APC still in opposition mode – Ajulo

APC still in opposition mode – Ajulo
December 30 11:36 2015

Barrister Kayode Olukayode Ajulo is an Abuja-based legal practitioner, politician and National Secretary of the Labour Party. In this interview with Thinkers Magazine’s team, Ajulo says President Buhari must come out of his honeymoon mode and begin to govern Nigeria while his party must begin to behave like the ruling party and not the opposition party.

APC spokesman, Lai Mohammed recently said President Buhari has achieved more than the PDP government in the last few weeks. What is your assessment of the President’s performance in his first four or five weeks in office?

One is at lost as to fathom what informed the basis of Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s  incredible assessment of President Buhari’s achievements, I think there should be a limit to such adopted melodrama.

Yes, President Buhari was not my party ‘s candidate in the last election and the urge to criticize him may be there, however as true patriots and stakeholders in the democratic process, I hold that the season of politicking is over and the season of policies and policing has commenced. So, I would say after just three weeks it is too early to rate him.

It is, however, clear that the President has started on a slow pace, and it is too early to praise him, he must be reminded that he has no luxury or time for honeymoon as he was expected to hit the ground running after his inauguration.

Nigerians are waiting for the miracles his party, the APC, promised because it is not for him to now, after winning the election,  tell us not to expect the miracles again. As it is, his government is yet to start off, his only appointments so far are appointment of two persons as media aides, what is the President trying to tell us,  that it is a government that runs on propaganda?

The President needs to move Nigeria forward, he can’t do it alone, he should appoint the basic and right aides, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief of Staff, ministers and others. Our constitution provides for appointment of ministers. Where are they? His refusal may wittingly and/or unwittingly constitutes violation of the constitution.

Security is one fundamental basis on which the APC based their campaign. Are you impressed with the steps taken by the President so far  to tackle insecurity especially the Boko Haram menace?

Without doubt, from the report of our war against Boko Haram elements, I have seen a President who is ready to go extra length to see to the end of the insurgency. No price is too big to pay to ensure peace in our nation and we need not play politics with such sensitive issue. President Buhari is a decorated soldier and he is indeed behaving true to type. I commend his actions so far on the fight against insurgency.

Corruption was also one of the reasons Nigerians voted for change. The President has started by saying he would recover funds lost during immediate past administration and stop acts of financial recklessness in government. What’s your take on this?

The main clog in the progress of our nation is the dreaded monster called corruption which with sense of responsibility is surmountable provided there is strong political will to achieve this. In philosophical, theological or moral discussions, corruption is the abuse of bestowed power or position to acquire a personal benefit. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement. Government, or ‘political’, corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain.

President Buhari is today seen as anti-corruption crusader and the change he promised Nigeria is achievable provided corruption can be tamed across board. I received with mix feelings the news that President Buhari vowed to recover the stolen money, I had mix feelings as the lawyer in me continuously reminded me that taming this monster may be difficult, except the President has a concrete deal with the Judiciary.

For his war on corruption to see the light of the day, there should be a strict deterrent mechanism in our polity. Once this takes root, corruption will be minimized. Today, cases against corruption and allied offenses go on endlessly. Most unfortunate, our lawyers, particularly senior lawyers, with due respect have turned to ‘charge and bail’ lawyers, specializing only in moving bail applications!

Sadly, they now take advantage of the slow pace of dispensation of justice for granted by ensuring that their clients, the suspects, avoid subsequent trial once they secure bail or reprieve.

With no intent to subject anyone to mockery or derision, I found it strange to see Femi Fani-Kayode’s money laundering trial lingering for almost seven years, others are former Plateau state Governor, Chief Joshua Dariye’s case; former Bayelsa state Governor, Timipre Sylva; former Abia state Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu; former Jigawa state Governor, Saminu Turaki; former Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole; former Rivers state Governor, Peter Odili; and the former Bauchi state Govenor and PDP national Chairman, Adamu Mu’azu. The list is endless.

To conclude criminal cases on time as against the present arrangement where it takes years to conclude such cases, the former and only female Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hononurable Justice Maryam  Aloma Mukhtar, creditably initiated sweeping changes across the courts with the introduction of a model practice direction for all courts to fast-track trials of offences involving terrorism, rape, kidnapping, corruption, money laundering, human trafficking and related matters. The model practice directs that such case must be tried on daily bases as well as disallowing interlocutory injunctions during the trial.

Alas, today our courts have refused to follow the provision of the practice direction. It is, therefore, imperative that to win the war against corruption, dispensation of Justice has to be fast-tracked.

It is rather unfortunate that some Judges insist that all cases must go through the pre-trial conference procedure including matters commenced by originating summons or under summary judgment procedure. Apart from this, the other cause of delay is frivolous applications usually filed by lawyers who know that their clients are not likely to win on the merit.

Once the application is refused, he proceeds to appeal and then file a motion for stay of proceedings. There is a need for all the stakeholders – the judges, lawyers and litigants – to recognise that justice delayed is justice denied. The government must create enabling environment for the judges to work, and I think President Buhari should not treat this with kid’s gloves.

I am also particular about Section 233 of the 1999 Constitution that deals with appellate jurisdictions of cases before the courts for adjudication. There are several cases that ought not to come to the Supreme Court and should have terminated at the Court of Appeal.

The EFCC suddenly started arresting and questioning former governors after President Buhari was sworn-in on May 29. Do you think this is just a coincidence?

I did not see any coincidence in these arrests as it has become a normal pattern to arrest some governors after their tenure. These arrests occurred during Obasanjo’s second term, and commencement of Yaradua and Jonathan’s tenure. As a lawyer, I think emphasis should not be on arrest and questioning but convictions.

Still on corruption, the subsidy regime in the petroleum sector has been cited as a massive conduit pipe through which billions of dollars are siphoned. Will you advise the Federal Government to remove subsidy from petroleum products?

In all sincerity, I do not think Buhari’s Federal Government need any advice on the removal of subsidy from Petroleum Products, my position is not unconnected with the submission of President Buhari on the removal of subsidy sometimes ago before his election.

I recall vividly how the president stood against the removal and his advice to that effect. Personally, I believe that government had never subsidised petroleum product. The bane of the oil sector has been corruption, which must be wrestled to the ground.

The opposition parties have accused the President of giving excuses for his inability to fulfill his campaign promises instead of settling down to work. What’s your opinion on this?

Although many Nigerians may be forgetful, but not all of us. In a bid to win the election and discredit the last administration, the President’s party, the APC, spoke from all corners of their mouths. In fact, Nigerians were fed with serial lies, promises upon promises, some of which may not have emanated from the President. The vulnerability and gullibility of some Nigerians were played upon which in turn translated into votes for the President Buhari.

The basis on which those Nigerians that voted for Buhari in the March 28, 2015 presidential with so much passion was the promises. It, however, amounts to taking the people for granted and being insensitive to the yearnings of the public to want to even suggest that campaign promises cannot be fulfilled by the winner after the polls.

Some weeks back, President Mohammadu Buhari said pointblank that Nigerians should not expect miracles. The question to ask Buhari and his APC is that did they promise Nigerians miracles? If they did, then honour demands that they perform such miracles. But if they did not promise miracles but had promised to solve real problems, then they should not expect Nigerians to fold their arms and resign to fate. Those promises must be fulfilled significantly.

Indeed, Nigerians need to ask, before they made promises concerning building of refineries, power supplies, one meal a day and fighting corruption, did they not assess the realities? In what way does showing commitment to these promises make them magicians or miracle workers? Or were those promises mere campaign gimmicks?  Were those promises part of propaganda and mere promo to run down the incumbent and promote the then candidate of APC?

Some Nigerians are of the opinion that the President is too slow in making appointments like Chief of Staff, SGF, and ministers. What is your take in this?

President Buhari has no luxury of time for honeymoon. Nigerians need him take-off immediately, remember one of what we have against President Jonathan goaded by Buhari’s team was that he is too slow and we can’t afford to have or see another President to be slow again.

He need not wait for when he will be called Baba Go Slow, that’s if he has not been given the name already.

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The President also said the first day 100 hundred days culture is putting him under unnecessary pressure. What will be your take if nothing tangible has been done by the time he is marking his first hundred days in office?

That, as it is universally, will be termed as total failure on the part of the present administration. 100 days culture is significant. I believe in Nigeria as I have no other country that Nigeria, whosoever that is elevated as the leader must be prayed for to succeed and I wish that President Buhari succeed, but if nothing tangible is done by the end of the 100 days many will give up on Buhari and will begin in earnest the write of passage of the administration.

Do you share the opinion that  the leadership crisis in the National Assembly is a pointer to the fact that the ruling party lacks the capacity to rule the country at federal level?

Not only that they lack the capacity, they are yet to come to terms with their new status. APC is still in opposition despite being the ruling party. It is as if no plan was made by the party on how to rule the country.

The in-house squabbling within the APC is too early and too soon; it gives validity to the position of many stakeholders in the polity that it is nothing but an amalgamation of selfish interests who do not have national interests at heart.

Is this the time for such wrangling? Is this the time for power tussles? The continued tussle leads some of us to wonder whether indeed the APC are aware that their tussles would inevitably have dire consequences on President Buhari administration’s ability to deliver on the party’s many promises.

There must be a point of politics, and a point of policies; it appears that the chieftains within the APC have a problem distinguishing between the two, and they are certainly oblivious of the fact that their prolonged power struggle at this point in Nigerian history is unwarranted.

I also need to express great indignation at the comment credited to the APC spokesman, Lai Mohammed, in which he stated that “President Buhari is not the leader of the APC.” Can you imagine such impudence? To me, it is certainly the height of recklessness to assert that the President is not the leader of the party on whose platform he was elected to his position.

Is Lai Mohammed saying that Nigerians have been taken for a ride? Is he saying that the president has a don from which he must take orders? Is he saying that President Buhari has a leader? If that is the case, we demand on behalf of the 15 million Nigerians who voted him in, that they should disclose the identity of the true president of Nigeria immediately.

If the president is not the leader of the party, Nigerians demand to know who the president is obliged to take orders from.

It is very strange and un-statesmanly that up till now, the APC is yet to reach out to the  leadership of other political parties who participated in the electoral process. One would have thought that in the spirit of good sportsmanship, the party would have initiated meetings with other stakeholders in the other parties to commence the great work of rebuilding Nigeria.

What is your take on the President’s comment that at his age he won’t be able to perform as he would have wanted?

We need to salute President Buhari for his sincerity. The President  has said it all, and there is nothing else to add.