Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has expressed deep anger over the police summon to the Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate in Osun State, saying the development was worrisome because it had traits of a fascist government.
Mr Abubakar said it was unfortunate that Ademola Adeleke was being trailed by the police when federal agencies aided Nigeria’s former finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, to depart Nigeria over the weekend despite having admitted to criminal forgery of her youth service scheme certificate.
Mr Abubakar also criticised President Muhammadu Buhari, saying it was rather ironic that the police were after Mr Adeleke when in fact Nigeria’s foremost examination body, WAEC, had certified his certificate as genuine; unlike Mr Buhari who hired over a dozen senior lawyers to defend him in court rather than clarify issues around his school certificate.
Mr Abubakar did not mention Mr Buhari by name, but the president’s high school certificate was a major issue during the 2015 elections. The president was also reported to have queued up to 13 senior lawyers to extricate him of certificate forgery charges in 2016. One of the numerous lawsuits seeking judicial clarification on the president’s WAEC certificate was later abruptly withdrawn without explanation by the litigant.
The president strongly denies all allegations of forgery or non-participation in high school leaving examination.
The police summoned Mr Adeleke for arraignment on Wednesday, barely three days to a gubernatorial election in which he is one of the candidates of Nigeria’s two-largest political parties.
The police accused Mr Adeleke of examination malpractices, saying he had several accomplices most of whom had been declared persons of interest and are expected to also turn themselves in for trial.
The police statement Wednesday afternoon drew immediate backlash, with opposition figures taking turns to condemn the police for the curious manner the matter was being handled. Most worried the police action could influence the election on Saturday by derailing Mr Adeleke’s momentum in favour of the All Progressives Congress’ candidate in the election.
Mr Abubakar, a presidential aspirant and chieftain of the PDP, said he was alarmed by the development in a Wednesday night statement to PREMIUM TIMES.
“Let it be on record that I completely condemn this act, which comes less than a week to the elections in which Senator Adeleke is a major participant and front-runner,” Mr Abubakar said. “I warn both Nigerians and the international community that democracy is on trial in Nigeria. Senator Adeleke is being victimised and we call on all lovers of democracy to stand up to resist this fascist attempt to steal an election.”
Mr Abubakar said attempts by the Buhari administration to manipulate the Saturday election in Osun started with a secret transfer of nearly N17 billion to the cash-strapped state on the eve of the elections there.
“It is obvious that these are politically motivated charges to hamstring the expected victory of the PDP’s candidate. Coming so soon after the surreptitious payments of ₦16.7 billion so-called Paris Club refund to the incumbent All Progressives Congress administration in Osun State, which was condemned by the generality of Nigerian Governors from both the APC and the PDP, it reflects desperation on the part of the Buhari administration” he said.
Mr Abubakar said the police should immediately backtrack on their moves against Mr Adeleke, saying they should go after Mr Buhari and other top APC echelons who have unanswered questions hanging over their academic credentials.
“Ironically, certificate forgery or absence of certificates, go all the way to the top in the APC led federal government,” Mr Abubakar said. “Unlike some people who have hired thirteen Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Senator Adeleke has been able to get the West African Examination Council to certify today that he indeed sat for his school leaving certificate in 1981.”
“On the contrary, Senator Adeleke has no proven case of forgery or fraud against him. Why then has the police waited till now to declare Senator Adeleke wanted, just three days to the election?
“This by itself should stop the police from their malicious prosecution of Adeleke if the rule of law were guiding this administration.
“Nigerians were witness to the fact that a minister admitted, after being exposed, to forging her certificate. This minister was escorted to the airport and allowed to board a flight to London to escape the long hand of the law,” he added.
The PDP had earlier dismissed the police summon to Mr Adeleke, saying it was an attempt to manipulate the election in favour of the ruling party and insisting that its candidate has absolutely no question to answer with respect to forgery of academic credentials or examination sharp practices.
Presidential spokespersons Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu did not return PREMIUM TIMES’ requests for comments about Mr Abubakar’s charges Wednesday night.
There are media reports that the president had ordered Inspector-General Ibrahim Idris to suspend its summon to Mr Adeleke until after the election. But PREMIUM TIMES has not been able to independently corroborate the report.
Both Mr Buhari and his spokespersons regularly push back against claims that the president sometimes interferes in specific police investigation or general activities of all law enforcement authorities.