by Samuel Ogundipe,
A former Attorney-General of the Federation, Bello Adoke, has explained how he allegedly came under pressure from unnamed persons to charge then candidate Muhammadu Buhari for forgery in the run up to the 2015 presidential election.
He also said that he pushed back against demands for former President Goodluck Jonathan to constitute an interim national government in the run up to the 2015 elections.
But the former attorney general said he promptly “dismissed the suggestion” in deference to the constitution and after weighing the consequences of such move at the time.
“It is true that some people came to me and said Buhari should be disqualified because of certificate forgery,” Mr. Adoke told The Cable in a recent interview. “As a man with fidelity to the Constitution, I dismissed the suggestion quickly.”
President Buhari’s certificate was a topic of nationwide controversy in the run up to the 2015 elections, with the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party suggesting that he didn’t have a valid school certificate to contest in the poll.
Although Government College, formerly Provincial Secondary School, Katsina, which the president graduated from in 1961, confirmed that he undertook the University of Cambridge West African School Certificate Examination, his political adversaries still hold that he didn’t finish from school.
The Nigerian Army, in which Mr. Buhari retired as a major-general, also published his school records, but said it couldn’t vouch for their authenticity.
The Army was accused of politicising the situation at the time.
In his interview, Mr. Adoke said he was amongst officials of the Jonathan administration that declined to pay politics with the country’s legal system and internal security.
“In fact, there were cases in court which I felt were not necessary.
“They were already becoming a security threat.
“As a responsible attorney-general, I believed we did not need further crisis in the country.
“Boko Haram was enough problem for us. I resisted pressures to compound the security challenges in the country by filing or authorising such cases to be filed on behalf of the government.
“I was not doing President Muhammadu Buhari any favour, I must say that. I was being faithful to the laws of the land. That was the duty expected of me. If you call that sympathy, so be it. But I didn’t do him a favour,” Mr. Adoke said.
He said he didn’t yield to pressure not because he didn’t have the power to file charges against Mr. Buhari, but because he could not see a tenable case of forgery against the president at the time.
“There was pressure to issue a fiat to charge him to court for forgery. But I made my position very clear that I could not see any forgery at all.
“The law did not require you to submit any certificate to INEC and Buhari did not submit any certificate.
“The law only said you must have a minimum qualification of so so and so.
“Therefore, where was the forgery? If he didn’t submit a certificate, where was forgery? There is no police report, no investigation. No responsible attorney-general will issue any such fiat based on the record before me.
“But I could have been reckless if I wanted to be reckless. I could have been irresponsible if I wanted to be irresponsible. I could have issued the fiat,” Mr. Adoke said.
But the former AGF said he recognised what could have been the consequences.
“There could have been mayhem. There could have been destruction. That could have led to the postponement of the elections.
“I know what attorneys-general have done in the past, not minding the consequences for the polity. I know what they are capable of doing. But I am a constitutional purist.
“When they mooted the idea of an interim government, I was the one that came out to say the concept of interim government is unknown to law.
“People told President Jonathan that I was disloyal, that I was working for Buhari,” he stated.
Mr. Jonathan eventually lost the presidential election to Mr. Buhari and promptly conceded defeat earning him local and international accolades.
No other official of the Jonathan administration has confirmed Mr. Adoke’s claims. The ex-attorney general also spoke in reaction to recent corruption charges filed against him by the anti-graft EFCC especially for his role in transferring over $801 million from a Nigerian government account into private accounts of an ex-convict, Dan Etete, in the famous Malabu scandal.
Mr. Adoke has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, but has not made himself available for prosecution.