been following this argument that we have a constitutional provision that says that for you to restructure, you need to tinker with the constitutional provision. That is a lie. One of the major impediments of our restructuring is how to have equitable distribution of wealth. It could be done by just changing revenue sharing formula, you don’t need the constitution to do that. RMAFC is there.
The constitution and statute enabling that commission gave them freedom at every time to advise the federal government on revenue formula. What stops the chairman of the commission to say that the revenue formula needs to be changed in order to address the issue of restructuring? I don’t think that one will take more than 2 or 3 days. So, I believe Atiku may have a genuine intention when he said he will restructure in six months. This is something that could be done within few weeks and not six months, if actually we want to be pragmatic about it. We need to really understand what it means to restructure. Yoruba seem to be in the forefront of the agitation for restructuring but till now, they seem not to get it right. Restructuring is not about taking something from one ethnic group and giving it to another group. By restructuring it means to know what you have, and to know how to harness it for the wealth of the nation.
Today, Apple Company posted $1tr. Our budget in Nigeria for the whole year is N7tr. Apple Company doesn’t have oil as we have here. They have brains. The human resources of Nigeria, the potentials of Nigeria are bigger than the oil we are fighting one another for. That is the essence of restructuring, and we need to realise that. In Niger, you need to now the mining going on there. Who are those in charge? I don’t even think the federal government is interested. Even if they are interested, it is minimal. Nigeria happens to be the greatest country in terms of mineral resources, but why are we not harnessing this? Every nook and cranny of this country has great potentials, but because of the focus on oil, everybody has forgotten this. Anytime I am in London, I like going to Liverpool that is where you see all those ships. Go through the harbour, and you will see great names of Yorubas from Idanre, from Ondo, from Akoko. These are great cocoa merchants. These were the people who have been great over fifty years ago. Above all, the power that is being concentrated at the centre is something that calls for concern. How can the federal government solely control 60% of Nigerian wealth, while 36 states share the rest?
President Buhari got fewer votes in the South-East during the 2015 election. Do you think he has made enough in-roads between then and now to get more votes in 2019?
I don’t think so. It is something that even the blind man could see that he even has more problems in the South-East. It is so clear, and I am sure that if he was to be interviewed, he would tell you that where one of his biggest headaches would come from is the South-East, particularly with how the issue of IPOB was poorly managed.
Atiku Abubakar has chosen Peter Obi as his running mate. What do you think will play out especially with the Yoruba people?
I want to believe that this may be the last time Atiku will have the chance to contest election, and I want to believe that he is aware and have realised this. All his steps and choices will be well calculated. The choice he made concerning his running mate is something that everyone is proud of. I know Peter Obi as a great leader who is well respected. The same thing with Professor Yemi Osinbajo, he has been able to function in the office with a posture that one is proud of. Yorubas are enlightened; we discuss politics of issues, not politics of sentiment. I don’t believe picking Peter Obi will now make Yoruba vote against Atiku. If you really want answer to this, you can check what happened in 1999, and what happened in 2003, despite the fact that a son of the soil from Yorubaland, Olusegun Obasanjo contested twice, and being the sitting president; you will see that where he had the least votes happened to come from his kinsmen. We look at issues, which is one of the things of being formally enlightened. I am so proud of my race. To say because Osinbajo is Yoruba, so we will all vote for him. No way! Yoruba won’t think that way.
Would you subscribe to the idea of a debate between President Buhari and Atiku so Nigerians can know what they have to offer?
Certainly, if I am to employ a messenger, which is the least position in my office, I subject them to interview. Debate is part of the interview, and I believe anybody that is contesting for presidency should be able to come before the people to tell them that this is what he has to offer to them.
Since you left your position as national secretary of Labour Party, it seems you have been somehow apolitical. Have you bade farewell to politics?
I think you can agree with me that every human is political in nature; it depends on how you play politics. I want to say that whether we like it or not, our interaction is part of politics. I would not lie about this; I have been having a lot of offers every day, in the federal, legislative, and even the executive. About three political parties have already offered me the position of Vice President, but one thing I always do is that I have a checklist, I have to check if it is okay or not. If it is okay, I will go for it, but if it is not okay, I will decline. Again, it is not over until it is over.
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