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Abiodun, group disagree over alleged criminal records

By Muyiwa Adeyemi (Politics Editor) and Charles Coffie-Gyamfi (Abeokuta)
28 April 2022   |   4:03 am
Ogun State Governor Prince Dapo Abiodun and Ogun Bibire Unity Forum are at loggerheads over eligibility of the governor to seek re-election in 2023 because of “alleged criminal offences he committed in the USA in the 1980s ...

Dapo Abiodun. Photo/FACEBOOK/dabiodunMFR

Ogun State Governor Prince Dapo Abiodun and Ogun Bibire Unity Forum are at loggerheads over eligibility of the governor to seek re-election in 2023 because of “alleged criminal offences he committed in the USA in the 1980s and other possible constitutional infractions.”

In a statement signed on Tuesday by its Organising Secretary, Otunba Oluwatobi Sofela, the Forum, a political pressure group, said the governor must speak on the allegations to avert dangers his re-election bid might pose to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Sofela said the group was in possession of a petition submitted on April 12, 2022 by Mr. Ayodele Oludiran (an APC member from Abeokuta South Local Council, Ogun State), to the National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, on why Abiodun should not be the candidate of the party in 2023.

Abiodun has, however, urged the national secretariat of the party to dismiss the petition, saying: “It is fraught with falsehood, speculations and inaccuracies.”

The governor, in a letter through the law chambers of Afe Babalola & Co, urged Adamu to disregard the petition seeking the disqualification of Abiodun from participating in the state’s governorship primaries.

The law firm, in a response to the petition, dated, April 19, 2022, described the April 12, 2022 petition as full of spurious and unfounded allegations meant to mislead the party into disqualifying the governor from participating in the gubernatorial election.

Sofela had, in a petition received by Ambassador Samuel Jimba at the APC National Secretariat, Abuja, stated that if action is not taken and Abiodun does not defend the grave allegations, the chances of the party retaining the governorship seat in Ogun could be jeopardised, as witnessed in Bayelsa and Zamfara states.

He said: “Is it correct that while filling the columns for his educational qualifications in the INEC form CF001 for the office of Governor of Ogun State in 2019, under ‘Primary School Attended’ Abiodun recorded and claimed that he attended International Primary School, Ayetoro, in 1971, while in his 2015 INEC Form CF001, while vying to represent Ogun East at the Senate, he recorded and claimed to have attended another primary school, Comprehensive High School Ayetoro, in the same 1971?

“Did he graduate from the University of Ife in 1986? Did he obtain ‘B.BA (Hons) Accounting’ at the Kennesaw State University in 1989? Did he use a pseudonym (Shawn Michael Davids) with the aim of concealing his criminal identity?”

He warned that Abiodun’s claim to have attended non-existent schools in 1971 amounted to lying on oath and presenting a false certificate to INEC, which are very potent grounds for disqualification as enshrined in Section 182 (1) (j) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

Sofela explained that with the 6-5-4 system of education in Nigeria as at then, and even now, no one could attend a secondary school without having passed through the elementary level.

He said: “More so, no one could attend two different primary schools and finish both at the same time as presented by Abiodun in his INEC forms. Our fear for our great party in the forthcoming elections is that since the report of Abiodun’s questionable primary school claims are in public domain already, the opposition parties shall test his eligibility to stand for elections within the stipulated 14 days’ cause of action (pre-election matters), as provided for in the Constitution and Electoral Act 2022 (as amended).”

He also raised concerns in Paragraph D (i) under ‘working experience with dates ’in Governor Abiodun’s form CF001 of 2015, where he claimed under oath to have been in the employment of Heyden Petroleum Limited from 2001 till date and in his 2019 INEC form CF001, D (i) of the same subheading, he also claimed under oath to be the CEO of the same Heyden Petroleum from 1993 till present.

Sofela regretted that these further validate the inconsistencies in both forms. Citing Section 182 (1) (j) of the1999 Constitution as amended, he said in Abubakar v. INEC (2020) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1737) 37 at 161, the Supreme Court, per Eko, JSC, proclaimed: “disqualification of the candidate on grounds of false information in his form CF001 is a pre-election matter by dint of Section 285(14) (c) of the Constitution.”

He said, “By Section 465 of the Criminal Code, forgery consists of making a false document or writing, knowing it to be false and with the intent that it may be used or acted upon as genuine.”

Sofela wondered if it would be right morally and legally and in the court of public opinion to retain or re-elect someone with dual personality to lead Ogun State for the next four years.

He lamented that Abiodun’s profile can only best be described as a bundle of consistent inconsistencies, and called on the governor to defend himself immediately.

But a letter to Adamu from Abiodun’s counsel disclosed that the petition was not served on the governor, saying this “was a deliberate move to deprive him of the opportunity to set the records straight and knowing full well that the petition was characterised by falsehood and malice.”

It noted that the petitions are nothing but machinations of political jobbers and saboteurs sponsored by desperate opposition elements to disrupt the peaceful political atmosphere in Ogun, spread rumours/propaganda about the governor and mislead APC.

It said the petitioner relied on hearsay, urging Adamu and the national leadership of the APC to “disregard” the matter.
According to Afe Babalola & Co, the allegation of discrepancies in Abiodun’s INEC Form CF001 for 2015 and 2019 is statute-barred. It argued that the allegation could only form the basis of a cause of action, 14 days from the day the governor filed and deposed to the forms.

It further stated that the alleged contradiction in the two INEC Forms could no longer be ground to disqualify Abiodun in the upcoming gubernatorial election. It said Forms CF001 for 2015 and 2019 are spent and cannot be used to determine the eligibility of the governor to contest in the next governorship election.

The law firm recalled that cases were filed in court and petitions filed at the Governorship Election Tribunal seeking to disqualify the governor based on allegations of falsehood and inconsistency in the two INEC Forms.

It said both the tribunal and courts were unanimous in their decisions, not only that the allegations were statute-barred, but also the said Forms CF001 of 2015 and 2019 did not contain any false statement.

It said the Supreme Court had also affirmed the decisions of the tribunal and the Appeal Court, by dismissing the petition on false statement against the governor.

On the allegation that the governor was convicted for an offence in 1986, the chamber said the petitioner failed to attach any court judgment to the petition; hence, the allegation was baseless.

The firm also denied the allegation that the governor has a former name, declaring that the governor has always been known as Prince Adedapo Oluseun Abiodun.

It said: “He never bore the name ‘Shawn Michael Davis’ or any other name however described. His name is reflected in all his certificates and other former documents. We urge Your Excellency to disregard the petitioner’s unfounded allegation.”

Afe Babalola & Co, said: “Your Excellency, it is not in doubt that all the allegations in the petition relating to our client’s Forms CF001 for 2015 and 2019 are baseless and unfounded. As shown above, the High Court of the FCT, Governorship Election Tribunal, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court have all held that the said allegations are unfounded and statute-barred, so that there would be no basis for disqualifying our client.

“Our client has been adjudged by the tribunal and courts to be eminently qualified to contest the 2019 Ogun State gubernatorial election, which he won by a landslide.

“Since, as of today, the courts have held that our client is qualified under the Constitution, the party cannot impose additional grounds for disqualification on him. Also, the APC constitution and guidelines for the conduct of primary elections cannot override the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Therefore, the party has no vires to prevent our client from contesting any election under its banner.

“As rightly admitted by the petitioner, only a court of law can disqualify our client. The party cannot disqualify him or prevent him from contesting in the party’s primary election.

“Your Excellency, our client is ready and willing to, at the screening stage for the party’s primary election, present his credentials and relevant document (including his primary school certificate, which has been alleged to be non-existent) to establish his eligibility to contest in the upcoming 2023 governorship election in Ogun State.

“Therefore, we urge the party not to be distracted or misled by unfounded allegations aimed at preventing the party from presenting our client, who is the best candidate for the 2023 gubernatorial election, as the party’s flag bearer. We also urge the party not to give credence to any rumour, which may scuttle the party’s chances in the said election.